The Sea is my Best Friend

In November 2015 the principal of St Joseph’s, Gabrielle Espenschied and Indonesian teacher Ebony Jenkin travelled with the principal of Our Lady Of Fatima in Rosebud, Monica Coyle to Indonesia. It was their aim to visit two remote sister schools in Sugian, Lombok with local marine biologist Hani Nusantari to further engage students from all four schools in a program called ‘The Sea Is Our Best Friend – Laut Sahabat Kita’.

For many years, St Joseph’s Crib Point has aimed to connect coastal communities across the globe in order to make learning authentic for its students. The main purpose of the link with students in Lombok was to focus on mangrove preservation as both schools are situated near coastal waterways and mangrove colonies. Since the forging of this relationship, the focus has expanded to include care of our respective marine environments and our surroundings as a whole.

Prior to the trip in 2015, students from Australia took time to create slideshows, books, postcards and short films for the students in Lombok to show them how they care for the environment and maintain a healthy lifestyle. The aim was to strengthen and maintain a connection that does not just revolve around marine environments but other aspects of healthy and sustainable life, lifestyles and learning, for example, playing sports or gardening. In terms two and three in 2015, money was raised to fund sports equipment, books and other school supplies to leave in Lombok in order to embed a culture of curiosity and wonder in students who would otherwise work from a textbook majority of the time.

While Gab, Ebony and Monica were in Lombok in November 2015, they explored the coastal waterways and mangroves of Northern Lombok with Hani. Since returning, they have shared what they learned with staff, students and the wider school communities, concentrating on how and what we can learn from our sister schools and how they can learn from us.

The biggest challenge for St Joseph’s when undertaking this project has been the inability to communicate with the schools in Lombok to embed learning in our school and make language and culture studies authentic for our students. The schools in Lombok, SDN 3 and SDN 8 are quite remote and disadvantaged, and have no access to electricity or technology. Often students can hear a lot about our sister school and what the Lombok lifestyle is like, but it is difficult to make it tangible for them without being able to contact them. As a result, we have engaged Hani as both an expert in her field, and an intermediary, communicating with both schools and providing us with information and pictures in order to help our students understand the similarities and differences between lifestyles and environments. In Lombok, our visit has been used as a catalyst for change and has implemented a community garden, sun safety policies, recycling initiatives and sports clinics at both schools. In the future, we hope that communications between the schools will become stronger and more frequent, thus further embedding the culture of learning and collaborating. Together, we are ensuring that both schools are evolving in learning and St Joseph’s students have a global perception in a modern world.

Prior to leaving, both schools conducted fundraisers to fund equipment and artefacts for the trip, and students from all classes used their Indonesian lessons to create books, movies and letters to send to Lombok. This gave them an opportunity to not only be immersed in the language in an authentic and meaningful way, but to also understand the culture and lifestyle of their Indonesian counterparts.

Hani Nusantari, a marine biologist from Mataram in Lombok orchestrated the trip and acted as an interpreter, teacher and tour guide. She has been in close contact with St Joseph’s for many years and has visited our school twice, teaching students and staff about mangroves and marine conservation, and sometimes even a little bit of Indonesian! Following our trip, she has been instrumental in facilitating change and communication between the schools, showing our students via email how their fundraising and Indonesian work has been used in the school communities in Lombok.

The main outcome St Joseph’s leaders wanted from this trip was for students to have a more globalised understanding of the world we live in and how we can maintain connections with people across the world to help our science and language learning.

Students are very aware that the relationship between the schools is not one that relies solely on social justice and fundraising, but one that centres around learning. The Sister School relationship between St Joseph’s and SDN 3 and 8 has provided our students with a wonderful opportunity to learn about Indonesian culture and language, as well as our respective environments. The students have formed learning relationships with teachers and students, and have been able to learn from, as well as share their own experiences with them. The students of St Joseph’s are excited about the continual contribution they are making to global relationships, and while sometimes challenges arise when bridging the schools, the connection is continually evolving, improving and flourishing.