Menindee up to the challenge of defeating distance

While the majority of students are learning at home, schools are finding creative ways to maintain a sense of community.

07 April 2020
A woman wearing a Menindee Central School shirt hands a box over a fence to another lady.
Image: Staff from Menindee Central School deliver ingredients to school families on Friday in preparation for the Menindee Kitchen Rules cooking challenge.

In Menindee, the initials MKR have nothing to do with celebrity chefs and reality TV, instead it is all about maintaining a sense of school community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, staff from Menindee Central School visited the homes of every school family with a box of ingredients to launch the Menindee Kitchen Rules (MKR) challenge.

The box contained pasta, tinned tomatoes, garlic and grated cheese. Families were invited to create a pasta dish using a maximum of five ingredients in the sauce and then asked to send a photo or video of their dish to the school.

The school was sharing the photos and videos on its Facebook page and had been inundated with comments from the community about the event.

School parent Jade Halls said the food challenge had been a really good idea as it was practical support for families, but also provided some entertainment for the community.

Like many other parents commenting on the event, she said it was a great way to encourage the children to cook.

“The school is supporting them not just in education, but also in life skills,” she said.

School principal Fiona Kelly said the challenge was a way of keeping the school connected with its families during the period of learning from home.

She said parents and students were responding positively to learning from home, and it was important to also keep the sense of community alive while students were not at school.

Ms Kelly said the food challenge was also a practical way to help families during the pandemic given the community’s remote location, almost 120 kilometres south-east of Broken Hill.

“We know people are going to struggle. By giving them the ingredients for a meal at least that’s a meal taken care of for them. It’s our way of helping out our families in these uncertain times,” Ms Kelly said.

The school was also supporting younger students with a daily storytime video on Facebook and encouraging parents to share photos of their children studying at home.

The school was also going to deliver fruit and vegetable box to each family ahead of the Easter break and include games such as packs of cards and a few Easter eggs for the children.

The MKR challenge would continue into Term 2 if students continued learning from home.

Floraville Public School principal Simon Mulready was also concerned about keeping students connected to school despite learning at home.

“School is a big thing for kids,” he said. “It’s not just the learning, but the interaction with their teachers and the whole school experience.”

When learning from home became the main mode of delivery, the teachers of the Newcastle school’s four Kindergarten classes, dressed in tutus and blowing bubbles, spent six hours delivering work packs to each of their 78 students.

“We wanted to make it a fun experience for them, because students are really missing that connection to school,” Mr Mulready said.

“There were some magic moments and the smiles on the kids’ faces really warmed our hearts.”

He said the work packs were particularly important for young students as it would be too challenging for them to sit in front of a screen all day.

Mr Mulready said the school had been overwhelmed by the support from its parent community.

“We’ve created a wall of appreciation at the school where we are sticking all the messages that come in,” he said, adding that some parents had offered to do grocery runs for the time-strapped teachers.

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