May 16th was our final Australia Class with the students from Sacred Heart School. I am sure some of the students didn’t like it because we had a test. I’d rather not have a test but we actually have to grade the students so we split the grading into class participation, projects and the test. The students get to grade each other’s papers. They also got to fill out a survey rating the class and the teachers. We make sure it works both ways.
We then watched a video of Kendall Davis making modern boomerangs with power tools. His video most approached how I make boomerangs and showed a big difference from the video of Aborigines making them with “tommyhawks and files”.
Next was our Aussie tasting. We had Vegemite and crackers on hand. The students were brave and tasted it, but didn’t like it. They were rewarded for their efforts by getting ANZAC biscuits, a cookie made with flour, coconut, raisins, oatmeal and butter. I think they had seconds and thirds. ANZAC stands for Australia New Zealand Army Corps.
During the tasting session we had special guests. Sacred Heart School is part of the Catholic Diocese of Allentown which serves five counties in eastern Pennsylvania: Berks, Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton and Schuykill. Bishop John Barres, along with a some priests and principals from other schools in the Diocese had come to work to check out the Exploratory Class Program. We ended up with three groups of visitors to our class. hey asked the students and teachers about the classes and the program. One of the students told then that this class was the best! The students also presented the Bishop with a boomerang they had painted as a class.
One last thing was to view some actual “bush tucker”. Bush tucker is food found in the Australian bush country. One of my coworkers is from Australia and brought in witchetty grub, which is a rather large (4 inch?) white larva of a moth. this one is in a small wine bottle and he received it as a gag gift. He was pleased to be able to provide it for the class to see. Some of the students thought it was pretty gross.
Since this was the last class of the year, I need to thank a few people. First off, I want to thank Hasse Lindberg for supplying the boomerang blanks the class used. Thanks to David Fantone for getting those blanks to me. Thanks to Gary Broadbent for supplying Roomerangs for the class to decorate. Thanks to my employer for supporting this program and giving us a chance to do something in the community. And a very special thank you goes to my partner in this class, Hector Vazquez. Hector is a great guy and really works well with the students. Without Hector’s help, this class wouldn’t happen. He’s the best!
Thursday was our weekly Australia class. I had promised the students that if the weather was nice, we would get to throw boomerangs outside. When they arrived the temperature was near 70 degrees and the sun was shining. I couldn’t go back on my promise. However there were some other things scheduled too. We started out class by making didgeridoos from PVC pipe. We used 1-1/4 inch pipe for class but I had brought one made from 3 inch pipe and my large bloodwood one I bought in Australia. The students were interested in the different sound each one had. after making the didges they got the chance to attempt to play them. After a few minutes they were all managing to get some sound out of them. Most of the time they were trying too hard and I had to get them to relax more. A few of them were doing well enough that they asked to try the bloodwood one. Now that was funny!
Having spent half of class on didges we headed outside to throw boomerangs. After a refresher course on the proper technique, we let them throw (one person at a time). They held back at first but after gaining some confidence put a bit more effort into it. They were getting some really great throws. One student had trouble because he would often throw sidearm. When he threw correctly he was doing great but he really had to work at it. We did have our mishaps along the way. The area we use has a klot of small trees. Also there is a treeline complete with a swampy area in it. Well one errant throw is way up in a tree on the treeline. A second one was swallowed by the swamp monster. We finally had to stop as we expected the bus to be back soon. As they waited the last few minutes for the bus, they showed off their new boomerangs and their didgeridoo playing skills to the other students. What fun that was to watch.
Wednesday I snuck out to the field at lunch to test some new boomerangs. I had a stack of Hydra triblades made from 1/8 inch polycarbonate that weren’t flying the way I wanted so I reshaped them. They work great now. The last boomerang I tried was a beautiful curly maple lap joint boomerang shaped like the Colorado Aspen but with a 90 degree elbow. I am alway worried boomerangs like thata won’t fly correctly. Boy was I wrong. I threw it one time. It made a beautiful circle and I caught it without taking a single step. Bulls-eye! That boomerang is destined for the Gary Broadbent collection but I already have an order for another. Fortunately I have more curly maple.
This was the week the students were waiting for. It was time to paint boomerangs. We actusally started class buy watching a video of old men of the Mudburra and Jingili tribes making boomerangs in the traditional way. This was shot around Elliott, NT in 1988. The students were amazed watching the Aboriginies cut wood and shape it using axes and homemade chisels.
