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Remo La Cava’s ideas for generating interest in a school site

Remo La Cava,
Head Teacher Maths and School Archivist,
Macarthur Girls High School

A Site Study and an Introduction to Early Parramatta

  • Content
  • Activities
  • References
  • 1.The School Today
  • 1.1 Walk around the school, noting historical features, the foundation stone, etc
  • 1.2 Map work
  • References -
    • Macarthur Memories 60th Anniversary 1993 History of Macarthur Girls High School: Year 7
  • 2. The Early School
  • 2.1 Oral histories (1930s)
  • 2.2 Empathy task
  • 2.3 Newlands House
  • References -
    • The Marsden Legacy Macarthur Memories 60th Anniversary 1993
  • 3. Early Parramatta
  • 3.1 Map work
  • 3.2 Walk around Parramatta, noting historical buildings and street names
  • 3.3 Visit to Experiment Farm and Elizabeth Farm, plus Cemetery
  • References -
    • Contact Remo La Cava and the Parramatta Historical Society re: information on early Parramatta and maps * Worksheets
  • 4. Men of the Past
  • 4.1 Biographies
  • 4.2 Research assignments
  • 4.3 Interpretation of source materials
  • 4.4 Family trees
  • 4.5 Includes:
    • Macarthur
    • Marsden
    • Reid
    • Stewart
    • Peyten
    • Piper
    • Townson
    • Haddock
    • Lyons
    • Paine
    • Palmer
  • References -
    • The Marsden Legacy
  • 5. Women of the Past
  • 5.1 Biographies
  • 5.2 Research assignments
  • 5.3 Interpretation of source materials
  • 5.4 Empathy task
  • 5.5 Includes:
    • Elizabeth Macarthur
    • Elizabeth Marsden
    • Caroline Chisholm
  • References -
    • Our Heritage (Kiem, 1995)
    • Focus on Australian History (Anderson & Ashton, 1985)
  • 6. Aborigines
  • 6.1 Biographies
  • 6.2 Research assignments
  • 6.3 Interpretation of source materials
  • 6.4 Includes:
    • Pemulwuy
    • Slaves and Servants
    • Early Conflicts
  • References -
    • The Marsden Legacy
    • Focus on Australian History (Anderson & Ashton, 1985)
    • Our Heritage (Kiem, 1995) To Be Australian (Sawyer, 1997)
  • 7. Buildings
  • 7.1 Walk around Parramatta
  • 7.2 Research assignments
  • 7.3 Includes:
    • Gasworks Bridge
    • Site of the Female Factory
    • Queens Wharf
    • Law Courts
  • References -
    • The Marsden Legacy (Newlands House, The Gasworks Bridge)

SITE STUDY - Some ideas

Find out as much as you can about your school

  • When was it founded?
  • Why was it founded?
  • Was the present site its original site?
  • Who owned the land before the school was built?
  • Find out as much as you can about the people who lived on or near the land?
  • Who were the aborigines who lived or hunted in the area?
  • Were there any notable incidents between the peoples in the area?
  • Were there any special land grants?
  • Were there any buildings of note in the area?
  • What educational facilities were in the area before the school was built?
  • Were there any famous former students – research some biographies.
  • Write biographies of former principals and or deputy principals
  • Locate maps/charts/drawings of the school site.
  • Write a history of school trophies or special awards.
  • Research an oral history of the school with former students.

History Projects - Some ideas

Time Capsules - Personal

  • Student keeps a school diary for a whole year. At the end of the year, the diary is sealed in an envelope, with the student's name, age, address and some family details and stored away in a secure place for the future.
  • Students put together a scrap book of their thoughts, ideas, poems or photographs they think are important. Put them in an envelope.
  • Make a collection of photographs and documents about your family – where they come from and why you came to live here. Put them in an envelope.
  • Take a photograph of yourself as you are at present, a lock of hair or some things that belong to you. You could include handprints, footprints, fingerprints or a silhouette. Put them in an envelope.
  • Time Capsules – Class or Year
  • Take a class/year photo. Include details of students and their names. Photos of classroom and /or teachers their names and activities.
  • Make a diary of school activities, musicals, excursions, sporting events etc. Include photographs.
  • Make a sound archive on tape or CD, where everyone in the class or group says who they are where they come from and some personal details such as their likes and dislikes. Names of those involved including the teacher who helped. Some research will need to be done regarding the type of container to be used.
  • Create a Path of Fame – perhaps in the school grounds – where hand or footprints can be recorded in a patch of wet cement.
  • Select various items and collections for long-term capsule. Decide what you would like to save for someone to open at a class reunion in, say, 20 years or a capsule to be opened in 100 years. This is good project to commemorate some significant school event.
  • Somewhere in the school building you might choose to store the capsules, for example, the school archives or library.

Ideas for creative writing

Students write stories about themselves 'who am I?' similar to PDHPE program perhaps incorporate both into a year 7 unit of study.

  • Write a story about your first day at the school. How did you feel?
  • Show some old class photos and ask students to make up their own story about 3 students in the picture.
  • Students attempt to identify the period of a particular photo and explain what is happening.
  • One of the students in the photo became famous. Make up your own story.
  • Two students in this photo were related. Tell their story.
  • One of the students in the photo came to Australia as a refugee. Tell the story of how this happened.
  • Two of the students standing next to each other were once friends they then started quarrelling. Tell why this happened.
  • While this picture was being taken the school alarm bell began to ring. Make up a story of what happened next – be imaginative.
  • What was a student in this photo thinking about?
  • Why is a student in this photo so unhappy? Tell her story.
  • The teacher in this photo is teaching some lesson. What is she saying to the class?
  • Tell the story of this special event. What does it commemorate?
  • These students were attending an excursion when something mysterious occurred. What?
  • Two of the students on this excursion were accidentally injured. What happened?
  • This is a photo of the school's first principal. Tell what it was like going to school in those days.
  • This is a photo of the school's first principal. You are in trouble and have been sent to her office. Tell your story of what happened.

Recording the Past or Present - Some ideas

These projects are intended to collect and preserve the history of the school and its environs.

  • Go to the local library and make photocopies of the area around the school from an old street directory and compare it with a more recent directory pointing out the changes.
  • Make a history of the indigenous people in you area.
  • Research the names of the streets, buildings and parks near the school.
  • Make a file of local press reports about what was happening in the community at the time the school was founded.
  • Make a history of the land on which the school stands.
  • Make a history of you local soccer team or basketball or football team.
  • Write a history of famous people that went to your school or lived in your local area.
  • Make a history of transport near your school.
  • Write a history of some ethnic group in your local community, or the one to which you have strong family ties.
  • Tell a story of how students came to school in the days when your school was founded. Where did the students come from? How long did it take to get to school? Were there any difficulties getting to school in those days?
  • Make a history of some of the main businesses in your area.
  • Interview former students about their experiences at the school – ask about their teachers, the subjects the sports etc their likes and dislikes.
  • Make a history of an important building near the school or in your local area.
  • Make a history of the countryside in your area.
  • Make a history of farming near the school and find out about the crops, stock and land used.
  • Collect information about the school uniform and how it has changed over the years. Draw pictures showing the changes.
  • Make a history of the school band or orchestra.

Reproduced by permission of the author, Remo La Cava.


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