School of the Air – The World’s Largest Classroom

Radio Lesson – 1983
Image: Alice Springs School Of The Air

Imagine this, you live on a remote cattle station hundreds of kilometres from the nearest school. Travelling into town involves a whole day of driving over corrugated, dirt tracks. There’s no popping over to your mate’s place for a quick cuppa when you are feeling a bit lonely or having a night on the town to celebrate a big birthday.

This isolation and the difficulties associated with it, is what many families in remote Australia face on a daily basis. In 1946 the outback ingenuity of Miss Adelaide Miethke came to the fore, while working for the RFDS she noticed how children living in cattle stations, aboriginal communities, and other remote properties were all taught to use the RFDS radio service in the case of an emergency, and had the great idea of utilising this service to provide these children with their lessons.

Making A Connection

Prior to this, outback kids were either sent to boarding school away from their families, or were delivered their lessons via mail which was often slow and unreliable. Nowadays, there are more than 16 schools with the Alice Springs School of the Air covering a broadcast area of 1.3 million square kilometers including The Northern Territory, the north of South Australia and the eastern area of Western Australia. Lessons are conducted over an interactive two-way broadband satellite network. Using a video camera and electronic whiteboard teachers are able to deliver their lessons in real time while their students watch on and respond using a web cam attached to their computer at home. This gives a greater interaction to the students, they can have great contact with their teacher through email also as well as being able to hear and speak to their fellow classmates who are spread all over the broadcast area.

A lesson being watched by visitors in the Alice Springs visitor centre.
Image: Alice Springs School Of The Air

Friends For Life

All the kids receive a printed program in the mail which they use in conjunction with their on-air lessons. Teachers attempt to visit their students on their properties at least once a year. This not only helps to build a better rapport between the two, but also gives the teacher a great opportunity to observe the student, how they work, their fine and gross motor skills and learning environment etc.

Many schools try to organise sports carnivals, field days, camps and other special events where all kids can meet up and play with each other and also so the parents can interact and chat to the teachers and other parents. This is such an amazing social opportunity as while most are used to speaking regularly over the air and via email, they may go for long stretches without physically interacting with others. Some kids have shared their excitement at finally seeing what their best mates look like in real life!

Sports Day – 1978.
Image: Alice Springs School Of The Air

Quality Education To The Bush

Children who are in isolated areas of Australia are no longer at any disadvantage with regard to their education. Most families choose to have their children schooled at boarding school once they enter high school but they still have the option of continuing school of the air in the early stages of higher education if preferred.

If you are ever in Alice Springs, make a point to visit the Alice Springs School Of The Air Visitor Centre. When I last visited we were treated to a short film which covered the history of ASOTA and were able to sit and watch the teacher in their studio conducting a lesson with their students. It was amazing to see how it all happens and hear the kids interacting with their teacher and each other, having a laugh and enjoying their learning. I was very inspired. It is another example of how outback people have turned a struggle and a disadvantage into something that is not only closing any divide between them and city folk but also have created a program which is world renowned, of the best quality and something of pride for them and our nation.

Alice Springs School of The Air Visitor Centre.
Image: Alice Springs School Of The Air

Address: 80 Head Street – Alice Springs NT 0870 – off north Stuart Highway, 3km from CBD

Access: Self-drive, Bus tours, Alice Springs Public Bus, Bike hire

Open: Monday to Saturday 08:30 to 16:30, Sunday & Public Holidays 13:30 to 16:30

Closed: Good Friday & Christmas Day until and including 1st January.

Facilities: Coach parking on site, Wheelchair accessible, Air-conditioned Shop/Museum, Toilet
facilities and external commemorative wall.

Entry fees apply: 1 April 2016 – 31 March 2017

Adults: $ 11.00
Child: (5 – 16 years) $ 8.50
Family: (2 Adults & 2 children) $ 25.00
Family: (2 Adults & up to 4 children) $ 30.00

Bookings: Group bookings essential. Minimum 6 pax. Group rates apply.

Phone: 08) 8951 6834

Email: visitorcentre@assoa.nt.edu.au

Web: assoa.nt.edu.au

Support A Mate

Providing such a exceptional educational service to kids in isolated areas of Australia is much more costly than regular schools in city and regional regions.

Alice Springs School of The Air utilises any donations to provide additional learning programs and resources, interstate excursions, vehices to travel to kids on remote properties and technology for the children to use.

If you can spare any funds to make a worthwhile and generous donation it will be very much appreciated.

DONATE NOW!

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