Deadly award for preschool director

It brings the language into the preschool, and we get to learn about the Aboriginal connection to the environment.

Marie Jacobsen receives her Proud and Deadly Award. One of the murals created by Leeton High School’s Aboriginal students.

Marie Jacobsen, Leeton Preschool Director and member of the IEU’s Early Childhood Sector Committee, has been named as Proud and Deadly for her work with the local Aboriginal community and the Leeton Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) through a variety of projects, including creating a river bed within the preschool and native gardens on council parkland next door.

The award acknowledged work in relation to connecting with the local Aboriginal community, and being an active member of the Leeton AECG (Leeton are the only AECG to have Early Childhood/Preschool Awards at the Proud and Deadly Awards each year).

Her work showcased Aboriginal culture through murals both in the playground and on the fence. The development of a ‘riverbed’ in the preschool playground and created Gurnang Ngurang Community Gardens (meaning native plant place in Wiradjuri) on underused council land next to the preschool, following the Scandinavian Forest School philosophy and embracing Aboriginal culture (language, art and connection to country).

A local Elder works with the children, they learn the Wiradjuri name for plants and animal life in the garden, plant uses, and listen to dream time stories.

The award was for 'Commitment and Contribution to Educational Achievement of Aboriginal students'.

Aboriginal students from Leeton High School created murals for the fence around the preschool facing the carpark so the general community can see that Leeton Preschool is a safe place for their children which accepts and embraces culture.

Murals were created in 2012 within the playground, in a sensory garden, depicting ‘How the Birds got their Colours’, the ‘Rainbow Serpent’, and ‘Tiddalick’ that were painted by students in Years 5, 6 , 7 and 8, for preschoolers to enjoy.

In the future it is hoped that other murals can be painted, along with totem poles and sculptures by both Aboriginal and non Aboriginal students from Leeton High, for the Gurnang Ngurang Community Garden.

Marie said the gardens allow Aboriginal culture and language to be shared among the community.

“I want to teach children that water in particular is a natural resource that must be saved.”

Marie was inspired by the Danish Forest Schools movement, which promotes the idea that children benefit from being in a natural environment, when developing the gardens.