Sunday 19 June 2011

Bound for Botany Bay

I spent two days this week as a parent helper on a Year 4 Australian History excursion to Sydney. What a great time we had! Well, it was great once we'd survived the bus-sickness chain-reaction vomiting on the trip down! Our first stop was the Old Schoolhouse at Rouse Hill, on Sydney's outskirts. It was built in 1888, and has recently been restored and opened as a hands-on exhibit of early Australian education. 
It afforded a fun opportunity for the kids to dress up and step back in time.
Back to a time when boys dipped their hats, girls curtsied and all children were silent and straight-backed!
To a time when lessons were written on slates, or with nib pens and ink. And if you stepped out of line, the cane was liberally dispensed. Our modern day children were suitably horrified and fascinated!
As if they knew I was coming, one of the activities was a lesson in the 'sewing room'! It was special to see the boys taking to the hand-stitching with relish & boisterous enthusiasm.
There was a wonderful original reference sampler, partially stitched on the wall.
Of course, I was drawn to the botanical designs!
The highlight of the trip for me was visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens. We had wonderful, knowledgeable guides, who talked us through the indigenous and settlement history of the Gardens. And pointed out trees with excellent 'boomerang potential'!
We also went to Hyde Park Barracks, a world heritage listed convict site built to accommodate convict men and boys. It was designed by architect Francis Greenway, himself a convict transported for forgery. He was responsible for many of the significant early colonial buildings in Australia.
The students were particularly excited about trying out the sleeping accomodation - a closely strung succession of hammocks, barely wide or long enough to sleep an adult.
Wandering through this historic and very beautiful part of Sydney with the students was such a treat. 

I spent my University years in Sydney, but never seemed to make the time to appreciate the wondrous history that was on my doorstep.
On our way back home, the bus driver took us over the Harbour Bridge. One of the girls next to me started jumping up and down in her seat excitedly, her eyes sparkling - this was her very first time on the Bridge. Witnessing her genuine joy was so lovely!
The excursion left me with a sense of how privileged our children are, with how well Australia is conserving its history, and how teachers are worth a lot more money!!
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