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Care for Country

January 12, 2022
Hazel Adams
Claire Davenhall

Care for Country

Creative Practitioner: Claire Davenhall

Creative Practice: Visual Artist

School: Chidlow Primary School

Teacher: Hazel Adams

Year Group: Year 1

Main Curriculum Focus

GEOGRAPHY: Places have distinctive features. The natural, managed, and constructed features of places, their location on a pictorial map, how they may change over time (e.g., erosion, revegetated areas, planted crops, new buildings) and how they can be cared for. How weather (e.g., rainfall, temperature, sunshine, wind) and seasons vary between places, and the terms used to describe them. The activities (e.g., retailing, recreational, farming, manufacturing, medical, policing, educational, religious) that take place in the local community which create its distinctive features

Cross Curriculum Priorities - Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories & cultures, Sustainability


Visual language - Compare different kinds of images in narrative and informative texts and discuss how they contribute to meaning. Listening & speaking - Use interaction skills including turn –taking, recognising the contribution of others, speaking clearly, and using appropriate volume and pace. Engage in conversations and discussions, using active listening behaviours, showing interest, and contributing ideas, information, and questions. Creating literary texts - Recreate texts imaginatively using drawing, writing, performance and digital forms of communication. Text in context - Respond to texts drawn from a range of cultures and experiences. Handwriting - Write using unjoined lower case and upper-case letters

MATHEMATICS - Shape - Recognise and classify familiar two- dimensional shapes and three-dimensional objects using obvious. Represent data with objects and drawings where one object or drawing represents one data value. Describe the displays.

SCIENCE - Biological Sciences - Living things have a variety of external features, living things live in different places where their needs are met.  Everyday materials can be physically changed in a variety of ways. Earth and Space Sciences - Chemical Sciences observable changes occur in the sky and landscape. Physical Sciences light and sound are produced by a range of sources and can be sensed nature and development of science. Science involves observing, asking questions about, and describing changes in, objects and events. Use and influences of Science - people use Science in their daily lives, including when caring for their environment and living things.


Communicating & Reflecting - Represent collected information and/or data into different formats (e.g., tables, maps, plans). Reflect on learning and respond to findings (e.g. discussing what they have learned).


Visual Arts- Exploration of, and experimentation with, the visual elements of shape, colour, line, and texture. Exploration of techniques and art processes, such as mixed media, colour mixing or drawing. Use of visual art elements and techniques to create 2D and 3D artwork, that communicate an idea to an audience. Display of artwork

Music - Improvisation with sounds, simple pitch, and rhythm patterns to communicate music ideas


Chidlow Primary School is an Independent Public-School set amongst natural bushland in the Perth Hills.  Students have access to a range of natural play spaces and modern, well-equipped buildings and resources. We fostered their school motto “Working Together” by focusing on the collaborative and persistent habits of learning in workshop style creative learning sessions with their teacher Mrs Adams and creative practitioner Claire Davenhall. Together they created authentic learning activities that focused on their project Care for Country.


Our project was called Caring for Country and explored the six noongar seasons with the aim of investigating Noongar practices of sustainability and how they may help to address some of today’s largest environmental concerns such as climate change, bushfires, and drought.

Students began by creating their own map of their country and explored the different colours of the Australian landscape & seascape to produce a beautiful, marbled background. They used their imaginations to place different colours in the right place and made connections about which colours would suit different features.

They painted blue oceans, yellow sandy beaches, a big red centre, and the green tropical rainforests!

They whittled their own drawing stick to draw the outline of their country and identify the different states and territories within it. Each week we explored different land formations and features and added them to our maps. We looked at rock formations such as wave rock (Katter Kich), Ayers Rock (Uluru), Devils Marbles (Karlu Karlu) and integrated local dreamtime stories of creation as a way of understanding Aboriginal culture and language.

We listened to the sound of the Daintree Rainforest in Queensland and used improvisation techniques to communicate our own version of the rainforest by making rain sticks and using our voices to make frog noises, bird noises and the deep grunts of the guardians of the forest, the cassowary.  We posed the question; why would you want to lick a green ants bottom?  We explored bush medicine, to understand different plants and animals and why they need to be protected from logging and deforestation.  

