School students in India and Melbourne collaborate for SWiRL publications

VU’s Story Writing in Remote Locations (SWiRL) program has brought together school students from Melbourne and India to produce a three-book series, Words and Pictures.

Thirteen Bachelor of Education preservice teachers travelled to India in February with lecturers, Associate Professor Marcelle Cacciattolo, Lawry Mahon and Dr Vijay Thalathoti for the three-week literature program.

Working with children from Catherine Public School in Visakhapatnam, the preservice teachers collected artworks that were brought back to Melbourne and provided to students at St Albans Primary School and Carranballac P-9 College. The students in Melbourne wrote narratives for each artwork, which have been collated and published in a three-book series, Words and Pictures.

The books showcase how children from different parts of the world can come together to create beautiful images and words.

The SWiRL program gave the preservice teachers the opportunity to work with primary and secondary school students on a range of literacy based curriculum activities.

SWiRL founder, and VU lecturer, Lawry Mahon, said the school students were eager to engage with the program:

“The opportunity to write about their own worlds and to photograph things that had great meaning to them ensured wonderful engagement, participation and output by every child who was involved,” he said.

“In one four-hour session, VU preservice teachers assisted children create almost 60 children’s books – laminated and bound, ready to take home to show their families.”

It was the first time program has been run overseas. The program has traditionally been delivered in the Northern Territory, engaging children living in remote Indigenous communities to write about their ‘life worlds’. It has produced many children’s storybooks that celebrate the unique cultural identity of Indigenous ways of being and knowing.  This year’s Northern Territory SWiRL program runs from 26 August until 25 September in the Pine Creek community.

However, to mark the program’s 21st anniversary and VU’s centenary, the college decided to also take it to an international location.

The College of Education held a special launch for the books at Gallery Sunshine Everywhere, an art gallery based in a café in Sunshine, run by the College of Education’s Professor Maureen Ryan. Gallery Sunshine Everywhere has hosted many exhibitions of innovative and creative programs run in schools and communities in the western region of Melbourne.

Copies of the SWIRL books will be sent to the Catherine Public School in India so that staff and students can share in the good work that they helped to create.

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