Thursday, June 14

Today was our last school visit in Melbourne, and we visited Princes Hill Primary School, which is a very cute “government school” (we would know it as a public school) in one of the wealthier sections of Melbourne.  The principal asked us not to take any pictures of the children, but I did get two pictures of some of the space.  Every single Aussie school we have visited so far has been a one story school with  very fluid and flexible barriers between the inside of the buildings and the gardens and outside of the buildings. A group of similar age classrooms will be together in one building and then you have to go outside, often under a covered walkway, to get to the next building that houses a different set of grades. So, the K-1-2 grades may be together in one building and the grades 4-5-6 may be in a different building. Here is a kitchen play area located outside the group of Kindergarten (called Preps here) and First Grade (called Year Ones) classrooms.  Children were permitted to transition on their own from inside to outside and were very self-directed.


And, this school emphasized creative learning and there were costumes, art, video production equipment, and all sorts of creative resources throughout the school.  These costumes were found in the Junior School (Prep – Year 3s). One little boy I stopped to talk to was working with two other children in a classroom with a huge cinematic green screen on one wall.  They were working on making a movie with the iMovie program and at about 7 years old, he was quite proud of himself.  He told me, “Not everyone knows how to do this, you know.”


After our school visit, Kathy, Stephanie and I went to Parliament. This is where the laws are passed for the state of Victoria, where Melbourne is located.  So, this would be equivalent to our State House in Dover.  Not too shabby, eh?


The building, like most of the elaborate buildings in Melbourne, was built just after gold was discovered in Victoria in the 1850’s.  Melbournians wanted to show the world how rich and prosperous they were, so they pulled out all the stops in designing and adorning the new building.


This is looking up from the Queen’s Chamber and the decoration and detail on the walls and columns is real gold, mined at the time of the Victoria Gold Rush.


Again, real gold decorating the House of Commons chamber.


The above picture was taken on the House of Lords side of Parliament.  Whereas the Commons side is all green (see the picture above), the Lords side is all red.  The chair represents the seat for the presiding Queen of England or her designee, and the canopy overhead represents the symbols of England.

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Wednesday, June 13

Today was a regular class day, with Kathy and I teaching in the morning, joined by a guest lecturer, Ms. Megan Scott who did a presentation on middle school classroom management.  In the afternoon, students were again free to STUDY or explore.  Kathy, Stephanie and I ventured up to the old Melbourne Gaol (Jail) which was a very sad and depressing place, as most jails are.  The museum/educational aspect of the Gaol was very well done, however, and there was a school group of primary age children there when we arrived.  The Gaol itself is a three story behemoth, built just before the Victoria Gold Rush in the mid-1800s.  This is a typical, nasty cell that often housed several prisoners at the same time. Pretty disgusting, eh?


Certainly the most famous prisoner to ever be jailed (and hung) at the Melbourne jail was Ned Kelly – a true outlaw and Aussie folk hero.  At the jail, we found out that there was a fairly recent movie about Ned Kelly with Mick Jagger playing the role of Ned.  None of us had seen the movie, but we’ll be sure to put it on our “must watch” list when we return to the states.  It’s a mystery to us why it wasn’t nominated for any Academy Awards. 


When Ned and his gang knew that the cops were coming for them, they made suits of armor for themselves out of plows.  Unfortunately for them, the armor only covered their heads and torsos, and the cops were smart enough to shoot him in the legs.  Here is Stephanie modeling the elegant and oh-so-functional suit of homemade armor that Kelly and his gang wore. Doesn’t really look that comfortable, does it?


Unfortunately, one of the other tourists at the jail that day threw a piece of paper on the floor and the warden thought it was US!  We were booked and thrown into a holding cell until it could all be sorted out.  Marie Gleason, our Study Abroad Coordinator, told us that anyone who ended up in jail was on their own, so we were very happy to have it all sorted out and we were released the same day. We didn’t let you down, Marie!


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Tuesday, June 12

After a nice weekend of excursions and learning, today was our next set of school visits.  Today, we had the good fortune to visit two small schools for exceptional learners.  Andale School is a very small primary school that serves children with mild to moderate learning differences. They have only three classrooms, so we split the group of our students. Nine of our students rode the tram to Andale with Kathy first where they were warmly welcomed by Ms. Marg Cotter, principal, and her staff.

