Applied Learning Experience 2019
The Year 10 Applied Learning Experience (ALE) provides an opportunity for students to gain first-hand knowledge and perspective on issues that are currently shaping our society and our world. The girls were involved in a range of experiences and they have provided articles based on their experiences during the ALE week. Thank you to Mrs Libby Bennett, EA to the Deans and Ms Jennifer Hurll, Year 10 Coordinator, for their support with ALE 2019.
St Edmund's Concert
Our group helped run a concert showcasing Years 10-12 students from St Edmunds College Wahroonga. St Edmunds College is a high school for students with varying intellectual disabilities, neurodivergent minds and those with sensory impairments. This 15-year partnership between Year 10 Abbotsleigh girls and senior St Edmund’s is a much loved and valued tradition.
The St Edmund’s (Eddies) concert is always a night of fun. Singing, dancing, acting and music are well-tested methods of uniting people with different experiences and circumstances. This year’s concert was no exception. The students of St Edmunds elected the theme ‘Eddies Goes to the Movies’ and picked songs and dances to match.
Some talented St Edmunds students volunteered for soloist singing spots, showcasing their amazing voices. Anthony, Anant and Angelica gave the audience goose bumps with their outstanding performances.
Performing with the Eddies students created a strong bond of friendship between us all and we were extremely sad to say goodbye at the end of the week.
St Lucy's School
St Lucy’s School is a K-7 Catholic school in Wahroonga for students with disabilities. It provides excellence in education that empowers students with the values, knowledge, attitudes and skills to flourish and participate fully in society.
Throughout the week our group participated in multiple activities such as classroom work and sporting activities. We discovered that classrooms at St Lucy’s function differently as they cater for the individual needs for every student. As there was a significant communication barrier when interacting with the children, we learned simple sign language to facilitate communication. We are all so grateful for having experienced this memorable week.
Care Through Action
Our group had the privilege of working with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, a non-profit organisation operating across NSW that helps people living with neurological and physical disabilities achieve their goals and lead the most comfortable, independent and inclusive lives possible. We learnt about their work running a multitude of programs and services catering not only for those with cerebral palsy but also for other conditions such as autism, muscular dystrophy, acquired brain injuries and stroke to support maximum participation in the community. Specifically, our group helped the CPA run their boccia games and trainings as part of their sports program. Boccia is a game designed with physical constraints that mean players must be seated, allowing those with physical disabilities the chance to compete in an accessible sport at an elite level.
At the start of the week, we were introduced to Peter King, our supervisor, who helped familiarise us with the rules and classes of boccia. BC1 players are chair-bound but can throw boccia balls by hand, and BC3 players relied on ramps to roll the balls. On Tuesday we played training games with Scott Elsworth, captain of the Australian team and defending national champion.
We did a tour of the CPA facilities, visiting the numerous therapy areas, sporting centre, offices, residences and the hydrotherapy pool. On Wednesday, our group helped with refereeing and timekeeping of BC2, BC3 and mixed games in the Sydney Summer Singles Boccia Competition. On Thursday, we played with the Australian representative team, who would be competing internationally in Dubai in several weeks and naturally, far outmatched our group. The day was rewarding not only in playing the game but getting to know the players and being inspired by their journeys to becoming elite players. On Friday, we were referees and timekeepers and experienced what it was like to play as a BC3 player using ramps to finish our week.
We thoroughly enjoyed the experience, not only getting to know so many of the wonderfully quirky, intelligent and kind athletes and staff, but also learning so much about what it is like to live with a disability and how empowering sport can be. Sports such as boccia allow people to use their disabilities to excel in their specialised field further than a ‘normal’ person, as was proven to us time and time again.
Social Justice - New Horizons
The New Horizons ALE program was conducted for the first time this year. New Horizons is a not-for-profit organisation run in a corporate style. The first activity of the week involved working with different departments in the head office of the organisation, for example: Finance, Enterprise Risk and Governance, People and Culture, and Assets and Facility Management. Some girls even had the opportunity to talk to the CEO of the organisation. A branch of New Horizons is located in Thornleigh, which serves as a respite centre where people with additional needs can interact with other members of the community. We spent the day with the customers, talking to them and playing serious games of Jenga.
The Aged Care centre is located on site at North Ryde with approximately 78 clients. We learnt about their daily schedules and even played some of the brain-stimulating activities such as the Alphabet Game and Trivia. We also worked with a part of the organisation called Orana, where carers were available for one-on-one personal assistance for their customers. Many of these carers see about 15 customers on a weekly basis. We met with some of the customers at their weekly craft session, to partake in creating Christmas decorations and talking to them about their lives. We learnt about the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the effects brought about by changes to funding. To finish off the week, we spent time in the New Horizons Packable factory, where many of the organisation’s customers are given the opportunity to join the workforce. We helped them package products for companies such as Canon, while making many new friends along the way.