The it was on to boomerangs. I made the initial blanks and painted them a solid color per the students choices. It was up to them to paint them in a way they liked. There was some indecision by several students but eventually they were all into the project. Here are examples of their work.
We had to stop because the conference room we were using was booked and we got “tossed out”. I have their boomerangs and will be giving them coats of clear finish before bringing them back to the next class. If the weather is good, we will be throwing them. If not, we will be making PVC didgeridoos. The students are fired up for either adventure.
Wow, we are done with our fourth class already! We got really good news in that an extra week has been added to the schedule. That means we can cover more material and maybe introduce something new this year.
This week we started out with the painting project from last week, The paintings look really good and I think the students had fun doing them. They were really into it this week. While they were painting I playewd music from the CD “Didge Blows the Games” by Ankala & World Orchestra. We wanted to finish the painting early in class so that the paint could dry and the students could take them home today.
While the paint dried we moved on to more Dreamtime stories. This week we learned about the Rainbow Serpent and the first sunrise. The students did all the reading. It was really good to have them answer the questions so quickly.
The last thing scheduled was to watch some videos with Aussie music. The week it was “Waltzing Matilda” and “My Boomerang Won’t Come Back”. It was great when one of the students said during Waltzing matilda, “There a Coolabah tree, like in the Brolga story last week.” You really have to love it when they connect things from previous weeks.
I had hoped for a really fun class today. My energy level seemed a bit low so I was in real need of a pick me up. The students were going to make their own Aborigianl style art. This year I again provided samples of Aboriginal art and also drawings of symbols used in the art. I also told the students that they had to incorporate 3 of the symbols in their own artwork. The class was hesitant at first to paint but we finally got them going. I was really impressed with what they did because the class was all boys and usually the girls take to the art better then the boys. Here are a few photos of the artwork in progress.
During the art session I played selections of music from the CD “Sounds of the Outback Vol 2”. I had the students stop painting to watch the viseo “Treaty” by Yothu Yindi. After cleaning up we read and discussed the Dreamtime story about where the Brolga came from. One student volunteered to read the whole story. I think maybe he thought if he read, then he wouldn’t have to answer the questions. Again the students were on the ball with the answers, sometimes answering the follow up questions before we asked them.
They headed back to school and are enthusiastic about next week when they get to make didgeridoos.
Today we started class with how a boomerang works. I used a Powerpoint presentation by Tom Conally maker of Flying Frog Boomerangs. The presentation is titled “BOOMERANGS: Magic or Science?”. It explains Bernoulli’s Principle and gyroscopic precession. It also includes instruction on how to throw and catch a boomerang, effects of the wind and even a bit of history of boomerangs. It is a useful tool when doing classes such as this. It is detailed enough that it took up half the class period.
After learning about boomerangs we got to have some fun. Each student got to decorate a Roomerang (thanks to Gary Broadbent) and bend airfoils into it. They did some pretty nice artwork in some cases. We then headed to the building’s lobby to test out the boomerangs. The class had paid close attention to the presentation and were doing great in almost no time. It was fun to watch them and I even got a short video of them on my phone.
Next we switched gears and started reading stories from the Aboriginal Dreaming. Todays story was “The Red Waratah” a story about how the Waratah got it’s red color from the blood of an injured Wonga pigeon. I was pleasantly surprised that the class could answer all the questions I asked about the story. Its nice to know they are listening.
All of a sudden out time was up and they had to get on the bus to head back to school. They are enthusiastic about next week.
Well it must be spring because I hit the field today to test some boomerangs. It was typical for this time of year, temps in the mid 40’s, mostly cloudy and winds blowing about 15mph. Probably not the best day but doable. The field conditions were typical for spring too. Very mushy under the mostly dead grass. I felt like I was walking on sponges. Needless to say I wasn’t running around chasing boomerangs. Let them land were they land and pick them up. My knees and ankles cause enough problems without me messing around on squishy ground.
Everything I tested flew well, even though many tosses were blowbys. That 15 mph wind has a way of affecting fligh. I was most anxious to test the MDF boomerangs I received to use for my Australia class. These were originally made by Hasse Lindberg in Sweden. He originally sent them to David Fantone in Oregon, who sent the leftovers to me. They flew very well so I am happy to have them for the students to use. The other boomerangs I had for testing were orders for customers which have stacked up in backlog over the winter.
