Despite the additional planning and preparation required, it is worth having incursions for student enjoyment and to support your teaching. Incursions allow students to make links between their classroom knowledge and participate in practical hands-on experiences.
It also provides children with valuable opportunities they may not otherwise have.
Incursions are run within school grounds, so daily procedures are usually followed. Students should be reminded of expected classroom behaviours when guests visit the school.
Supervision ratios aren’t typically altered for incursions, although extra adult helpers are useful for unfamiliar small group activities. (State Department guidelines provide minimum supervision requirements for staff-student ratios.)
When looking for an incursion to run, consider looking into the following workshops which come highly recommended from both students and teachers alike.
Kids Own Publishing, creating books and engaging through art and literacy
I came across Kids Own Publishing at a whole staff professional development session. I loved the creative and rich experience I was immediately immersed in, which was guided by artists and facilitators. Within an hour or so, staff had collaboratively planned, edited, written and illustrated a short narrative text that was published for our school to enjoy.
Workshops run by Kids Own Publishing involve children through the whole process of creating a book from scratch to completion. They can create simple independent books or collaborative books with the whole class by researching, editing, planning, illustrating and publishing.
Victoria Ryle, executive director of Kids Own Publishing explained that “a book is a visual and creative platform that is highly appealing to students. The entire process is enormously empowering and reaches a wide audience, while stimulating their imagination”.
Children work together and see their own identity reflected in their book and connect with the world around them through the process.
Kids Own Publishing works with students in regional and remote areas of the Northern Territory, South Australia and in Western Australia, in partnership with state libraries. Their vision is to create books by children which ‘strengthen culture, language and literacy in all communities’. The workshops have a strong element of connecting culturally and students express their own lives and personal stories.
One powerful example is the community at Liddiard Rd Primary School in Traralgon, which documented ‘stories of survival from South Sudanese refugee children living in Australia’ by publishing the book Donkeys Can’t Fly On Planes.
Book Week is also a time for incursions, when schools often celebrate by inviting authors and illustrators to speak. I have enjoyed hearing from Australian authors such as Sally Rippin of the Billie B Brown and Hey Jack series, Andy Griffiths who wrote the Treehouse books, and Corrie Fenton. All authors shared personal stories of their research, experiences and what led them to their love of books.
Diversity and multiculturalism can be celebrated on cultural days to showcase traditions and celebrations central to different cultures. I have seen Bastille Day celebrated with a French crepe-making day which proved popular with both senior and junior students. A local school hosted a Japanese Day by showcasing a kendo exhibition and Germany’s Carnival was celebrated with a themed dress-up day.
Model United Nations Conferences
State divisions of the United Nations Association of Australia run model UN conferences for senior students to ‘step into the shoes of a UN Ambassador’ and represent a country. Students then research and present on a nominated issue such as gender equality, climate change or on an issue outlined in the Millennium Development Goals, the framework to address world poverty.
Learning about our natural environment with Australian Wildlife Lectures
Australian Wildlife Lectures are a Victorian-based organisation run by Andrew and Lorraine Wegener, who began their own travelling educational programs in 1978.
I was happy to see Andrew setting up his program at Torquay College in Victoria, as I had experienced both his incursions and excursions during my own primary school years. The aims of their primary school programs are to stimulate interest, provide information and encourage respect for animals and the need for sustainability at a local and global level.
Lorraine said “students can get hands-on with a variety of preserved and live Australian animals such as reptiles, non-poisonous snakes, lizards, turtles and invertebrates such as worms and slaters”.
Their incursions relate directly to the needs of the group and are linked to the Australian Curriculum. For example, the Grade 3 program focuses on the classification of animals, based on their observable features and the Grade 4 program focuses on lifecycles of minibeasts, birds, frogs, reptiles and mammals, including both monotremes and marsupials.
Students become immersed in posters, items and articles depending on the topic and the nature of the incursion. Australian Wildlife Lectures also offer beach excursions to Rickett’s Point in Victoria, holiday programs and public displays to enhance or further develop understanding of topics.
Responsible Pet Ownership
The Responsible Pet Ownership Program, run by the Department of Primary Industries in Victoria, is an important incursion for students to learn how to live safely with dogs and other animals. It is a program for students aged four to 12, with the purpose of teaching them how to speak with an owner, approach dogs the right way and pat them correctly.
The educators are accompanied by pets on their school visits and they teach students about the key messages through songs, a dance and role plays. Similar programs are run in a number of states through the Education Unit of the RSPCA. The RSPCA’s Empathy Education Program, aimed at junior school students, builds on the natural empathy and curiosity children have towards animals and the RSPCA believes education is the key to reducing the amount of animal cruelty and neglect we see in the community.
CSIRO Science Education
CSIRO Education previously offered incursions in each capital city and also Townsville, however they are currently taking a hiatus and developing new programs relating to CSIRO science. They have previously offered various hands-on science experiences in fields such as toy sciences, space, air and weather, forces, movement and simple machines, light and sound, energy sources and natural disasters. Refer to the CSIRO website for further developments of their programs.
Sport clinics and Olympic Day
Students love the novelty of participating in a sports clinics where they can learn new sports and skills. Partnerships between local sports clubs and schools are forged as children connect with local clubs which may spark an interest for them to join.
Olympic Day is held annually on June 23 and is an opportunity to run whole school sporting competitions and to demonstrate Olympic values. Children can chat with Olympians using web video conferencing through the Australian Olympic Council’s ‘Chat with a Champ’ program, available to primary schools each term and during the Olympic Games.
When a strong link is made between the curriculum delivered and the incursions attended, students gain valuable knowledge of specific areas and relish in the opportunities provided to them.