Social Justice - Mixed Program
During our ALE week we visited Operation Christmas Child (OCC), The Ponds Anglicare Retirement Village and helped with the preparations for the ABBOX of FUN summer camp. At OCC, we organised and packed shoeboxes, which were delivered by families from all parts of Australia. These boxes will be distributed to less fortunate children overseas. Our job was to help sort out the boxes and ensure that they were well packed to bring joy into the children’s lives. This experience was so special, as we were the last ones to see the box before a child overseas opens the box, which will bring so much happiness to them.
At the Anglicare Retirement Village, we spent time with the residents in various activities and celebrated the residents who had birthdays in November, and really enjoyed listening to their stories. Many of the elderly residents had lost cognitive abilities, so we were honoured to have had the opportunity to spread a little happiness during the season of giving and love.
The last day was spent at Abbotsleigh, and we collaborated to make artwork for intellectually and physically disabled children attending the ABBOX of FUN camp in December. We were each assigned a child accompanied with a list of their interests, and our job was to personalise a canvas, a Christmas card and bedroom name template for each child.
The activities the week showed us that in the race of life, many people have a head start, or are already behind, due to circumstances beyond their control and helped us realise how it is our responsibility to assist those who are less fortunate.
We spent a week with girls from Holroyd High School, many of whom were refugees and immigrants from war-stricken countries. Having undergone traumatic circumstances, it was truly eye-opening learning about their backgrounds. On Monday we travelled to Holroyd and started off with an introductory activity. The girls took us on a tour of their school followed by some traditional Arabic, Afghani and Persian dancing and an amazing cultural lunch prepared by the girls’ parents. We also played cultural games, dressed up in headscarves and had our hands decorated with henna art. The seeds of long-lasting friendships were sown.
On Tuesday, we travelled to Auburn and went on a tour of the Gallipoli Mosque, where we saw beautiful hand-drawn patterns and verses of the Holy Quran on the walls and learnt about the religious practices performed there. We walked through Auburn markets, filled with jewellery stores and rich aromas and had lunch at a Lebanese restaurant. On Wednesday the Holroyd girls came to Abbotsleigh. We visited the chapel in the morning where we received a brief talk from Rev Hobba, and then completed a scavenger hunt around the campus in small groups to introduce the girls to Abbotsleigh., which showed the students around our school. On Thursday, we took a train to Darling Harbour and went bowling with the Holroyd students, which was a fantastic way to have fun and further strengthen the bonds we had created. On our last day we made bunting in the DT Department to commemorate our time together over the past week. Each group made one flag as a snapshot of our newfound friendship and experiences. We made two copies of the bunting: one for Abbotsleigh and the other for Holroyd. For our last meal together, we made pizza using the ovens in the GLC.
We are all deeply grateful for the insights, deep friendships and experiences we gained from this week, and are glad that we were able to offer this opportunity to the Holroyd girls.
Abbotsleigh Social Justice
On any given night, one in 200 Australians sleep rough. Of this, the majority are concentrated in urban areas. Our group worked with multiple organisations to gain a unique insight into homelessness in Australia contribute to the community through volunteering activities.
We started with a tour of Wayside Chapel facilities and the surrounding area as an introduction to homelessness in Sydney. We learnt about the Wayside Chapel in King’s Cross and their partnered buildings in Manly and Bondi. We learnt about the massive changes in recent years, such as the inclusion of MSIC (Medically Supervised Injection Centres) and lockout laws as a means of reducing deaths in the area tenfold.
We went to Newtown Mission, a service that prepares large amounts of food for the local homeless population and helped in different parts of the charity such as preparing food and organising donations. We later served food and drinks and conversed with the patrons.
We then moved to Hope Street in Woolloomooloo which focuses on providing practical and long-term care to disadvantaged communities. The day began with a walking tour of the area, with the aim of humanising the experience for the girls and exposing the massive wealth divide within inner-city areas. We then prepared a barbeque for the community and heard a multitude of interesting life stories from the locals.
The final day consisted of cooking with Kids Giving Back in Bondi and distributing the food in Kings Cross with Rough Edges. Bondi was a combination of preparing food for homeless organisations and local firefighters in the NSW bushfires.
One of the biggest lessons that came from the week was that homelessness cannot be solved through any single act of volunteering or donation. Rather, it requires ongoing support from both government and non-profit organisations as well as the recognition that talking to someone experiencing homelessness with dignity and respect can be just as important as a hot meal.
