Published on July 25, 2023
Specialist French teacher Mr Parkes has been embarking on an exciting unit of study with Year 2. Mr Parkes’ lesson, aided by Head of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Mr Mark Miles, starts in the School’s Yarning Circle to discuss the ideas of taking resources from the land, and to only ‘take what we need’. Entwining French, numeracy and Aboriginal Perspectives, this unique way of learning had the students engaged and excited to learn.
After the Yarning Circle, students then use their numeracy skills to walk to the centre of the School, to calculate just how long Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have been taking care of the land!
The activity is designed to get the students thinking about how mathematics can be used in a purposeful way beyond algorithms on paper, with important, real-world impacts. Mr Parkes’ lesson is designed to provoke thought about how knowledge of mathematics can make us more responsible, global citizens in our shared world.
While communicating in French throughout the unit, the students learn about taking responsible quantities of resources from the environment. They learn vocabulary related to their immediate environment and gain greater confidence with both mathematics and French.
Research demonstrates that studying mathematics in a second language facilitates a deeper understanding of numeracy, and Mr Parkes’ motto is “If it can be done in English, then it can be done in any other language!” By working in such a transdisciplinary way, the students form connections between the key learning areas and see greater utility in their knowledge.
The unit is founded on the development of intercultural understanding, which is an integral component of the International Baccalaureate. Mr Parkes believes that by learning to value knowledge passed down from the oldest surviving peoples on the planet, the foundation is laid to value the knowledge of cultures internationally. On a more personal level, the unit design is influenced by Mr Parkes’ connection to his distant cousin Sir Henry Parkes.
Mr Parkes says, “Sir Henry Parkes’ involvement in Federation, as premier of NSW his government was responsible for introducing free, compulsory, secular education in Australia. This is bittersweet for me, as access to education is invaluable, but the erasure of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge from this education is highly problematic and tantamount to cultural hegemony.”
“While I recognise that this was a different time, I am driven to ensure that the education I provide is decolonised and inclusive of all voices. I consulted with Mark from the outset, and this is why his voice and knowledge are present and valued from the very first lesson.”