Kylie Neagle highlights this unique learning opportunity for teachers

The Teachers’ Big Days Out will return in January 2020 with an even bigger program aimed at showcasing the learning opportunities provided by South Australian cultural institutions. In January 2019, 150 educators attended three days of professional development, with eighty-five sessions available across fifteen sites.

By making connections between objects, art and collections, and the core skills students require to succeed in the twenty first century, this event encourages educators to step outside the classroom to seek relevant and engaging learning opportunities for their students. The teachers were astonished – and delighted – by the variety and scale of the 2019 Teachers’ Big Days Out, with many commenting that the event resembled a three-day excursion, visiting really interesting institutions and organisations, some of which they knew little about. When asked for feedback on what they had enjoyed, the responses included:

"This has been stunning! Thank you for showcasing the value of these venues and collections and highlighting how they can enhance the curriculum in my classroom".

"Presenters were experienced, engaging, knowledgeable and passionate. The number and variety of sessions was excellent. Sessions were helpful for teaching, as they made links to curriculum, contemporary pedagogy and teaching practice"

"Really good links were made to how we can use these institutions with students, a great opportunity to network with other teachers and I got to experience some things I normally wouldn’t get to"

"Perfect time of year. This has helped me get excited about teaching before the school term begins; what a positive start to the year"

AGSA Education was instrumental in the implementation and delivery of Teachers’ Big Days Out, the first of its kind in South Australia. The three days commenced with a Welcome to Country by Mickey O’Brien and a keynote address by learning space designer Fiona Young. From here, the educators descended on North Terrace (and beyond), participating in a wide range of ninety-minute sessions, including ‘Aboriginal plant use with Trent Hill’ at the Adelaide Botanic Garden, ‘Creating theatre for young people’ with Windmill Theatre Company, ‘Behind the scenes tour’ at the Adelaide Oval, ‘STEM approach to the animal enclosure’ at the Adelaide Zoo, ‘Creative writing’ at Ayers House Museum, ‘To be leader’ at the Centre of Democracy and ‘Colonial footprints’ at the Migration Museum, with many other sessions at the Adelaide Festival Centre, Parliament House, the South Australian Maritime Museum, SA Water, the South Australian Museum and the State Library. The timetable ensured that teachers could tailor their three days to suit their needs, with participants discovering new facts and information for integrating into their teaching practice. At the same time our state’s diverse collections were brought to life.

The Art Gallery of South Australia facilitated fifteen sessions, these including ‘Cultivating curiosity: planning a visit to the Gallery’, ‘Problem finding and design thinking with John Mawurndjul: I am the old and the new’, ‘Making maths accessible with Absence Embodied by Chiharu Shiota’, and ‘History in the Elder Wing’. Our workshops encouraged curiosity and provided tools for exploration and opportunities to share ideas and observations, while the Gallery’s alternative approaches to learning were showcased. Educators were introduced to the potential they have to engage students with works of art as the students simultaneously harnessed their critical and creative thinking skills.

In 2020 our offerings will include a teaser of our popular program ‘How to teach Aboriginal art’, ‘Cultivating curiosity: taking your students to AGSA’, ‘Making maths accessible’ and ‘Visual language and creative writing’. Again, these sessions will emphasise rich encounters with works of art, showcasing a range of strategies and learning opportunities for teachers to integrate into their teaching programs. The 2020 Teachers’ Big Days Out will be held from Wednesday 15 January to Friday 17 January, with over ninety sessions on offer.

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AGSA Education and the Teachers’ Big Days Out is supported by the Department for Education.

Kylie is Education Officer at AGSA, a position supported by the Government of South Australia through the Department for Education. This article first appeared in AGSA Magazine Issue 36, 2019.