Kids Tracks: ArtStories at Numbulwar Community Education Centre Arts-Based Teaching for Language and Culture Outcomes

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ArtStories is a research initiative of Charles Darwin University that is measuring the impact of shared art-making on learning and wellbeing. ArtStories participatory research is based in five Northern Territory school communities--two urban, two rural and the remote community of Numbulwar. It is externally funded through the Australia Council for the Arts and the Westpac Foundation.

Numbulwar is an Indigenous coastal community in South East Arnhem Land. Literacy workers, senior women, local musicians and classroom teachers are all engaged in ArtStories research at Numbulwar Community Education Centre (CEC). Numbulwar CEC is a two way school, with instruction in English and Wubuy, one of the principal languages in the Numbulwar area.

ArtStories Director Anja Tait has been visiting the Numbulwar community since 2000. Her initial contact with the school was as an advisory teacher for the NT Music School (NTDEET). During her visits to the community the senior women observed the impact of music based teaching and learning on children's engagement, and asked Anja to work further with the community. They could see the potential of this approach to teach traditional cultural knowledge and to contribute to the revitalisation of Wubuy language at Numbulwar. Anja's relationship with the school community and local musicians, coupled with the energy and knowledge of senior women and literacy workers, ensures Numbulwar's participation in ArtStories.

Initially the ArtStories focus has been to bring together local musicians and literacy workers to jointly compose early childhood songs in Wubuy. These songs have been recorded by local musician Tony Gray, in collaboration with the literacy workers and other community musicians. An initial CD sampler, and a CD of 14 songs Ngalaligi, have been used with great success in classroom language programs.

The CD Ngalaligi was launched in Darwin at the ArtStories Festival Fun Day, August 2007, by Marion Scrymgour, NT Minister for the Arts. The release of the CD provides an opportunity to promote Wubuy language and culture to the broader community. There is a demand for the recording from people in Numbulwar as well as surrounding communities. The CD is also used as a resource in urban schools, to build student and staff awareness of cultural and linguistic diversity. …