First Nations’ Art and Languages Project in Early Learning

Early Learning students are deepening their connections with local and Indigenous ways of thinking through their First Nations' Art and Languages Project with Indigenous cultures, histories, languages and modes of expression.

The project is part of the School’s commitment to introduce an Aboriginal languages program, outlined in the latest IGS Strategic Plan Into the World 2022-2026.

Principal Shauna Colnan applauds the project.

“Our Early Learning community has embraced our strategic initiative to introduce projects in First Nations’ Languages here at IGS and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the enriching experiences the children and staff are having as they work with the amazing Bianca Caldwell,” Ms Colnan said.

In Term 2, Wiradjuri artist, Bianca Caldwell is working with the children as they explore their class totems, and design and create artworks. Bianca has previously worked with Primary and High School students on a range of art and language projects, most recently to design the beautiful IGS Acknowledgement of Country artwork.

“As part of our commitment to champion our whole school goal to go deep and produce something great, we’re aiming to deepen our youngest learners’ knowledge of the history, culture and contemporary lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We’re embedding Aboriginal languages in our everyday conversations in Early Learning and strengthening every child’s sense of belonging. By connecting with children through art, we can celebrate the rich diversity, history and connection to place that Aboriginal communities have,” said Head of School Early Learning Sarah Herbert.

The totems were chosen after deep research through projects with the children last year. The animal names for each classroom are from the Dharug language.

Jungaa: Octopus (EL Blue)

Garrawan: Currawong (EL Gold)

Bundaluk: Crimson Rosella (EL Red)

Burraga: Koala (EL Green)

Ngurang: Meeting Place (Extended Hours and shared space)

“Bianca greeted us with ‘Yaama!’ which means ‘Hello!’,” said Acting Deputy Head of School Early Learning and Educational Leader Victoria Kirkwood.

“The Jungaa class began mixing sand, paint and glue to create wavy patterns for the ocean. Then they closely looked at tiny shells to select some for the artwork.

“The following day the children looked at coral and drew the shapes. Then they learnt how to do traditional weaving using rafia to create coral shapes for the artwork. They explored some natural dried Quandong pods. Quandong are an important traditional Aboriginal fruit. They are high in vitamin C and used for medicinal purposes. Bianca also uses these to make jewelry.

“Garrawan class created a marbled background in grey, white and black as they spoke about the Currawong’s coloured feathers. The children decided they wanted the Currawong’s wings to be spread out wide, not closed. They dipped some black feathers in white paint. The children began adding the feathers to the artwork.

“Bianca explained the next step would be to collect gum leaves for the ground to add into a nest shape. Gum leaves have eucalyptus oil and are used as Indigenous medicine. They have strong antibacterial properties.

“Bianca explained that you can hang some in the bathroom when having a shower to inhale the steam which helps clear congestion.”

The Early Learning Centre invites IGS families to connect to Country by collecting small amounts of special natural resources with their children such as feathers, gum nuts, fallen leaves or small stones from the ground in their local environment.

“Take time to consider which Indigenous Country you have found them on. Think how they relate to your specific totem. Bring them into the Centre to share with us and form part of the artworks.

“Thank you to the families who have sent some natural resources already. The children feel very connected to the project and talk about their treasures.

“Ava brought some wood from a gumtree in Allawah. The local name Allawah comes from the local Aboriginal term for ‘make your abode here’. It is believed the Gameygal (the people of Kamey) lived in and around the spaces now used by IGS. Ellis collected sticks, leaves and seed pods with his Yia Yia (Grandmother) at Scotts Head on Gumbaynggirr country in northern NSW,” Victoria said.

Bianca has previously worked with Primary and High School students to design the IGS Acknowledgement of Country artwork.

IGS is situated on Eora Nation Gadigal land. The School acknowledges Elders and recognises their central place as teachers across early years learning communities. Aboriginal people have been teaching children on these lands for more than 60 thousand years.