Pearcedale Primary School is telling the story of red pandas at Wakakirri.
Students from Pearcedale Primary School are busily rehearsing for their performance in the Primary School Challenge of Wakakirri, Australia's largest performing arts event for schools. Schools competing in Wakakirri create and perform short 'story dances' on a topic of their choice, using a combination of dancing and acting set to music.
Pearcedale Primary is performing in Wakakirri for the ninth year in a row. Pearcedale's Wakakirri coordinator and performing arts teacher Katie Davies says taking part in the event is embedded in the school's community and culture.
'Our students know that when they get to Year 5 and 6 they get to do Wakakirri, and for most of them it's the highlight of their year.'
'It's really a part of who Pearcedale Primary School is.'
Pearcedale Primary School and Wakakirri
Pearcedale Primary School's annual involvement with Wakakirri goes beyond just engaging its students in the performing arts. It uses Wakakirri to teach its students about the wider world around them, and has had a strong focus on developing story dances on environmental issues.
This year's Pearcedale's story dance 'Far From Home: The Tale of the Red Pandas' tells the true story of six endangered red pandas that were taken from their natural environment in the Himalayan forest by poachers, who were later caught by border authorities.
'It's been great to do an unfolding story, as our students have been able to follow the progress of the pandas via the Free the Bears charity's Facebook page and on the internet,' Katie says.
'In past years we've had guest speakers from charities related to environmental issues like habitation destruction for palm oil plantations come in to talk about the issues the students are creating their story dances about. That helps make it real for them.'
Competing in Wakakirri also encourages students to work together and brings the Pearcedale school community closer.
'It's such a massive production of teamwork that requires everyone to pull together,' Katie says.
'I'm proud that we have a really supportive school community, with parents who help with face-painting, hair, costumes and lighting.'
The word Wakakirri comes from the Aboriginal Wangaaypuwan people, meaning 'to dance a story'.
Wakakirri teaches students about themselves and others through the creation and sharing of stories. It aims to improve educational outcomes, and environmental and community awareness.
Each year, more than 20,000 students from across Australia prepare and perform their story dances in professional theatres to a live audience.
A panel of professional Australian entertainers judge the awards, awarding the Story of the Year prize as well as performance and production prizes.