This morning, a bunch of University of Sydney History Undergrad students huddled out the front of Granville Boys and Miller Tech. high schools in western Sydney. We had braved the cold morning trip from the city, coffee in tow, in order to assist the year 11 students with their major projects for ancient history.
I led the group at Granville Boys high with the help of Lachlan Anderson, our GBHS volunteer leader. Upon meeting up with the students in their ancient history classroom, they did not look happy to be at school. Ramadan has just finished, and many of their peers were at home feasting and celebrating. The glum faces of the boys showed us they’d rather be celebrating than working on history projects. Eventually though, we got them talking. The students were excited to share their ideas with the mentors. Though they did need a bit of encouragement at first though, to feel confident in opening up about their thoughts and work. Subjects ranged from the Terracotta warriors to the Vikings, and by the first hour in, most students seemed to be confidently researching away and talking openly with their mentor.
One thing I’ve noticed through working with the students of GHBS and Miller over the past two years is that while there is an initial lack of confidence from the students of their academic ideas, once they feel interested and comfortable with their mentor the brightness of their ideas lights up the classroom, library or campus they’re working in.
After two hours of working, us mentors were lucky enough to be given a guided tour of Granville Boys High school! And what a fantastic school it is. With beautiful outdoor murals, fantastic hospitality facilities, and plenty of room to run around. The school treated the volunteers to a celebratory morning tea for the end of ramadan, as well as lunch.
Many of the mentors reflected that visiting GBHS was a fantastic cultural education for them to experience life in Granville Boys High, as it is a very diverse place with a predominant religious make up of Islamic students. For example, one class had only 1 out of 22 students present due to everyone being at home celebrating the end of ramadan!
Mike Mcdonnell took another group of volunteers out to Miller Technology high school on this day as well.
We look forward to welcoming both groups of students back to our side of the city for our next campus day on June 28.
Last Friday the social inclusion program welcomed a record number of year 11 students from Western Sydney high schools to the university campus for the year 11 mentoring program. Approx 50 students and 25 volunteers. This was the introductory session for the 2019 program. It started off with a volunteer induction session and then the acknowledgement of Country. The running of the day was greatly aided by the work of our two volunteer leaders, undergraduate students Jakson and Lachlan. They managed the volunteers in two groups; one group paired with Miller high students and one group paired with Granville Boys High School students.
The morning acted as a get to know you session. The school students got to learn a bit about their university mentor and vice versa (though it was definitely the school students who had the more interesting stories, with a high percentage of the students telling stories of unconventional migration to Australia and learning English only in the recent years!). Following, the mentors led a campus tour and showed the students various attractions that interested their particular group. The graffiti tunnel proved to be a big hit, a long with any cafe at which one could purchase a hot chocolate.
Lunch occurred upon returning, and an exploration of some of the older rooms in the quad building. Many of the boys didn’t eat, as there is a large Muslim proportion at Granville Boys and we are currently in Ramadan. Instead, they went and took part in the mid-day prayer that occurs every day on campus in the prayer room inside the Old Teacher’s College.
In the afternoon, the students knuckled down and spoke with their mentors about the specifics of their research topic and how they would go about starting the project.
We closed with an address by Mike Mcdonnell about the merits of university and the opportunities which blossom through higher education.
By the time the students had to return to school, their minds had been crammed with a lot more than advice about their research project.
The next mentoring session with this group will take place in around a month.
Last Tuesday, Bridget Neave, Project Manager of the social inclusion program, visited one of our partner schools. Granville Boys High was having a presentation day to celebrate the end of the semester for their Project Based Learning. The year seven classes had worked on preparing responses to the statement “How do the dead speak to us?”. They addressed the idea through music, painting, poetry, english and with a historical lens. It was wonderful to see the work that the students had come up with following their visit to the University of Sydney two months prior. Where they explored the Nicholson Museum, and took part in a hands on workshop where they drew archeological artefacts from ancient Egyptian and Grecian times.
Year seven students performing “Seven years old” by lucas graham.
Artistic construction of an Ancient Egyptian mummy.
On Tuesday, seventeen boys of Pacific Island heritage made their way to the campus from Granville Boys High School. The Social Inclusion program hosted a “Who Do You Think You Are” event, facilitating the boys in exploring their personal cultural histories.
The day involved presentations from a number of experts on different pacific island histories. Jude Philp from the Macleay Museum facilitated the day. Writer Jo Kamira spoke about her Maori history and family treasures with the boys. There was a talk by James Flexner on archaeology, oral traditions and written histories, as well as a talk on the history of migration by Matt Poll.
The boys enjoyed lunch out in the sunshine, and the afternoon comprised of a visit to the Nicholson museum to view the Pacific treasures. Finally, we rounded out the day with the boys interviewing one another to find out about their own histories and their family’s migration to Australia. The boys asked each other questions like “Are their any treasures that have been passed down through your family?” and “When did your family migrate to Australia and why?”. A few students presented their stories to the group, making the boys feel a bit like celebrities.
Alongside getting to share their stories, the boys were exposed to a talk by Edie Griffin about her experience as an undergrad students at the university, and options for affordable housing (STUCCO Student Housing Co-op at Sydney).
Best of all, the students were looking through the undergraduate degree guides and discussing options for their own tertiary education on the train ride home.
On the 26th of October, Bridget Neave and Mike McDonnell attended the annual Chiffley high school humanities award ceremony. The day marks the culmination of a year of hard work for the senior Chiffley students. Students are awarded in areas from business studies, to society and culture, and history. Bridget and Mike were there to award the students for the essays they wrote as part of the University of Sydney’s Essay Writing Competition. This competition has been held jointly by the University and Chiffley High school for the past 5 years.
