AustraliaThe Encounter: a short animation by the students of Meadows Primary School, South Australia: AustraliaThe Encounter is a six minute animation that depicts different aspects of Matthew Flinders’ voyage to Australia, from both European and Aboriginal perspectives. It in based in a continuum of past and current Australian histories
Meadows Primary School is situated in the Adelaide Hills and is a school for some 200 students from the hills area. Last year Meadows was successful in its application to the Carclew Artists in Schools Program. The program provided funding for film-makers Kath Dooley and myself, Jess Wallace, to work with the whole school in making a short animation, Australia–The Encounter.
The animation awarded Meadows PS a finalist position in this year’s ATOM Awards in Melbourne, and the Award of Excellence in the 2002 Adelaide Young Film Makers Awards.
The year 2002 marked the anniversary of Mathew Flinders’ ‘discovery’ of South Australia and circumnavigation of Australian waters in the ship, The Encounter. In 2002 a restored version of the ship retraced Flinders’ voyage, The students of Meadows Primary had been studying this aspect of history to coincide with the ship’s arrival at Port Adelaide in South Australia. Meadows wished to reflect and extend the students learning about Flinders through their animation work. Most of the classes had studied Matthew Flinders’ voyage from a European perspective. The animation project called for the inclusion of Aboriginal perspectives on Flinders’ arrival. The overall themes and stories expanded from ones of exploration and adventure to include symbolic representations of invasion and colonization.
Initially the project was to run over five days. However, the project was developed and expanded, with additional funds from Meadows, to span approximately one half day each week for third term, and several more days into the fourth term.
After planning the content and scheduling the classes with the Meadows staff, Kath and I ran introductory sessions with the different class groups. We screened several styles of animation in order to get the students thinking about what the medium is and how they’d like to use it. We went on to ask the students ‘what do you think animation is?’, ‘what different styles are there?’ and ‘what sorts have you seen?’ The responses varied across the age groups but most students talked about The Simpsons, Shrek and Stuart Little. The students were very engaged with the examples we showed them, which ranged from professional animation of plasticine sausages on the run, to primary school students’ work of a bicycle rider (cartoon style) and a shark fin circling a pond (plasticine models and painted back drops).
Teaching and learning process
The classes of Meadows Primary are broken into years Reception (R)/1, 2/3, 4/5 and 6/7. Students looked at several aspects of the voyage. Each class group had different contexts and themes to draw from, depending on their age groups.
The R/1 classes made animations about what was happening under the sea, for both the Great Australian Bight and the Coral Sea, as Flinders sailed over it. The R/1’s animations were based around making underwater objects and animals specific to the two different oceanic environments. There was much creation of cellophane monsters, colourful starfish and glitter encrusted, watery landscapes from this. The R/1s were able to create a fantastical environment and their vivid imaginations were expressed through their use of colour and textures.
The 2/3 classes developed stories about what was happening inside the boat and what was happening on the deck. The 2/3s used paper collage. Working in pairs they designed, painted and cut out several versions of The Encounter. For example, the students created internal and external sections of the boat; masts, sails and steering wheels as well as characters–sailors, captains and pirates (this was a touch of creative license). In small groups they painted either stormy or calm seafaring backgrounds that were later used to work with their paper cut outs when filming.
The 4/5 classes had studied some aspects of Australian history from Aboriginal perspectives. They had not worked specifically in the area of The Encounter and consequently had not dealt with the history of invasion and colonization. As a result we collaborated with Meadows Primary and The Aboriginal Curriculum Education Unit. Three officers from the Aboriginal Curriculum Unit came to Meadows and conducted activities for the 4/5s, based in role-play and role reversal. The students participated in the role play in order to begin to understand the emotional effect of being forcibly removed from your land, having your children taken away and your families separated across the state. The role play gave the 4/5 students insight into some of the consequences for Aboriginal people of Flinders’ and subsequent Europeans’ arrival on Australian shores.
In addition, Aboriginal artist Sandra Saunders worked with the 4/5s to explore and understand the use of symbols in Aboriginal art. The students developed their own symbols, which they used later in their animations in order to tell some stories of Aboriginal people’s experiences of invasion. The symbolic development lent itself to a progressive drawing animation, whereby several small groups worked on one story together. The students’ stories were founded around a particular Aboriginal group from South Australia, drawing from the understanding gained from the work with the Aboriginal Curriculum Unit. The students arrived to begin their animations with simple painted backgrounds, and examples of their symbols (some drawn up and cut out ready to stick on to the backgrounds). We had made pens, paints and glue available. In between shots students proceeded to gradually add colour, symbols and cut outs to their backgrounds.
The 6/7 classes had a wide range of stories to choose from the history that they had studied over the past year. Their stories included the depiction of Hinders meeting with French Explorer, Baudin; his arrival on South Australian shores; his cat being eaten in Mauritius; and his return home to his wife in England ten years later. The 6/7s made models of objects and figures from plasticine, Leggo and Barbie dolls. They painted story-specific backdrops and made environments from sand, bark and eucalyptus.
Putting it all together
All of the animations were made using the basic principle of gradually adding and moving images, colours, objects, models and/or collage, over and across backgrounds in between taking shots from a high8 video camera. (DV and Mini DV would be appropriate depending on availability and would produce higher image resolution.)
The students worked in small groups and everyone was able to have a go at setting up the scene, moving the animation objects and images, shooting the footage and so on. In the small groups the students were able to collaborate on the fly about the direction their animations would take.
After shooting with the students, Kath and I cut the footage together using Final Cut Pro and were able to use music and sound effects that were generously contributed to the project from South Australian musician and composer, Zoe Barry.
The project linked together multimedia, painting, sculpture, history and story telling. It did so in a way that expanded the students’ creative expression and their knowledge of Australian perspectives on history and identity.
In collaboration with the South Australian Aboriginal Education Unit and the South Australian Department of Education and Children’s Services, Meadows Primary School is creating a teaching resource for schools. The resource includes lesson ideas and activities that address Aboriginal perspectives, Society and the Environment and The Arts. The activities are accompanied by descriptions of the artistic and technical processes used in creating The Encounter animation. They are being incorporated onto CD-ROM and will be available for sale. The CD-ROM will use an interactive Web style format based on Front Page.
For information or to place an order for the teaching resource, Meadows Primary School can be contacted on: Ph: 08 838 83 216 Fax 08 838 8340 or Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Jessica Wallace has written and directed a half-hour documentary for SBSI as well as a short documentary for SBSI and Channel 4 which screened at the Adelaide International Film Festival 2003, Jessica has written and directed several corporate films. She has also written and/or directed a number of shorts, which have screened in festivals such as Dance on Screen, Berlin, and Watch My Shorts, Melbourne. Jessica has worked as artist in residence for the Technology School of the Future and Meadows Primary School in South Australia. The animation created at Meadows Primary School, Australia–The Encounter, was a finalist in this year’s ATOM awards winning a Special Award–Artist in Residence Piece and won Meadows the Award of Excellence in the South Australian 2002 Young Filmmakers Awards.
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