St Kilda Primary School is one of Victoria’s most socially and culturally diverse primary schools welcomes students from all backgrounds, from affluent families to those who have experienced homelessness or displacement. Nearly ten years ago, staff from The Australian Ballet Education Team met the Principal, Sue Higgins. From that meeting began a partnership that has benefited thousands of children.
Why get involved with The Australian Ballet?
For Principal Sue Higgins , the partnership with The Australian Ballet is about opportunity and equity. It’s about giving children experiences they would not otherwise have, particularly some of her students who come from families experiencing serious hardship.
“Even though The Australia Ballet and the Arts Precinct is just down the road from us, it did not, and does not mean that some of my children are exposed to the richness of that world.”
The benefits of a long-term partnership
Every year, members of The Australian Ballet’s Dance Education Ensemble visit St Kilda Primary School and work with the students on movement and dance. Having the Ballet visit the school every year deepens and normalises the experiences for students.
“When the children walk into the hall and they know The Australian Ballet has arrived, the excitement builds, because they have had rich experiences in the past and they are eager to reconnect … … It's a program that builds upon skills and instils in children confidence and the belief that they can master these new challenges.
.... When the students start off in Prep they throw their little hearts into every aspect of the program – they love it. As they get older, they're asking more questions and focusing more intently on movement, better understanding teamwork and appreciating ‘space’ around them. These are some of the benefits of having a long-term partnership rather than a one-off experience.”
What is the curriculum relevance of Out There?
Sue values the curriculum links associated with the activity, especially in the areas of Health and Physical Education, and Performing Arts.
"The knowledge and skills that [students] are developing when they're with the Ballet include having a greater understanding of themselves and their own body movement, and that of others, and being better able to work together to explore, create and share newly learned movements and different skills. They're able to do this with far more confidence …”
But it is also the style of learning that students respond to. Sue describes it as “authentic learning”.
“They're an arm’s length away from ballet dancers … I just think it's highly motivating for the children. It's meaningful and it's authentic. In today’s world there is a great deal of “virtual” learning. But this is real. You can touch the dancers … It's happening in front of their eyes. The children are truly a part of it.”
How else do students benefit?
Sue believes that exposing students to The Australian Ballet through the Out There program broadens their horizons and helps them think differently about the world.
“I've seen the difference it has made to the children here ... I believe that it has enriched their lives and their understanding of themselves and others and I truly believe that it's been an opportunity for them to see life isn't just about just learning to play basketball or footy, but there's a whole other world out there that is beautiful and rich and stimulating for minds and bodies.”
For some students, their involvement in the program has been transformative.
“I've had children who have gone on to do dance as a result of the Out There program. I have a child who is truly alive when he dances. He loves dancing. He's a different child when he's dancing … and he is one of several children who have gone into dance directly as a result of The Australian Ballet being part of our school.”