Stories that relate to children’s lived experiences, fears, imaginations and natural inquisitiveness are at the heart of the RFDS free incursion education program.
Written by a team of practicing and registered teachers for Victorian primary and secondary school students, The Royal Flying Doctor Service in Victoria runs a comprehensive education program.
The education program teaches students not only about the significant contribution the Royal Flying Doctor Service has made to Australia’s history, it also educates them on the range of services the Flying Doctor provides 24/7 to people living, working and travelling through out Australia.
This program has been designed to focus on seven general capabilities that are addressed in the Australian Curriculum:
- Information and Communication Technology
- Critical and creative thinking
- Personal and social competence
- Ethical behaviour
- Intercultural understanding
Extending on the RFDS stories is the opportunity to explore the authentic model of a FRDS aircraft simulator. Parked incongruously in the rural school playground, like a spaceship that has just landed, the simulator demands speculation about what is inside. Before the children enter, Tom (the RFDS educator), states sternly that there is one important rule to obey inside the simulator. In response, the intensity of the children’s engagement deepens. Tom continues, “and that rule is that there are NO RULES!”
With a cheer of relief and liberation, the children move excitedly over to the simulator. Crowding inside, the children encounter a collection of communication and medical equipment, which mirrors that available in a RFDS aircraft.
An array of child investigations and dramas ensue, ranging from two-way radio calls to doctor and patient enactments. For the children this experience is highly engaging because as one child put it
“we got to touch stuff and see what it is like in a real aeroplane”.
This license to touch and play can be promoted or restricted, depending on which adults are supervising, be it Tom or one of the teachers. Tom notes that he takes on full responsibility for the program, which includes building relationships with teachers, who are frequently as engaged as the children. When interviewed, younger students outline the simulator as the highlight of their incursion, a view often supported by school principals.
For the older, Grade 5/6 students, the simulator is still enormously attractive, but their attentions are more orientated to the specific workings of the RFDS. As noted by one principal, the older children, some of who have experienced the program before, are even more enthusiastic because they know what to expect. For this age group, Tom shifts the emphasis of his story telling to concrete references such as the medical box, which families in remote locations rely on.
As one eleven-year old stated:
“We know it’s real and we know it actually happened and what they can do. And I like how when Tom was telling the stories, he gave all the detail”.
The children are undoubtedly engaged by Tom’s humour, enthusiasm and knowledge. As Tom noted,
“you have to show you are really interested and you really enjoy what you are doing and what you’re talking about. That’s the infectious thing. Children are naturally curious”.
With eight, back-to-back presentations given throughout any given day, Tom’s sustained enthusiasm and energy is crucial to the program, one which the children “would remember for a long time to come”.