Innovative project earns UWS student a prestigious education award

Illawarra Escarpment

A University of Western Sydney student has been announced as the winner of the prestigious Oxford University Education Innovation Award.

Jacqueline Scott, a Masters of Teaching student, has taken out the 'Primary Education' category of the awards for her digital project The Illawarra Escarpment and the story of the Wonga Wonga.

Ms Scott worked with the teacher and years 3 and 4 students at Bulli Public School to develop a multimodal fictional book. The storyline merges an Australian Indigenous Dreamtime story, Waratah, with a story about a young boy Jack, who has moved to the Illawarra region and now lives on the Illawarra Escarpment.

Bulli Public School students narrated the story that details how Jack's inherit relationship with the local environment sees him rescue an injured Wonga Wonga pigeon in his backyard and witness a rally against coal seam gas fracking.

The primary school students then drew illustrations and recorded sound effects to accompany the story. Their audio files and artworks were incorporated in the digital story using various software programs.

Ms Scott says the aim of the project was to engage students in a fun, engaging learning experience which allowed them to develop a wide range of important, science, HSIE and literacy skills.

"Creating the digital story required students to work together to learn about scientific, Indigenous and environmental issues, create original artworks and music, and improve their oral language and reading skills," says Ms Scott.

"The students all collaborated as part of a creative, multimodal, team approach that addressed outcomes in the curriculum; integrated digital technologies; and harnessed a deeper connection with the local environment and community."

Jane Hunter, an academic from the UWS School of Education, says the Oxford Education Innovation Award encouraged pre-service teachers to put into practice what they are learning in their teacher education programs.

"The Illawarra Escarpment and the story of the Wonga Wonga provides an excellent example of the benefits of both disciplinary and cross-disciplinary learning in the classroom," says Ms Hunter.

"The project encouraged pre-service teachers to use inquiry-based learning to create a meaningful product. The students that Jackie worked with did research, and experimented with technologies, and problem solved an issue that was important to them, and the local community.

"Learning that focuses solely on reading, writing, speaking and listening and is not connected to students' lives and is not built around powerful content is less engaging. Jackie's digital story is an example of what is possible."

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