Boorna Waanginy: The Trees Speak.

The Perth Arts festival has been an annual event held in February for the last sixty-five years. The festival has grown throughout the years to be one of the oldest cultural festivals in Australia. During the festival visitors are treated to a myriad of art experiences that tantalises the senses of even the toughest art critics.

This festival caters for all, regardless of your age, gender or ability.  All varieties of art are explored, so there is something for everyone.

Each year the festival draws international artists and audiences, allowing  for cultural exchanges of ideas, skills and stories.           

I have been in contact with the festival organisers since moving to Perth in 2004 and have thoroughly enjoyed being involved with them.   The organisers of this event acknowledge young artists and encourages them to voice their passions, ideas and dreams.   Joining the festival gives the artists the opportunity to be involved, allowing for collaboration and unity.

In the past my students have created banners of their local council areas and more recently to learn and create artworks that are sympathetic to the animal or plants that live in the South-Western part of Australia. 

The totem artwork created by my students was a mixed media collaboration set up in stunning Kings Park.  The artwork was viewed by over 230,000 people and told the stories of crisis, extinction and  hope passed down from the indigenous people of this land. Boorna Waanginy, ‘The Trees Speak’ is the culmination of these stories told through digital projection on the trees and screens, ground moving soundscapes, and over 3000 items of student made lanterns which opened the Perth Arts Festival in 2017 and 2019.

When exploring the option of becoming involved with the festival or event, I always look at the curriculum to find a year group in which the project would be most suited.  As much as I’d like to engage in projects for the sake of having the students involved (and it sounds great!) I believe that having the students incorporate the project’s themes is far more meaningful. Having strong ties with the curriculum and inclusive of their learning development helps students with the desired outcome for festivals, curators and the student’s education.

These strong ties create real life experiences which add to the building blocks of student involvement in the community for future years.

 I now have a pretty good idea of the different topics covered in most areas of the WA curriculum as the years have progressed, I now have a repertoire of useful links.  Finding new links is a lot easier if you know your year groups curriculum and if in doubt, I recommend talking to your Head of Curriculum or Year group leaders/teachers for curriculum advice. Revisiting  your curriculum website is another option. Scouring each subject or year group may take some time to sort through, but it does become easier with practice.

My aim when finding links is to share the project and the richness of the task/s with other subject teachers. Partnering up with others to share the teaching and assessing makes the task more enjoyable not only for the students but for yourself. Two heads are always better than one. When collaborating with other teachers you are modelling to the students some of the 21st century skills shown to be vital to the future success of students. It’s really a win – win - win scenario with the biggest winners being the students.

Imagine Sydney’s Vivid neon light festival on an intimate scale with not only heart and soul but embellished with the smell of eucalyptus
— Michaela Boland, ABC
Photographer Lisa Hakkinen

Photographer Lisa Hakkinen

The Boorna Waanginy, The Trees Speak collaboration had very strong ties to the Year 3&4 curriculum not only in visual arts but also with HaSS - Humanities and social Sciences.  So it was a logical step to team up with the HaSS teachers and create a rough plan, considerate of their programs and time limitations to achieve targets and magical learning experiences.  Some Arts Integrators would call this ‘an elegant match’.

Last year, I completed my Art Integration Specialist accreditation through completing this accreditation has assisted my planning and collaborating with more individuals and groups within my community. The website has many free tips and articles to assist you on the journey of integration.

Have you had an experience where you have been able to collaborate in a community event, colleges, students and their families?

If so, I’d love to hear your story.

In summary/top tips

1)     Subscribe to events and festivals

2)     Seek opportunities to collaborate with events

3)     Know your curriculum – find the links to create meaningful learning

4)     Seek support with other teachers – create a team, share the dream.

5)     Engage in the learning experiences, share the outcomes

6)     Celebrate achievements with family friends and boarder community.

7)     Reflect of the shared learning experiences and outcomes.