Learning circle opens at Clunes school

CIRCLE OF TRUST: Riley Battistuzzi, 7, Clunes Primary School teacher Malcolm Sky and Tony Taylor, 10, stand in front of the new Aboriginal learning circle at the school, which will be used as an outdoor teaching area.
CIRCLE OF TRUST: Riley Battistuzzi, 7, Clunes Primary School teacher Malcolm Sky and Tony Taylor, 10, stand in front of the new Aboriginal learning circle at the school, which will be used as an outdoor teaching area. Marc Stapelberg

A CHANCE to experience an ancient way of learning - or just play with a bit of maths - is the promise of a new Aboriginal learning circle at Clunes Public School.

Opened yesterday, the circle was a joint project of the school's P&C and Clunes school teacher of Aboriginal ancestry Malcolm Sky.

The roughly three by three metre circle features eight eye-catching circular symbols which stand out thanks to their gleaming black stones.

It was built gradually over two terms, thanks to efforts from students, staff, and parents, with all the materials used donated by Steve Battistuzzi from the Corndale Quarry.

Local Bundjalung elders were also consulted during the project, whose input was invaluable to ensure the circle was genuine, according to acting principal Michelle Slee.

"It's been a real community effort," Ms Slee said.

Mr Sky, who is descended from the Anaiwan mob of New England, said the circle offered students the chance to learn in new innovative ways in what was an essentially an "outdoor classroom".

"The circle has eight ways of learning which can be directly linked to Western education," Mr Sky said.

It could be used as a place to discuss an English text, or as an impromptu performance space for a drama class.

"Or it could also be as simple as practicing our maths and drawing in the stones," Mr Sky said.

It was also a place to discuss and refine learning habits, or "habits of mind", such as concentration, stillness, and patience.

Aboriginal culture and history is now a part of the NSW Department of Education curriculum.

Public schools director John Lynch, who spoke at the opening, said it was worth acknowledging how far the appreciation of Aboriginal culture had come since his youth.

Mr Lynch recalled going to school in Western NSW with Aboriginal children who grew up in corrugated iron sheds with no power or water.

Aboriginal culture and language teacher Glen Rhodes said the circle was a "job well done", recalling his youth being taught by elders on Cabbage Tree Island.

"It's something you as a community should be proud of."

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