When it was time for the history awards, Mike was invited to give a talk to the gathered students, teachers and parents on the merits of tertiary education for people of all walks of life. Following this, the highly commended and best essays were awarded. The essays were judged by a number of the history staff including James Tan and Frances Clarke. This years lucky winners were Holly Towner and Grace Major. After, Bridget gave feedback and commendation on two high achieving Personal Interest Projects (the society and culture major work). Which were of an impeccable standard this year.
Following the ceremony, the students, parents, teachers and guests enjoyed a pizza lunch together. Discussing the future plans of the year twelve students. Lucky for us, many of them plan to go to the University of Sydney next year.
The social inclusion program looks forward to working with Chiffley college again in 2019!
On the 31st of August students, professors and staff gathered in the Wooley Common Room to observe presentations from Year 11 students from Granville Boys and Miller Technology high. Their presentations and speeches were on a range of topics, from the importance of the Samuri in Japanese history, to the changing role of Pharos in ancient Egypt. The day day also involved a speech by current student Taban Alnafta about her experience on campus a Muslim student from Western Sydney. As well as a talk about student housing by STUCCO representatives (the student-run housing co-operative affiliated with USYD, which offers subsidized accommodation and facilities at $100 per week for low-income students). To end the day, the students all received congratulations and a bag each filled with USYD merchandise and information on applying to university. The teachers and volunteer mentors were extremely impressed with the quality of the presentations by their year 11 students, not far away from first year university work from my perspective!
Last Friday the 27th of July thirty students from Granville Boys and Miller Technology high schools came to campus for their last mentoring session. The students met their volunteer mentors at 10am, heading to Fisher library for a full day of working on their major essays (interrupted only by a short break to refuel with some pide). The students and mentors have been working together for a total of five sessions now (some relationships have sustained three topic changes, thanks to the patience of our mentors!). The students are kept with the same mentors to assist the building of strong relationships, and many students and mentors keep in contact via email between visits to sustain the academic relationship. For the high school students, the academic relationship with their university mentor may be the only relationship they form with a university student during their school experience. This is important in opening up the possible future opportunities these students perceive are available to them.
Most students are well into the process of writing their essays now, which will be submitted in the next fortnight. Followed by an presentation day in the end of August.
More to come!
On June 29th Fisher Library was graced by thirty high school students, from Miller Technology High School and Granville Boys High School. They were there to work on their year 11 history projects, with the assistance of volunteer history student ‘mentors’ from the university. They have been partnered with these student mentors for three sessions now, ensuring supportive relationships are being formed. The school students enjoyed an introductory talk on how to use the library, and correct research techniques given by Simon Wyatt-Spratt. Then they were off to work! The students’ topics cover a broad range of ancient history areas, from ancient Egypt to the historiography of David and Goliath.
Meanwhile at Cecil Hills High School in Western Sydney, Professor Michael Mcdonnell met with student volunteers for the extension history mentoring program. The volunteers have been helping the Cecil Hills history extension class put together their major work, whilst communicating to the students the wealth of possibilities and opportunities for financial assistance available to students who choose to pursue higher education.
That concludes the social inclusion program for Semester 1, and we have a lot of plans underway for Semester 2!
Project manager for social inclusion
On the 6th of April, 50 students from Chifley College public school came in busloads to campus. This was for the Stage 4 Social Inclusion in History Open Day for 2018. The purpose of open days like this is to introduce the idea of studying at university to students for whom this may not be the typical trajectory.
The day started with a welcome by Michael McDonnell. He spoke of the importance of education and how it can enhance the quality of life and opportunities for persons from a range of backgrounds. The students were split into four groups, and participated in four different educational and historical activities in a round robin. A campus tour was led by USYD student volunteers, who showed the high school students their favourite places on campus. The students experienced a treasure hunt and historical quad tour, as well as a talk about First Nations history in Sydney. After lunch, there was a theatrical demonstration by the Society for Historical Anachronism. All the students received show bags before a final wrap up.
The day only came together with the help of the amazing USYD student volunteers who led the teams. As well as the co-operation from Cecil Hills’ teachers, and our experts Craig Barker and Simon Wyatt-Spratt.
The teachers and students were incredibly pleased with the outcome of the day. Cecil teacher Steffanie Haskett expressed to us that introducing kids to university at this point of their education can make a crucial difference to decision-making later.
We will be following this up with a Stage 5 Open Day in July!
For the first time at O week, a student society which focuses on bringing together students that are First in Family to attend university, or are from a low socioeconomic background, was showcased. The “Student Equity Alliance” (SEA). The society aims to start the conversation about the experience of students who fall into this category, to build a community for these students (who can be very isolated by the prestigious nature of University of Sydney), and to encourage the University to be more systemically supportive of their low ses student population.
The society has been started by students Shayma Taweel and Bridget Neave, the previous and current Project Managers for Social Inclusion in History respectively. Mike Mcdonnell and Frances Clarke have been supporting Bridget and Shayma in their endeavour to set up a student community around this social issue through the Social Inclusion Committee.
The society is off with a bang with 40 members in its first week in action!
Staff are also encouraged to become a part of this community, Bridget and Shayma invite you to like the Facebook page and come to events to be announced in future.
Pictured above are Bridget Neave (SEA President) and Jordan Watkins (representative of the student-managed affordable housing co-op – STUCCO) at O week.