Meanwhile, Gail took the other nine students on the train to visit our second school – Rossbourne.  This is a secondary school which is very close to Andale, and it serves older students with mild to moderate disabilities.  Mr. Linden Hearn is the principal, and again, we could not have received a warmer welcome. Rossbourne is a larger school with more students, but it is still small compared to the schools we have already visited. 

After about an hour and a half visit at each school, Mr. Hearn provided a bus to allow us to switch locations – Gail’s group went to Andale while Kathy’s group went to Rossbourne.  Finally, we all ended up back at Andale, where the staff and some parents provided an Australian “sausage sizzle” for us and all the students and staff outside on the playground.  Grilled sausages were delicious and followed by one of the favorite Australian desserts – Lamingtons (chocolate and coconut covered sponge cake). Yum. 

Our students joined in for “sports” on the playground, and Alexis demonstrated her prowess with a basketball (which is very popular in Australia) with Josh at the top of the key.


This is a picture of the whole group – all students, staff and our group.  And, YouDee of course! I think the little guy in the very front row holding YouDee was more impressed with him than he was with the camera. You have to look closely to see YouDee in his lap.



After we got back from our school visit, the students had the rest of the day off, so Kathy, Stephanie and I did some ‘action research’ in one of the restaurant districts – Carlton.  Stephanie had conducted a “pilot study” of restaurants where we could hold our group farewell dinner earlier in the day while we were at the schools.  So, with Kathy and me in tow, we went back to collect more data (i.e., eating a real meal there) and were able to confirm Stephanie’s null hypothesis that this would be a good place for our farewell fiesta next week.  The owner is a darling little Italian man who made us feel very welcome, so we’re all set.

On the way to Carlton, however, we had one more stop to make.  A former UD study abroad director (who shall remain nameless) told us to make sure that while we were in Melbourne, we visited the “loo with a view”.  ‘Loo’ of course, is the British and Aussie word for bathroom.  So, up we elegantly glided to the 35th floor of the ritzy Sofitel Hotel in the Chanel-Prada section of Melbourne’s upscale Collins Street where we did indeed find a full length plate glass window overlooking the Melbourne skyline inside the ladies room. Here is Stephanie illustrating how close the water closet is to the view:


And, here is the view of the mighty Melbourne Cricket Ground (the MCG or “the G”) from the loo.  The G is where we saw the Melbourne Demons defeat the Essendon Bombers the very first Saturday night we were here.  We’re still reaping cache from attending that match when any of the locals hear that we were there!



Not the best picture in the world, but the photo was taken through plate glass at twilight.

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Monday, June 11 (Part Trois)

After the koalas, we detoured inland a bit to briefly visit a tropical rain forest.  For Kathy and Stephanie and me, it was very similar to the forest we visited with Andrea and Darryl the day before.  But it was the students’ first experience with a rain forest, and they were as amazed as we had been the day before. Here’s Megan, Yardley, Brooke and Shelby in their natural habitat:


And Josh, Marissa, Rachel and Jeff in a similar habitat:


But DON’T touch the mushrooms said our guide, John.  After hearing songs about the zillion ways to die from natural predators and fauna in Australia, we didn’t challenge him on this.


After the forest, we headed out to the end of the Great Ocean Road – the Shipwreck Coast.  Here, we stopped to view the incredible rock formations known as The Twelve Apostles (although several of the apostles have fallen into the ocean).


Next stop was to hear about the incredibly sad and romantic story of the wreak of the Loch Ard steamer which sailed from England in 1878. After three months of sailing, the ship had almost reached port when a terrible storm came up in the middle of the night.  By the time the captain realized where he was, the ship was on the rocks and went down within 15 minutes.  Tom Pearce, a young 18 yo crew member made it to shore, and soon heard the cries of Eva Carmichael, the only passenger to survive.  Against incredible odds, young Tom swam back out to the rocks to save young Eva and brought her into what has now been named the Loch Ard Gorge. They were the only two survivors of the wreak.  Tom was given medals and rewards and went on to continue a life at sea, surviving three additional ship wreaks. Eva returned to Ireland after three months, and married and had a large family. Here’s Alexis, YouDee and me on our way down into the gorge:


Kathy was happy today at the Loch Ard Gorge:

The gorge was very impressive and very scary:


Here’s the back edge of the gorge with Stephanie and YouDee.  The rock formations were inspiring.


