Fifteen children from Forster’s The Oak Seed Early Learning Centre participated in an Auslan Fingerspelling Bee event. The result? An enjoyable and memorable day for all involved.
The RIDBC Auslan Fingerspelling Bee Challenge is like any other spelling bee…but it has a massive twist! Students not only need to spell the words correctly, they can only spell the words using the Auslan alphabet – finger spelling each word.
A fun and engaging initiative of Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC), the Auslan Fingerspelling Bee teaches students the signs of the alphabet in Auslan whilst encouraging spelling.
An advocate for Auslan (Australian Sign Language), Amanda Marshall puts it well when she says people “Learning about Auslan creates a more inclusive society”.
As an Early Childhood Educator and Room Leader at The Oak Seed in Forster, Amanda is proud of the inclusive community in the region and at the Early Learning Centre.
Amanda was motivated to organise an Auslan Fingerspelling Bee event for her centre when becoming aware of the RIDBC initiative.
Now, she is encouraging educators and parents to host their own event whilst raising valuable funds for RIDBC.
The local event featured special guest Oliver, a Forster resident and RIDBC Thomas Pattison School student, and his family.
“Having a member of the Deaf community is important and we are so thankful to Oliver and his family. They did an amazing job” said Amanda.
“What I loved most about this event was the connection between the schools, and seeing the families talking about Auslan and learning the alphabet”.
“Practicing helped the children improve their letter recognition by connecting the visual letter to the Auslan sign” says Amanda. Overall, there was a sense of excitement amongst the children. They were engaged, preparing for the big day outside of their time at the centre, including at home with their families.
“It was amazing” said Amanda of the experience to teach her children the Auslan alphabet, practice with them and see them succeed on the day.
Some of the children will be attending school this year so the confidence they demonstrated will set them in good stead for their upcoming years.
“The parent feedback was exceptional, a number of parents shared positive comments including that the initiative had improved their child’s literacy skills” Amanda explains.
Proud parents and proud educators were the theme of the day in Forster and the event is an important foundation to incorporate more Auslan into the education and literacy plans for the children at The Oak Seed.
Amanda says that the children have had previous experience with the Deaf community as she had invited people in to facilitate some lessons on Auslan, incorporating some common signs.
“It gives the children a better understanding about the need for Auslan and they have fun playing games and learning new signs” says Amanda.
Amanda herself is working hard towards her goal of becoming an Auslan interpreter, something she has actively pursued in the last few years. Her efforts were rewarded in 2019 when she was recognised as the TAFE NSW Student of the Year.
Having just finished travelling to Newcastle to finalise her Certificate III, Amanda is keen to enrol in Certificate IV to continue her studies in 2020.
Although she didn’t have any experience working with children who are deaf or hard or hearing prior to learning Auslan Amanda says she would welcome the opportunity in the future.
“I am keen to understand the challenges people who are deaf or hard of hearing face every day” she says. “People’s stories inspire me and if I can contribute to the community as an interpreter then I am grateful”.
RIDBC is challenging schools and participating students to set a fundraising goal to help raise awareness and vital funds for children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
For more information and to register your school, visit ridbc.org.au/auslanbee.