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THINK Global School Experiences Australia’s Barracks Museum

A view of Sydney Harbor

For a recent Global Studies lesson, TGS students visited the World Heritage Listed Hyde Park Barracks Museum. The Barracks building was constructed in 1819 to serve as a home for convicts. In its nearly 200 year history, the building has served several purposes, including housing for orphans and a governmental office building. Today, the Barracks is home to a museum about its very own history.

Gijs in a hammock

TGS students in hammocks

Learning History at a World Heritage Site

The museum’s current exhibit, “Convict Sydney,” explores Australia’s convict history, sharing the stories of some of the 50,000 convicts who passed through the Barracks between 1819 and 1848. Their forced transportation, daily lives as prisoners, and how they built the colony are all highlighted and explained as part of the exhibit. When visiting the museum, TGS students had the chance to experience what life was like for the convict residents of the time by trying on a set of leg-irons, and settling in to the convicts’ sleeping accommodations: hammocks. The museum also has a database to look up convicts’ names, giving TGS students and staff alike the opportunity to look up distant relatives who may have passed through the Barracks decades earlier.

Teacher Andrew McLean assigned a project as part of this Global Studies lesson: students used their iPhones to shoot video that tells the story of a convict. In the video, students have to answer such questions as:

  • Who is this convict?
  • How old are they?
  • What was their crime?
  • How long was their sentence?
  • What were the conditions like in the boat on the way over?
  • How long was the journey?
  • What was expected of them when they arrived in Australia?

Here is one example of one of the innovative ways students tacked this assignment. They jumped at the chance to combine technology, filmmaking, art, music and history:

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