Well, it was good to see stuff flying again.
Today was the first session of my Sacred Heart School/Computer Aid exploratory class for Eighth graders. The class is called “Australia: The Dreamtime and Boomerangs”. I am assisted by my coworker, Hector Vazquez.
We started with an overview presentation on what would be learned over the next seven weeks. we also covered the grounds rules for conduct and participation. The students appear to be very enthusiastic. Then I openeg my bag (actually a box) of tricks. I had brought quite a few various aboriginal pieces to show. I had clap sticks, 2 nulla nullas, a shield and a number of both kylies and boomerangs. I think it was fun to let them pass the items around, to hold and touch each item. It made the experience more personal for them. I was pleased that the students had many questions.
Then I moved on to modern boomerangs. I had a bunch of boomerangs and realized I could have brought more. The students were very interested in the various shapes and were surprised that they all returned. Of particular interest were the bat boomerangs made by former Sacred Heart student Ian Guldner. Ian went on to high school and is now a college graduate. His boomerangs were made as part of class project in high school. He entered them in the USBA National contest and won. I had qute a few art boomerangs including some pieces by Alan Scott Craing which I recently obtained. I also showed boomerangs used for competition in fast catch, MTA, Long Distance and Aussie Round.
We had to move on so I began the presentation on Aboriginal art. We reviewed the symbols used and what they represented. Then we viewed a number of photographs of Aboriginal art and tried to figure out what was on them. From there we moved to a presentation on what the Dreaming or Dreamtime is and how it came to being. We ran out of time at this point so got the students back to the bus and went back to work. Our next few weeks will be fun because the students already have loads of questions which will be answered in future sessions.
Yes, it has been a long time since I have last posted to the blog. I got busy and the weather got cold. Once it’s cold I shut down all boomerang activities. With us rolling into March, there is a chance to make boomerangs as soon as the temps get a bit higher. That’s a good thing because I am developing a backlog of boomerangs to produce and i have a craft show the end of April. I’ll need shop time!
Also it is only two weeks until I begin my exploratory class for 8th grade students at a local school. This is the third time I’ll be doing the class. The class is called “Australia: The Dreamtime and Boomerangs”. In the class the students learn about the Aboriginal culture thru the Dreamtime stories and art. They also get to try to make their own Aboriginal art, make boomerangs, and make PVC didgeridoos. They will listen to some Australian music and study the science on how boomerangs work. Lots of fun but some real learning opportunities too. The class happens at my employer’s office and is scheduled from noon to 1pm each Thursday. We’ll have 7 sessions this year.
I look forward to the class and working with my coworker, Hector. This will be Hector’s third time too. Now I should look over my class lesson plan and make a list ot things I need to get ready in the next 2 weeks. First class is March 21st. I’ll be posting weekly updates after the class.
Last week I finally got to get away on vacation for a week. While away, I managed to paint a couple boomerangs in a dot art style. Here is a photo of me painting one of the shark boomerangs I had with me.
Those of you who read this blog already know about the exploratory class I teach here at work for students at a local inner city school. This is part of an initiative by my employer to help these students be better and includes an email buddy program, a remedial reading program and the exploratory classes which are done based on the employee’s hobbies and interests. I have been in the program for 10 years and have done all the programs with the latest being my “Australia, the Dreamtime and Boomerangs” class.
Yesterday my employer had a lunch thanking all the volunteers for their work with the students over the past year. We have this every year and usually we get a little gift. This year it was a insulated lunch bag with the company logo on it, last year a flash drive. After the lunch we all get paraded into the big conference room in front of the managers of the company. They applaud for us and two Community Service Awards are given out to people in the program. I have often wondered how someone gets selected and what is needed to win an award. The award is a glass eagle on a base with a name plate.
This year the first award went to a woman here who teaches various exploratory classes. She has done art classes and cooking classes. I think she is working on a gardening class for this year. The president of the company picks up the second award and announces “Could Dave Hendricks come forward?”. I think my eyes got as big as dinner plates and my jaw hit the floor. I was very shocked to hear my name called out. He went on to tell the group that I had been in the program a long time and had done email buddies, reading program and my Australia and boomerangs class. He mentioned me bringing boomerangs to the spring picnic and teaching the students how they work. Meanwhile I stood there still trying to believe it was happening. He shook my hand, handed me my eagle award and everyone applauded. It was quite a lunch for me.