Unley High School gets creative to incentivise Greek language and cultural learning

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The Greek Parents Committee and Unley High School (UHS) Greek language program have looked into ways it can incentivise Greek language learning with a focus on creating authentic, real-world learning experiences and connection with community.

They were recently able to deliver in this area by offering an interstate trip to Melbourne involving 12 students from the Year 10/11/12 Modern Greek Language class accompanied by Greek language teacher Lazaros Gialamas and Mrs Esia Thring from Friday May 17 – Sunday May 19.

The purpose of the trip was cultural immersion and connection with other Greek speaking communities. Melbourne is unique in that it has the largest Greek speaking community outside of Greece and Cyprus with a range of opportunities for students to engage in experiences that deepen their knowledge of Hellenism and the Greek speaking communities of Australia.

The school’s initial attempt at organising the trip in time for the Antipodes festival (largest Greek cultural festival abroad) fell under time constraints. However, we were able to still deliver a hugely successful trip that took full advantage of the many organisations and initiatives on offer with the help of the Greek Community of Melbourne (GCM), its Language Schools, Oakleigh Grammar and The Hellenic Museum.

With their help, the Greek Parents Committee at Unley High School were able to put together a program whereby students explored Oakleigh on Day 1; a suburban area known unofficially as Australia’s ‘Little Athens,’ with its Greek restaurants, cafe’s Greek-made smallgoods, and homewares stores. Students also visited the local Greek Orthodox college Oakleigh Grammar and were given a guided tour by the Hellenic Culture and LOTE leader Natasha Spanos, providing explanation of its role in the Greek community and languages overall.

unley high school greek language

Day 2 saw students welcomed by the GCM’s Language School at the CBD campus and greeted by Director Maria Bakalidou. During this visit, students were given a guided tour by Ms Bakalidou, before they participated in an interactive lesson with Year 9 Greek students from Melbourne, engaging in acquaintance activities, discussions about the Greek language and identity, and Greek traditional dances. The visit left a positive impression on everyone, concluding with the GCM providing small gifts for UHS staff and students and an exchange of promises to continue communication and explore possibilities for further cooperation between UHS and the GCM.

Day 2 continued with the group accompanied by Dr Spiridoula Demetriou, one of the individuals responsible for the curation of the Lord Byron exhibit, on show at the Hellenic Museum. Students learnt about the importance of Philhellenism; the motivation and influence of non-Greek individuals who supported the idea of an independent Greece during the revolution. This allowed non-Greek background students on the excursion to identify with and reflect on their interest in Greek language and culture.

unley high school greek language

The Greek Parents Committee’s liaising with The Hellenic Museum coincidently opened a dialogue between UHS and old scholar Evelyn Darzanos, who organised a guided tour for the school. This would take students on a chronological, Greek historical journey that spanned the Bronze, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman-Byzantine and Modern Ages with a range of amazing artefacts on loan from the Benaki Museum in Athens piquing student interest for further study. On Day 3, the group made its way back to Adelaide.

The Greek Parents Committee’s hosting of events is a vital part of raising funds to provide opportunities that enhance the Greek language and cultural learning at UHS. Their sponsorship of the trip made it a viable exercise affordable for parents and students.

The GPC and the Greek language program at UHS hope to make this a sustainable experience offered annually to Greek language students, by providing sponsorship and seeking sponsors for future iterations.

“Finding real-world opportunities for students is becoming more difficult as we can no longer assume Greek is spoken in homes of the diaspora. When we consider non-background students also, providing exciting opportunities to practice language becomes very important in encouraging students to continue studying them beyond years of compulsion,” Greek language teacher Lazaros Gialamas said after the trip.

Student Dionysia Bourboulis said it was inspiring to experience the “thriving Greek community in Melbourne.”

“The trip has reinforced my own appreciation of my Greek roots and I feel motivated to continue to share my heritage here in Adelaide. Despite being across the other side of the world, the Greek community of Melbourne has succeeded in creating a little piece of Greece for us to feel closer to home,” Dionysia said.

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