Students went fishing Noongar style, by whittling our own fishing spears from long sticks to catch the Ngari salmon that have come in from the sea and swim upstream to return to the rivers to spawn.  We linked the rivers to gorges and made gorgeous gorges inspired by Western Australia’s very best in Karijini National Park, located in the Pilbara region.

Was it erosion or the rainbow serpent that slowly carved this landscape out of rocks that are over 2,500 million years old?  Our Year 1 and 2’s consolidated all their learning into creating their own gorgeous gorges using their rock formations, colours inspired from making their maps, a running river with little fish made from leaves.

Finally, we explore fire in the land and why it is important for some plants and trees to germinate.  We looked at the rocks and fossils we made from wet clay and how they had changed since they had been fired in the kiln and observed the chemical change from wet clay to hard rock.  Once they had finished their gorgeous gorges, we drew them in watercolour pencils and unlocked their pigments to create wonderful paintings to go on display and enter the Mundaring Environmental Art Poster competition.

How did we make the curriculum come alive?

Students spent time outdoors exploring Chidlow’s natural bush areas making discoveries to make their own links to the learning of the Noongar language and how different places are influenced by the six Noongar seasons.  The students created work that explores these concepts, to give a deeper sense of understanding for the place in which they live.  

The Space outside the classroom became an important learning environment for making discoveries and connections to the world around them.

How did we make the Creative Habits of Learning come alive?

During our reflections we observed the seasons we had explored in our outdoor classroom.  Whether it was collecting the colours from the Djilba seasons, where we had mostly found green living things, this season symbolised the growth of wildflowers and plants.  Djilba is a transitional time of the year, with some very cold and clear days combined with warmer, rainy, and windy days.

The following week we made orange rock formations, this colour symbolised the season Bunuru, representing the long days and short nights, the hottest of the six seasons.  The blue season Makuru is the coldest season with rain, storms, and long nights.  There is good hunting of yongka (kangaroo), wetj (emu), kaarda (goanna), koomal (possum) and kwenda (bandicoot).

The purple Djeran is marked by cooler nights, dewy mornings and when leaves fall to the ground.  Ngari (salmon) are prolific.  The red season Birak is known as the season of fire and the young, it is very hot and dry.  Burning of scrub was once done to encourage new shoots to grow.  The yellow season of Kambarang sees longer and warmer days and less rain.  The djet are in full bloom and plants used for mereny (food), medicine, crafts, tools, kaal (fire) and ceremony are collected.

On a canvas we painted our creative learning in the form of a collaborative dot painting, using the 6 Noongar seasons for each week.  They put a dot that matches the colour of the 5 Habits of Learning they had developed in the session; into the season we had focused on.

“I’m learning the 5 Habits of Learning.  I'm inquisitive, wondering and questioning, I’m persistent, daring to be different, I’m imaginative, thinking about what the next thing should be.  Like looking at the shapes in our landscape.  Discipline is crafting and improving, and collaboration is sharing the product.” - Student

How did we activate student voice and learner agency?

We activated the student voice by providing time for reflection.  They each had a turn to talk about their learning journey, contribute to class discussions and share their experiences of their own country.  It was interesting to hear how each of them had a connection to their country and the plants and animals within it.  Many shared stories of kangaroos in their back gardens, the places they had visited whether it was Wave Rock, the desert or fishing.  We had also developed shared experiences within the session, going outside and discovering different types of rocks, sticks, leaves and frogs!

Each session, you could observe them being more persistent - no longer did you hear them saying ‘that's too hard for me.’ Instead, you heard; ‘I’m sticking with difficulty!’  It was wonderful to hear them being more collaborative and helping each other.

What was the impact?

Students have developed ongoing ways of reflecting and seeing just how creative each individual is.  They have enjoyed venturing outside and using the outdoors as another creative learning space within the school.

“I’m noticing that it’s a good day when it’s Creative Schools.  It’s all about nature and creating.  If we lived in the city, we wouldn’t have Creative Schools.  It’s about nature and living in the bush.  We have spent a lot of time in the bush with Creative Schools.  In normal lessons we don’t spend time in the bush.” - Student

They have enjoyed exploring different ways of being creative, whether it’s making maps, learning how rocks are formed, fishing, making simple hand tools and how to care for their country, while respecting the aboriginal culture and learning how-to live-in harmony with nature.  

