GALLERY: Designed to make Castle Hill kids shine

A two-day program that joins three Castle Hill schools has become a shining example of team work and acceptance.

St Gabriel’s School pupils in years 4 and 5 with hearing impairment and intellectual disabilities were joined by year 9 students from neighbouring Gilroy College and year 4 pupils from St Bernadette’s Primary School for Design 2 Shine on Tuesday.

It aims to challenge children to think creatively and promote awareness and acceptance of disabilities.

‘‘The community building, watching the growth and how our students at St Gabriels just come out of their shell as they work with the mainstream kids is fabulous,’’ Dianne Hooke, the head of campus at St Gabriels School, said.

Gilroy College’s year 9 co-ordinator Gemma Muller organised a history timeline painting activity, damper making and colonial games including hopscotch and quoits.

St Bernadette’s organised colonial folk songs, bush dancing, and dreamtime story activities.

‘‘The focus isn't so much on content, it’s on kids developing skills and negotiating in a group,’’ Ms Muller said.

‘‘It’s good for our kids in that it teaches patience and leadership and also acceptance. They can be quite sheltered in high school.

‘‘We have seven core values at the school and respect and community, compassion, all of those things, we try to incorporate into this program.’’

St Bernadette’s year 4 teacher Marilyn Ryan said students who return from the program are excited at having made new friends.

‘‘I think the level of maturity they've gained in accepting other people’s disabilities has been very interesting for their age group,’’ she said.

‘‘If you ask them at the end of the year ‘what is the best thing you’ve done in year 4?’, Design 2 Shine will come up first thing.

‘‘The sense of joy, excitement and interaction with other people in the program has been quite unifying.’’

Mrs Hooke said the tactile activities, such as painting, were important for students’ comprehension.

‘‘At this stage of their lives their understanding is greater, but it was wonderful to have those activities for them that are kind of concrete and hands-on,’’ she said.

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