Book Week With the Students from Higaturu Oil Palm International School

Work from the students of the Higaturu Oil Palm International School which became a class anthology, Escape to Wonder

A recent week of Book Week workshops via zoom, at the Higaturu Oil Palm International School, was wondrous.

Students were willing to imagine and open their eyes to a sense of wonder, to explore other worlds within worlds, from nature, to rivers to the moon and outerspace.

We began with learning about cheeky Cassowaries hungry and looking for food after a cyclone, and imagining what they might say or think, and advanced to humourous dialogues within the river and exploring a sense of wonder, through sensory adventure poems.

Students learnt about the power of working in pairs and in groups and how many voices combined can create, extend and then joyously and confidently perform their creations.

Throughout I used my own illustrated poetry book, Magic Fish Dreaming, as the main mentor text with a storytelling session also of Michelle Worthington’s Book, Possum Games.

Both had kindly been posted and provided to the school by Tina from CYA. This meant we could read together, and as I have dialogue poems and question and answer structures this was fantastic to have each student have the book on the other side of the zoom.

I was impressed by how the students worked with each other on some in the river dialogues and their humour and inventiveness throughout the week began to shine through.

Work from Stone and Seaweed Anthology, by Students of Higaturu Oil Palm International School

I am delighted the school community (families and staff) gave permission for me to share their work.

More important than products though, is the process of creativity that the children undertook within their classroom. By reflecting on that stories can come from that which you know through your senses and take you to places you might only imagine.

I hope these children, will create many more poems or stories and strengthen and contribute to building a publishing community within Papua New Guinea, beginning from anthologies within their school and moving beyond the anthologies for their communities. Building perhaps collectives for theirs and future generations.

With many thanks to the school, students , staff of the Higaturu Oil Palm International School, and Tina of CYA.

Photographs courtesy of the Higaturu Oil Palm International School, shared with their permission

Returning to the Motherland 2#

So, continuing on from my last post on zooming to Higaturu Oil Palm International School, PNG for a most memorable book week, here is more about the classroom itself. This image is what it looked like from the point of view of the students in the main zoom room, before we were allocated to our learning zoom room with the students and their teacher.

Zooming Book Week Image Courtesy HOPIS school

So how did we end up with a confident performance of a group poem by the end of book week (despite the challenges of working via zoom and classroom learning space combined) and a wall full of beautiful art and sense poems?

This is where the immense dedication of the teacher, her assistant and children, going with the flow of a physically distant author communicating and coming to terms with being on a large screen, and stuck there, makes a massive difference.

As I communicated, using voice, slide shows, and virtual white boards, Ms Gwendalyn, and Ms Cynthia, her assistant, would further explain it to the students. Zoom can be tricky as I couldn’t walk around the classroom, nor easily read the body language of students, like I normally do. The students could only walk up to the front to ask me questions, and sometimes felt a bit shy of the screen.

Although by the end of the week they knew to keep an eye on the whiteboard for surprises, such as Riddles!

It helped that they had the focus texts, of Magic Fish Dreaming and Michelle Worthington’s Possum Games with them to work from as well. These had been posted to arrive before Book Week in PNG began.

They became mentor texts for the students, to also learn about publishing, illustrating and cover pages.

We had a prior meeting on zoom the week before, with all presenting authors, Tina, Phil, Caroline, Albert and myself, meeting the teachers, and working out how we would proceed. I asked Ms Gwendalyn, to please put stickers on the children with their names, and she sent me a class list as well.

I ran the program by her, to check if it would be helpful for the students, and had a mix of activities to go with the books, such as art, drama, writing, all complementary to the text, as well as readings.

Although I have done many workshops this was my first time doing a sequence for a whole week, and in Papua New Guinea too, as normally I just have had two hour workshops so that was a blessing and a new challenge.

As part of the process we decided that each day it would be helpful for me to email Ms Gwendalyn, and just check in on how she felt the children had responded, as well as observing that during class time myself.

These consultations sometimes led to modifications for the next day which were beneficial for all. Although sometimes the messages took longer to arrive then we anticipated. That’s the internet for you.

I gave the students a sneak peek reading of a new anthology I have some new poems in which is edited by Michelle Worthington. We also spoke about the power of anthologies.

The immense benefit of working over a whole week with the students and their teacher was we could use each earlier class as a foundation to the next class and creative task.

We could expand and apply new concepts into their work from previous sessions. The main challenge, was just making sure to go with the flow of what was engaging the students, and extending them to just the right balance.

This meant every now and then, me or Ms Gwendalyn, making on the spot easy to implement decisions to alter previous plans.

By the end of this post series, I’d like to feature some of the work of the students, the school is just doublechecking with their parents that this will be okay as it is my hope to introduce these budding authors to you through their work. Perhaps some of them will choose the pathway of authors, designers, artists or playwrights!

Another amazing thing, was the warmth of the author team and some of the zany things we decided to do, like change our head gear everyday…

to be continued…

Return to the Motherland 1#

I never expected that my first trip back to Papua New Guinea, since I moved to Australia as a one year old, would be in my fifties and via zoom and would be working with writers based in three different countries.

Yet, none of us knows our future, and so it was that the last week my first ever Book Week experience, occurred this way.

I was invited by Tina Marie Clark, to join a CYA team, including her, Albert Nayathi, Phil Kettle, Caroline Evari, (and works from Michelle Worthington and Dannika Patterson) that has been mostly going to the Higaturu Oil Palm International School there in person for the last ten years.

The last two years they have had to conduct the visit via zoom, because of COVID19.

Screen shot of zoom of bookweek

Although I haven’t done Book Week before, I have done several workshops in libraries, environmental centres, and schools, to mentor creatives of all ages from kindergarten through to people all backgrounds in their seventies, in poetry. Something which became such a passion I ended up writing and publishing a poetry book,  Magic Fish Dreaming, for children.

I wrote Magic Fish Dreaming,  to express a sense of the place I was living in at the time, which was the Cassowary Coast, in Far North Queensland, as well as to demonstrate different poetry techniques which might appeal to children but also extend them. At the time of composing this work I was facilitating workshops in the community and needed to create original materials with a sense of the place I was living in, not just use what was already out there.

Magic Fish Dreaming, represents all the beauty, grandeur, magic, and heartache and I saw whilst living in that area, all captured for families to relive some of that and hopefully fall in love with poetry.

During this visit, I was able to bring all the experiences of the last few years, in designing workshops, as well as my recent enrolment training as a teacher (although for highschool) together into my contemporary practice.

I was delighted to see the effect of the workshops on the students and their teacher and teacher assistant. I can truly say I had as much of a feeling of joy out of this as out of being published.

My heart soared to see them engaged with the activities and WRITING! And finally confidently performing work they had collaborated on composing together.

What did we and the school do during the week to reach this point?

To be continued . . .