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Sculpture spectacle to showcase student talent

February 26, 2020

The Maagunda Gaagal (Festival of the Sea) at Nambucca Heads Main Beach on 29 February will trumpet the skills proficiency of local high school students to the locals.

A highlight will be five ocean-themed sculptures made by Nambucca Heads High years 11 and 12 Metals and Engineering and VET Construction students, but the capabilities of other students in the areas of hospitality, music and film-making will also be on display.

Vision for the sculptures and festival came from Nambucca Heads High trades school coordinator Gary Cattanach, who sought to engage students in their learning through a tangible, cross-curriculum project that would also show students’ capabilities to the locals.

Gary describes the learning model — which connects students with community organisations and business for skills development, work experience and mentoring opportunities — as “refreshing and off-centre”.

Engineering business owner Jason Earnshaw left his work shed behind for one week per term to work on the sculptures with the students. In a short film documenting the development of the sculptures, produced by Nambucca High students, Mr Earnshaw said students had developed skills in processes, planning and working as a team.

Community support for the project includes the local Gumbaynggirr people giving permission for their language, Maagunda Gaagal, to be used into the name of the festival, and Lions and Rotary club volunteers will assist on the day of the festival.

“It’s a project for the whole community,” Gary said. “It will build trust in the black and white communities and transform the way we see ourselves.”

Paid employment opportunities for some students have already stemmed from their interactions with local business. Gary hopes the festival will spark more employment opportunities for students.

He said innovative student programing like this was only possible when your principal gives you the freedom to exercise your cultural instincts, knowledge of community and teaching expertise.

Gary is a Gunggari man and member of Federation’s Aboriginal Education Restricted Committee.

Kerri Carr is a staff writer

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Authorised by John Dixon, General Secretary, NSW Teachers Federation, 23-33 Mary St. Surry Hills NSW 2010

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