Sarah Stockwin

Into the trenches but not over the top: bringing classroom educators and museum professionals together for the good of the Australian Curriculum: History

With the introduction of the Australian Curriculum: History (ACH) from 2013, for the first time in our history, history will be taught as a stand-alone subject across Australia, from Foundation to Year 10. With this comes the requirement that students use not only written sources but archaeological sources and methods as evidence for the construction of the past. For me, the two are interconnected and cannot exist one without the other when teaching history to kids, both in and out of the classroom. During my time teaching history, the inevitable question from kids has been, ‘How do people know all this, Miss?’ It is a valid question and one which educators must be prepared to answer with more than a dictionary or encyclopaedic style answer.

The ACH is demanding and asks a great deal of teachers. In my former position as Education Officer at the Port Arthur Historic Site I was responsible for the design and delivery of the PAHSMA Education Program. This program took a holistic approach to interpreting the site by encompassing the history and the archaeology of Port Arthur and it was designed to meet the content and outcomes of the Tasmanian curriculum current at the time and the forthcoming ACH. The combination of access to the wide range of skills at the Port Arthur site and my experience as an educator produced a program that received positive-feedback from children, teachers and parents that resulted in an Interpretation Australia Award for Excellence. But unfortunately not all teachers have ready access in their schools to authentic sites and artefacts like Port Arthur to help them teach the archaeology component of the ACH. This is where museums and heritage educators can assist.

Museums are now more than ever in a position where they can meet the needs of teachers by offering valuable services to assist them deliver the content and skills required by the new curriculum. In this presentation I will examine how we might assist classroom teachers to do this and why we must.

Education Consultant, Sarah’s Desk, Blackmans Bay (TAS)
Port Arthur site


Sarah was once an animator and layout artist for several years with a well-known animation company. A diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis in 1998 convinced her that she should to do all the things she had always dreamt of doing. Because her love of History had been ignited as a child by many happy holidays to Port Arthur with her parents, Sarah decided to make her passion her profession and study History at University. Sarah completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Ancient History and Classical Studies at Macquarie University, then qualified to become a teacher of secondary History, SOSE and Art History. Eventually her journey came full circle in 2009 when she moved back to Tasmania and took up the position of Education Officer at Port Arthur. It was there that Sarah realised the power of interpreting history for students. Her educational mission now is encapsulated in the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, ‘If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea’. She is currently working on a research Master’s degree at the University of Ballarat.