In this exchange, two schools join forces to develop understanding, tolerance and harmony and to increase parent participation.
The aim of this cultural exchange program was to develop cross-cultural awareness, particularly in relation to Arabic-speaking communities, and to increase the participation of Arabic-speaking parents in the activities of both schools.
Bradbury Public School is a large school of about 700 students. About 20% of students come from language backgrounds other than English. By comparison, Yennora Public School is a small school with under 150 students. About 85% of students come from language backgrounds other than English. The school is located in an industrial area and has few cultural, health and entertainment facilities close by. Both Bradbury and Yennora Public Schools are situated in south western Sydney and have large numbers of students from Arabic-speaking backgrounds.
Before the program commenced, an initial meeting was held by teachers to determine the purpose and focus for the exchange. The nature of the two schools, expectations of the program and ideas for activities, including school visits, were discussed. Outcomes included establishing a timeframe for events, selecting appropriate activities and organising school visits which were to include Harmony Day activities and an International Food Fair.
Harmony Day – the first visit
The first visit coincided with Harmony Day and involved the entire student population of Yennora Public School travelling to Bradbury Public. Stage 3 teachers and students set up the International Food Fair with the Arabic-speaking community preparing the halal barbeque lunch. Students from both Yennora and Bradbury Public Schools watched students from Airds High School perform Arabic dancing, Turkish belly dancing, Cambodian instrumental pieces and Samoan harmony singing. At the end of the assembly, the Harmony Day cake was cut and shared by the students.
In small groups, the students from Yennora Public School visited classrooms and presented Bradbury students with booklets they had made about their school and cultural backgrounds. At lunchtime, students from both schools played together, exploring the many differences and similarities of the two environments.
In the afternoon, Bradbury Public school captains presented the Principal of Yennora Public School with a wall quilt that depicted hands of friendship. Teachers, parents and students who took part in the activity all reflected positively on the day.
The return visit
In Term 3, students from Bradbury Public School visited Yennora. Again, teachers from both schools met to co-ordinate the visit and plan activities beforehand. Important logistical lessons learnt from the first visit were considered and new activities to promote harmony, understanding and inclusion were included in the program.
The cost and difficulties associated with transporting large numbers of students, prevented all students from Bradbury Public School going to Yennora. In the end, two classes from Bradbury were selected to visit Yennora Public School along with the school captains and prefects.
While at Yennora, Bradbury students participated in a number of classes in which the theme of friendship was the focus, including a craft activity where students made “friendship trees”. At lunchtime, canteen volunteers distributed individual lunch boxes they had prepared for all the and then together students played various games.
In the afternoon, Yennora Public School students participated in a range of multicultural performances including dance, percussion groups and singing. Prior to departure, a wonderful artwork produced by Year 6 students and teachers from Yennora was presented to the school captains from Bradbury Public School.
Evaluations were conducted following both school visits and completed by all involved. Responses indicated that this was a most worthwhile program that resulted in increased understanding and tolerance of different values and cultures.
Observations of the students at play and work over the course of the program indicated a greater level of inclusion than was previously evident. Follow up with teachers in the weeks and months following the exchange indicated that students appeared to be more respectful of different cultural practices.
The Bradbury / Yennora cultural exchange was initiated by Valerie Moszt, Deputy Principal and Gayle Elvery, ESL teacher, from Bradbury Public School. The program was developed and implemented with the assistance of the Principal of Yennora Public School and the support of staff from both schools.