School’s special guest
Wednesday, 20th July, 2011
It was the first day back in class for the majority of Broken Hill’s school students yesterday - including children with the School of the Air - who entertained a special guest from the United States.
Eighteen-year-old Sydney Baker travelled more than 20,000 kilometres from Olympia, Washington in the USA to attend class with the School of the Air (SOTA) as she prepares for her college education back home.
“I’ll be studying teaching at The Evergreen State College in Olympia and was curious to find out more about the School of the Air,” Sydney said.
“From about the sixth grade on I have had a dream of being a teacher and this experience has been a real eye-opener.
“I really wasn’t quite sure what to expect, so to see the teachers and children interact and learn the way they do is something I will never forget,” Sydney added.
Since graduating from High School, Sydney has been on an Antipodean adventure that started in New Zealand and will continue in the Blue Mountains and finally Sydney before she heads home to begin college in September.
“I was working with a group called ‘Willing Workers on Organic Farms’ while in New Zealand and spent two weeks volunteering on a hazelnut farm,” Sydney explained.
“I wanted to get some solo travelling experience before I started college and undoubtedly Broken Hill has been the highlight of my trip.
“Broken Hill has been an amazing experience for me because it is such an opposite of what I am used to back home, where the area is surrounded by temperate rain forests,” she continued.
Apart from her visit to the School of the Air, Sydney has also toured a yabby farm at Menindee, taken an underground tour at Daydream Mine, explored Silverton and joined the outback mail run.
“When we were on the mail run I don’t think I really understood the isolation those people have to deal with,” Sydney said.
“But after spending time in the class room at the School of the Air and watching how it operates it has given me a much better perspective.”
According to school principal, Michael Fisher, 154 students will return to their computers and distance learning programs this week.
The School of the Air began its services in 1956 and used radio communications until 2003 when satellite services were introduced.
“The next step is two-way visual communications where the teacher can also see the students and that isn’t too far away,” Mr Fisher explained.
As well as conducting three lessons each week for the students, SOTA also provides library facilities, physical education activities - such as yoga and aerobics - and music lessons for the children.
“Music classes over the internet with the slight audio and visual delays can be quite interesting,” Mr Fisher said with a laugh.
SOTA works to a theme of “bringing isolated children out of the silence” and yesterday left quite an impression on their American visitor as well.
Anyone interested in participating in the SOTA classroom experience can make a booking at the Visitor Information Centre by phoning 8080-3560 between 8.30am and 5pm.