I grew up on Sydney’s Northern Beaches and my parents often took my sister and I to the beach.
In the sixties my Dad’s job took us to England for a few years and we travelled there by ship. While the ‘£10’ immigrants from Britain were arriving in Australia by ship in droves, we were going the other way, imagining what lay ahead!
And I did, endlessly.
In our small family cabin, I spent a lot of time sitting by the porthole. I was so small I could fit on the shelf next to it, obsessed by the vastness of the ocean, the weather and just willing for these new seas to open up with whales.
And then there were all the new names and accents and energies at our port stops – Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Suez, Port Said, Cairo - we went to the pyramids - Naples, Southampton – and then each weekend visiting museums or historic sites in and around London, at my mother’s urging.
I realise now I was pitched headlong in pure learning immersion that whole time. How do all these things work, I remember thinking. All these adult discussions about countries and maps and weather and science, that I could catch only pieces of. I started playing cards in the ship’s lounge with adults and listened to some of their excited chatter as we swapped piles of paper. It was the most encouraging of environments to catch curiosity faster than a cold, each new experience stuffed with potential, wonder and awe.
And that’s just what our brand new multimillion state of the art Burra – which means eel – learning play space aims to deliver for our pre-schoolers and students too.
Young children from 0-14 will journey within many cultures and sciences to learn the stories, practices and goals we have of looking after this beautiful country we call home.
And as we were thinking about how to create an inspirational space around an experience that treasures true diversity of experience and ‘knowing’, we kept coming back to just one journeying creature, because of its own extraordinary lifecycle entwined with an extraordinary voyage. Burra. The eel.
Eels’ oceanic and river journeys, from birth out in the Coral Sea in the Pacific, to their journeys across the East Australian Current to Sydney’s Gadigal Coast, to their maturity in our rivers; how they grow, look, move, travel, and breed means they have what all kids love about learning – mystery! No-one knows for sure where they breed or lay their eggs.
We’re getting kids to ‘join’ their own mob of eels, to make their own creation journey through many spaces; I’m so proud of our team’s work here – led by First Nations Director Laura McBride - as the kids meet different animal teachers along the way.
Just as time and evolution came to carve the rivers and valleys the eel passed through, so our understanding of science and culture has taken time to come together too.