From poetry to robotics: the broad scope of disaster resilience education

The first 2019 DRANZSEN event took place in Melbourne, highlighting diverse approaches from education sector and supporting organisations to engage students as partners in learning for disaster resilience.

The Disaster Resilient Australia-New Zealand School Education Network (DRANZSEN) Forum roadshow for 2019 has begun and the first event captured a diverse range of child-centred approaches to learning about natural hazards, harmful impacts and opportunities to reduce risk and build community resilience – from creative writing to hands-on robotics design.

The Victoria DRANZSEN Forum event was held on 1 May at Life Saving Victoria in Port Melbourne and hosted presentations from across the state to share the innovative practice and broad scope of knowledge of disaster resilience education and opportunities for further collaboration.

Poetry and preparedness

Five students from Marymede Catholic College in South Morang attended the DRANZSEN Forum to present an overview of the creative writing extension project that led to the publication of their 2019 anthology, Poetic Voices from Black Saturday. The students’ work reflects the vision of teacher John Milides who invited students to participate in the project in recognition of the communities impacted by the 2009 Black Saturday fires.

The students, ranging from Year 8-10, researched the Black Saturday bushfires and explored the personal narrative of Black Saturday through the story of bushfire survivor, Darrin Gibson, who lost his wife and three children during the fires.

‘Authors should serve the community. Through their writing, these students have shown the impact of bushfire and the importance of being ready,’ Mr Milides said at the DRANZSEN Forum.

The five students – Shante Pisani, Cecilia Bingham, Chloe Falzon, Samuel Vermeulen and Dimitris Bachos – took questions from the audience and agreed they all wanted to learn more about disaster preparedness after taking part in the Creative Writing Program.

‘We did something to help show people how they felt during the fires and use that to teach other people about the risks of fire.’ (Chloe)

‘I have been struck by the resilience of the affected communities. I understand the fires as part of our history and identity as Victorians.’ (Dimitris)

‘It was hard to write from the perspective of the bushfire victims, but it helped to understand why we should learn about fires and how dangerous they are.’ (Cecilia)

‘I hope people become more motivated to be prepared for bushfires after reading our poetry.’ (Shante)

‘This wasn’t just about capturing the fear of the fires at the time, but about the strength of the community in its aftermath.’ (Samuel)

Response solutions through robotics

The Victorian DRANZSEN Forum also heard from Geelong Tech School Director, Leanne Collins and STEM facilitator Julie Fagan, who presented the Bot Rescue program, developed in partnership with Victoria State Emergency Service (VIC SES).

In 2016, the Victorian Government allocated $128 million to establish 10 Tech Schools across the state. Tech Schools partner with state, private and independent schools to offer educational programs that incorporate the ‘tools of the future’ – such as such as virtual reality, robotics and 3D printing – and respond to real-world scenarios and problems.

The Bot Rescue program challenges students to design a robot to assist in an emergency scenario (e.g. retrieval or delivery, clearing debris, data collection) and create a 3D disaster scene for the robot to navigate. This practical activity is part of a unit of learning with a focus on natural hazards, exploring local risk, harmful impacts on communities and current technologies used by response agencies.

Ms Fagan said the Bot Rescue program was popular with students because it appealed to existing curiosity about emergencies and disasters. The program also explores emerging technologies that are shifting the way emergency agencies respond to scenarios, allowing young minds to consider challenges and opportunities in the industry for themselves.

Importantly, the program demonstrates how fire and emergency service agencies can partner with Victorian Tech Schools to engage with students and explore technological solutions to real-world problems while facilitating a conversation about disaster response and resilience.

Participants at the Victoria DRANZSEN Forum also heard presentations regarding the National Study for Child-Centred Disaster Risk Reduction (supported by the BNHCRC) and how the City of Bendigo is supporting students with special needs with social stories for emergency management, developed in partnership with young people in local communities.

The DRANZSEN event roadshow will continue to New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, Western Australia and South Australia.

The state-based events will inform the National DRANZSEN Forum, taking place in Melbourne on 30 August 2019. The National DRANZSEN Forum is a free event offered through the AFAC19 Professional Development Program, held in partnership with the Australian Disaster Resilience Conference. 

Find out more information about DRANZSEN.

You can also contact Senior Project Officer Brigid Little,