Inspired to offer a unique learning experience for students, St Pius X Primary School, Windale invited local author and illustrator Sami Bayly to lead them on a special journey of creativity and self-expression.
St Pius X Primary School Principal, Steve Pryde, said, “Our school is unique, as 38% of our students identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and we’re extremely proud of that connection”.
“We wanted to do something that helps students embrace their rich connections with Country through the traditions of storytelling and art.”
“And we wanted students across all years to get involved, and Sami provided that opportunity.”
Over five consecutive days, Sami worked with students from Kindergarten to 6 to co-create their own children’s storybook titled Stolen Heart.
Set to be launched in early September, Stolen Heart is the story of the school’s totem animals – dingo, kookaburra, pelican and eagle – who work together to restore the heart of the moon at Belmont Lagoon. It references the Awabakal Dreaming story, ‘When the Moon Cried and Formed Belmont Lagoon’.
Under Sami’s guidance, the students learned the art of weaving compelling narratives, bringing characters to life, and conveying emotions through illustrations.
“The students did everything themselves – the storyboarding, the writing, all the artwork and pictures, editing, the cover, the title, you name it”, said Sami.
“They so easily and quickly came together and said ’yep we like that’ and ‘no let’s ditch that’ and ‘let’s incorporate it this way’.”
Teachers were heavily involved in the process, acting out the scenes with the students so they could visualise how the storyline was coming together.
Throughout the process, they discovered the power of words and images to transport readers into vibrant worlds of their own making.
The book not only showcases the artistic talents of the students but also highlights the invaluable skills and newfound confidence they acquired throughout the project.
As they took ownership of their ideas and transformed them into tangible creations, their belief in their abilities grew exponentially.
Students discovered that their words and illustrations held the power to captivate and engage others, instilling in them a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Year 6 student, Love, said she “learned so many new techniques like how to draw and paint clouds, backgrounds and how to structure pictures using watercolour”.
“My favourite part was when we became artists and also when we watched Sami’s amazing skills when she created artworks.”
“It feels like I have achieved something amazing, I did a great job and we all did it together. I’ll always remember it,” added Love.
“I feel wonderful and so proud of myself and the entire school”, echoed Year 2 student Aubrey.
“I learned how to make a book. You need illustrations to help tell the story and you have to think of describing words when writing the story.”
Principal Steve Pryde said the learning outcomes from this experience go beyond storytelling and illustration.
“This project not only nurtured the students’ artistic talents but also instilled in them a sense of resilience and determination,” he said.
“They learned to overcome challenges, embrace feedback, and refine their work through continuous iteration.”
“The transformation they underwent, from hesitant storytellers to confident authors and illustrators, serves as a testament to the transformative power of collaboration, creativity, and self-expression.”
With overwhelmingly positive feedback from students and teachers, Stolen Heart may be just the first of many student-led storybooks to come from St Pius X Primary School, Windale.
Georgia Kirkland is a Year 5/6 classroom teacher and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Teacher at St Pius X Primary School, Windale. Georgia has worked at St Pius X Primary School since 2014 and is passionate about fostering the growth of students at St Pius X Primary School, Windale.
The Growing Minds Inspiring Readers project is part of the Catholic Schools Office’s L!FT initiative (Learning Impact From Teaching) and the work of our Academic Partner Emeritus Professor Beverly Derewianka.
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