Australia’s Southernmost School Visits Louisa’s Walk

The Primary School on the beautiful island of Bruny (named after the French explorer Bruny D’Entrecasteaux) lays claim to being Australia’s southernmost school. They may not know it (they seemed far too modest) but in our opinion it can also claim to having some wonderful, intelligent and enthusiastic pupils.

‘Louisa’s Walk’ has developed a Primary School version of their award-winning convict drama and many who have experienced it say it is a great, innovative way to teach history. The students really live Louisa’s story and become part of the action which makes it so memorable they learn by osmosis.

On the fine March day when the Bruny Island School walked in Louisa’s shoes, they were visiting from their island home to participate in a swimming carnival in Hobart. As their coach pulled up and the students tumbled out it was gratifying to see that many had made the effort to dress up in period clothes to help create the 19th century atmosphere. From the very start, as Louisa introduced herself and her story, it was obvious this was going to be an engaged (and engaging) group. The Grade teachers had done the preparation and the students were well up on their convict history. Hands went shooting up when Louisa asked how long the average journey from England to Van Diemens Land would take. With four grades represented it was easy to allocate the four tasks for the transportation ship “The Rajah”: Grade Three was the ‘Wind’, Grade Four, ‘Patchworkers’, Grade Five, ‘Ropes’ and Grade Six, ‘Anchor Party’. ‘The Rajah’ was away on another voyage of discovery as she disembarked her passengers on Hobart wharf and they began their long walk up to the Female Factory (you are asked to bring bucket loads of imagination on Louisa’s Walk!)

Once between the grim walls of the Female Factory students learn of the yards that separate the large Yard One. They line up to be selected as a servant to go out as an assigned servant, they attend the Sunday Muster in fear and trembling lest it is their crime that will send them to the crime Yard (don’t worry it’s always Louisa!). The usual hush descends as Louisa’s story reaches its sad end BUT it is then that the Bruny Island students really show us their mettle! It is question time and Louisa and William have come out of character and introduced themselves properly to the audience of students and staff. “Any questions?” Chris asks. Hands are raised thicker than the hairs on a cat’s back as these lively and enquiring minds pick our brains for answers to the questions that the experience has stimulated. Some questions so deep and insightful that it gave us food for thought. Eventually staff had to call a halt because it was lunchtime!

Thanks Bruny Island for a wonderful visit.

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