The final stop was London Bridge – a natural rock formation. In the picture below, the rock was once connected to the mainland to the left.  While there were people on the rock, the whole bridge section fell into the sea, trapping a young couple who were unfortunately married to other people.  OOPS! Especially since they were rescued by a News Media helicopter. Moral of the story – fooling around on a rock in the middle of the ocean is a bad idea!



A group shot at London Bridge was a must:


Kathy was happy today at London Bridge, too……….nothing could go wrong. And a beautiful sunset, too.


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Monday, June 11 (Part Deux)

I’m using a new writing editor that I’m still not completely confident with, so I’m going to continue to break the big days with lots of pictures into parts.

So, more pictures of the surfers and ocean paddleboarders at this beautiful beach at Lorne (if any of you want to google the location):


Suddenly, out of nowhere, a whole group of people showed up on the beach, stripped down to regular bathing suits (no wetsuits) and decided to go for a swim. Kathy and Stephanie swear they were ocean racing, but I can’t verify that.


One of the paddleboarders


After leaving Lorne, we took a quick side tour to see an area of eucalyptus trees with wild koalas.  These guys were way up in the tops of the trees, so this picture was taken with a 300 mm lens. From the way her arms are wound around her front, we think we see two little ears and the top of the head of a baby koala in her arms.  What do you think?


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Monday, June 11th (Queens birthday holiday)

The Australians celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s birthday today, even though it’s not really her birthday on this date. Nevertheless, it was a public holiday with all schools closed, so we used the opportunity to explore the Great Ocean Road – one of Australia’s great natural wonders. This is where many of south Australia’s surfing beaches are located.


Our first stop was Bell’s Beach and it was a short stop, but YouDee was ready to hang ten.


The landscape was spectacular, and this was one of the surprisingly few lighthouses on the coast.


My version of an artsy picture:


A little further down the road, we stopped for roadside morning tea (provided by John, our tour driver). The students wandered down to the beach area and everyone looked pretty happy including Jeff, Rachel and Lissy, Kelsey, Megan, and Kathy (doing her “I’m happy today” move)






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Sunday, June 10

Today was the first free day for the students since we’ve been here, so they scattered throughout the city to explore the places we haven’t seen as a group yet. Kathy and Stephanie and I went back to Warrugul on the V-Line train to visit Kathy’s friend, Andrea and her husband Darryl. Andrea is a school psychologist and their children attend St. Paul’s Anglican School, which was the very first school we visited. She is the person who set up that wonderful visit for us and Kathy had not seen Andrea in about 10 years.

We arrived in Warrugul at 9:30 am and Andrea met us at the train station with her beautiful Golden Retriever, Bella. Kathy and I were both happy, happy, happy to have our dog fix temporarily satiated. Kathy is missing her two dogs and I’m missing my four dogs, so Bella was just what we needed to start our day. Definitely some pet therapy going on.

After walking the short distance to Andrea and Darryl’s house, we were shown their beautiful garden where Darryl is quite the gardener. Even now, in their winter, the climate is still warm enough that I saw fuchsias growing by the back door. Darryl introduced us to our first Australian delicacy, Vegemite, and we also got to try another staple of the Australian diet – Milo.


Milo is like Nestlé’s Quik, except that it doesn’t really dissolve in milk. It kind of floats around the top. But Vegemite! Now that’s an acquired taste. It tastes like solid beef bouillon but with twice the salt. Aussies generally put it on toast and butter and when you mention Vegemite here you get a very strong reaction. Aussies either hate it or love it – there’s no in between!


After the vegemite, Andrea and Darryl took us up in the hills overlooking Warrugul to the Toorongo Falls Park and it was like a magical rain forest.


Quite unexpected, and we kept waiting for the Tyrannosaurus Rex to come charging out of the fern covered forest to snap us up. The trees were magnificent and one species of the eucalyptus trees is the tallest flowering plant in the world.



There had been plenty of rain recently, and the waterfalls were full of themselves.


After the Falls, we went to an old, rebuilt train trestle – the Noojee Trestle Bridge and again, it was like stepping back in time. We all made it up to the top for a magnificent view of the forest floor below.



The day ended at a local winery with a wine tasting and a lovely lunch before heading back on the train to the city. Here are Andrea and Darryl enjoying a glass of local Aussie wine:


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