Educating the educators

Educating the educators

05 December 2013

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Australia — THE bushfires that tore through New South Wales last month disrupted and devastated the lives of many residents.

Natural disasters including bushfires, floods, cyclones and storms occur frequently around Australia. And often teachers, as central figures within their communities, play a significant role in picking up the pieces.

In light of this, the Australian Red Cross, in partnership with the Australian Emergency Manage-ment Institute (AEMI), have been working to build teacher and student understanding and resilience in times of disaster.

Educating the Educators is the name of the federally funded project, which began in October 2012.

“The project aims to build teacher awareness and competence in the teaching of disaster resilience education,” project officer Heather Bailie explains.

Project workers have been mapping the Australian curriculum, to explore how teachers might embed disaster resilience into regular lessons.

With this aim in mind, the project has delivered various forms of professional development for teachers.

“I’ve spoken at … conferences, particularly [those run by] geography teachers associations, and I’ve run workshops around disaster resilience,” Bailie says. Another big part of the project has involved a primary school undertaking a term-long enquiry-based learning unit with their Grade 6 students.

“That’s been developed into a sort of a case study, of how enquiry-based learning is a really good way to embed messages and the deep learning that can take place,” Bailie says.

“That’s kind of an example to the emergency management agencies to say, ‘well, rather than you going in to a school and doing something to them for one lesson or half a day or something, actually embedding things like this into the curriculum across a whole term, is a more effective way of knowing that the children will have those messages and understanding and they’ll have that for life.”

According to Bailie, research has shown that children are a great conduit of potentially life-saving information to their parents, and to the community as a whole.

She says a video of the case study is being developed, to be used on the Australian Emergency Management Institute’s website as a resource for teachers.

Bailie, who is on a short-term break from her regular teaching role, says teachers are in a good position to disseminate information regarding disaster preparedness and resilience.

“This content can be incorporated into a maths lesson or into a science lesson or history, it doesn’t have to be, oh we’re going to do a unit about natural disasters and that’ll be it … but it could come into part of a novel study in English if there’s a relevant topic [for example].

“You can then just go down and find some other resources that might help you to just explore that area a little bit further.”

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