Humbling. Enlightening. Memorable. These words perfectly encapsulate the incredible week we experienced with the Salvation Army Mission in Surry Hills during ALE. A meaningful and fun week, we experienced the reality of life beyond the insular North Shore.
Over the week, our group spent time in the Surry Hills Streetlevel Centre, and were rotated between different jobs – such as preparing lunch in the kitchen, sorting in the Op Shop, serving hot drinks to the community, and helping with a Christmas program at the Waterloo Centre. The main event of each day was a low-cost lunch, where community members could also purchase inexpensive groceries and other daily items.
We were also exposed to the profound sense of community that Streetlevel fosters; providing a place of safety, trust, community and belonging. On Wednesday afternoon, we embarked on an insightful street walk around the Surry Hills area, and were shown aspects of the community that contributed to its lively, energetic atmosphere, as well as the neglect and isolation that exists in our community, especially among those who are sleeping rough.
Our previous conceptions of a stereotypical homeless person were dramatically altered as we engaged in honest conversations with the community and heard their stories, either at the coffee cart or when sharing a community lunch.
Remote Schools Visit - Katherine, Northern Territory
We visited three schools in Katherine, in the Northern Territory. Our first school was in Manyallaluk, a remote village 1.5 hours from Katherine, with a population of just over 100 people. We started the day with games and art, and we taught then a dance to Happy, which they enjoyed learning and performing. The children also showed us around their school: we saw their lookout spot, their waterhole, and even flew their drone. Visiting Manyallaluk school was extremely eye opening, as they were such a remote school and had so little compared to Abbotsleigh, but they were also able to teach us so much about their drone and their culture.
Next, we visited Nitmiluk Gorge on a cruise. Despite the temperature being an uncomfortable 42oC, we enjoyed seeing the beautiful scenery and learning about the wildlife. That afternoon, we went to Kintore Street School, a special needs school in Katherine. We played with the children and helped with swimming lessons, reading or in class.
On Thursday, we went to Clyde Fenton where we helped the students with their class work, watched them prepare for their Christmas concert, and played with them. This school visit was fascinating and in the afternoon, we swam in the Katherine Hot Springs.
On Friday, we visited Edith Falls and were startled to be told (afterwards) that we had swum right next to a freshwater crocodile without realising!
It was amazing to have met so many children and experience what different schools are like in the Northern Territory.
Our group ventured up to Far North Queensland for ALE. Our first stop was a crocodile river tour where we experienced our first welcome to country in front of the beautiful Wujal Falls. After our introduction to different aspects of Indigenous culture by the traditional owners Francis and Cathleen, we headed over to the PCYC to cook a barbecue for the local kids and play some games.
Next morning, we headed off on a two-hour trip to our first homeland, Binthiwarra, where we met Robbie, Ty and Doc who welcomed us with open arms for the next three nights. We all learnt a lot about culture and the transition back onto the land after the impacts of colonisation and the stolen generation. We experienced Indigenous culture, local art, played with the children at the beach, bush walked, participated in a talent show and did our community project, which included planting eight citrus trees, building a trench for a drainage system and building a fireplace which was very rewarding not only for us but for the homeland itself. Binthiwarra is a homeland that had been given back to the traditional owners through Native Title. Currently no-one lives on the land, but rather they use it when they need to get away from modern life and practice traditional ways.
Next stop was Bana, another homeland, which was about a three-hour drive away where the Kukuyalangi people reside. There, we met the traditional owners Sam, Horace, Chris and Marilyn. At Bana we enjoyed walks to the sacred waterfall, swims at the creek, traditional painting and cooking and we spent a lot of time talking to the traditional owners, who taught us so much. Unlike Binthiwarra, Bana had fulltime residents and we learnt about the struggles of the stolen generation and claiming Native Title. We all found these discussions quite confronting. On the last night at Bana, we spent the day preparing a huge Kup Murri where the local community all joined to say goodbye. After our sad goodbyes to Bana we headed to Cape Tribulation and spent the afternoon snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef. Red Earth was truly an amazing experience that was definitely life changing.
Habitat for Humanity: Fiji
For ALE, our group, plus four teachers took on the challenge of building houses for people in need in Nadi, Fiji. Over the course of four days we met the owners of the soon to be built house and participated in a welcoming ceremony where the owners of the land invited us to build on their land. We started construction: digging holes, cementing, constructing the foundation and frames, painting, hammering and decorating.
During the build, we immersed in the Fijian culture by being welcomed by the neighbours and tasting the exquisite cuisine they provided for us. On the last day of the build, we added the final touches of the house and decorated the exterior with balloons and streamers. We then held a closing ceremony and blessed the house and presented it to the landowners. Needless to say, a lot of tears were shed when we said our goodbyes.