Year 4 step back in time at Polly Woodside

On Wednesday last week our Year 4 students went on an exciting excursion to the historic Polly Woodside, a beautifully preserved ship from 1885.  This visit was designed to give the students an immersive experience of life aboard a convict ship, aligning perfectly with our studies of the First Fleet and providing a vivid context before we move on to learning about First Contacts and Indigenous culture.

Upon arrival, the students were immediately transported back in time. First we visited the area where marines slept, gaining an understanding of the conditions. Students could not stop asking questions about everything that they observed around them! They had an opportunity to explore many other parts of the ship as well, gaining insights into the daily lives of not just marines but also convicts and ship officers. The experience continued with a thrilling moment as the students rang the ship’s bell, just as sailors would have done, to warn of changing sea conditions, and approaching whales and icebergs.

Descending into the hull, the students were able to see firsthand the area where spaces for convicts would have been built, and could imagine the cramped and harsh conditions that convicts endured during their long voyages.

One of the most memorable activities was steering the ship. Each student had the chance to take the helm, imagining themselves as the ship’s captain navigating through treacherous waters. Students also got to learn about maritime flags when ‘cracking the code’.

Scrubbing the deck was another fun activity, demonstrating the hard work and discipline required to maintain a ship. Students took turns with brushes and buckets, experiencing a small part of the daily routine of sailors.

This excursion to Polly Woodside allowed our students to connect with history in a tangible way, making their studies of the First Fleet more meaningful. As we transition into learning about First Contacts and Indigenous culture, the experiences and insights gained from this trip will enrich their understanding and appreciation of Australia’s complex history.

Kaisu Tonkyra
Curriculum Specialist Junior School