“I know why Creative Schools is working.  It’s because it makes learning fun, and it plays with possibilities and cares for humans. We are learning about how the Aboriginals can help us survive and care for country.” - Student

For the Teacher, she is able to use the 5 habits as a regular part of all classroom experiences, as the students have learnt the language around the 5 habits of learning.  They have higher expectations of themselves and want to be more persistent and stick with the difficulty.  She allows more time for them to give and receive feedback.  She values the outdoor classroom and sees the potential for learning to take place in many more areas across the school.  There is a willingness in the school to share these experiences with other staff and start a revolution where teachers utilize the power of trees in Chidlow.

“I’m always stunned with the great ideas that Claire comes up with.  The kids are always excited when Creative School’s is on, they love it.  It’s been more creative with Claire and more of an outdoors focus with Daniel.  Mostly because it rained so much in Term 3 which made it more difficult to get outside.  Christine (Principal) talked to the whole staff about scheduling outdoor learning.  It’s easy to include outdoor learning when you factor it in.  We did symmetry portraits the other day and we went outdoors to look at symmetry in nature.  When you factor in learning outdoors, I can really see the value in taking learning outdoors. The children understood the program and started using the language of the habits of learning right away. It's amazing. They can articulate what they are doing and why and they are bringing it and feeding it into everything that they do. I have learned that you can learn to be creative when I went to the professional learning days. That was new for me. You don't just have to be born with it, but you can learn it.” - Teacher
“It has been a wonderful experience to share workshop style lessons with real physical outcomes, weaving dreamtime stories through geography provided a holistic approach to the learning.  I loved how each session linked with the last one, sharing stories of creation while the children created gave them a deeper level of understanding about the world around them.” It's been so much fun, and the students have really embarrassed Creative Schools this term.  They love a good challenge.” - Creative Practitioner
“It’s extraordinary.  It’s happy and fun.  Creative Schools is both. It’s fun working with Claire, she makes such fun things to do, and I never yawn.  She never does easy or boring things.” - Student
“I’m crafting and improving and I’m helping others. It has been enchanted. We take care of country so that the world doesn’t go like rubbish.” - Student

Feedback from Christine Hennessy, Principal

“We have loved the program. I have loved it. We have spent all these years pulling the curriculum into this rigorous structured way. We thought it would improve academic outcomes and engagement, but it didn't really work. Creative Schools has given us engagement at a really big level. It has shown us to step back from the tight time-based curriculum, and to allow the children the opportunity to explore things in greater depth and detail. It allows them to learn at a deeper level. It has given us joy back into learning. Now we get deep learning, not just surface learning. We have this glorious environment. Learning how to use it more has been fabulous for the teachers. With the normal curriculum you focus on covering everything really quickly at a very surface level when you're moving on to getting it done. We found it quite confronting slowing things down. Our teachers have learned to slow down and not just focus on coverage. They have learned to create time to work together at a deeper level, focusing on quality over quantity.
I can already see changes in the teachers’ teaching practice. It would be interesting to see if the teachers will sustain it. The teachers have all talked about the creative habits and how they can see growth in the children in those areas. The kids can also see them. The kids have really been quite challenged by it. Some kids still really struggle with them. That's good for them to struggle in order to learn about themselves. We are looking at how to continue using the habits to drive reflection, starting with STEM, and then moving it further.
There is a buzz around the school about the work with the creative practitioners. There is a real sense of excitement when the creative practitioners come. We need to get the balance right between play-based and explicit learning. I think we are halfway there.
It was powerful for all three of us to attend the professional learning, giving us a license to take the curriculum outdoors. Parents are really keen on nature play and outdoor learning, perhaps that will become a whole school focus for us.
There is real power in two, with the teacher being able to watch the children interact in a different way when they're working alongside the creative practitioner. It gives the teachers time and space to think differently. It has confronted the way we normally operate, but in a good way. There is now a sense of joy and anticipation in every day. That is the biggest change. There is still this cognitive conflict as a teacher. It has allowed us to reflect how our current practice is constraining creativity and engagement.”