Timely workshop helps keep community safe

Real-world learning took on a new meaning after Walgett students held a sewing bee to make face masks.

13 August 2021
Two students work beside each other at a sewing table
Image: Fabric of the community: Walgett students made face masks as a response to the pandemic. Photo: George Williams Photography.

If superheroes wear masks, then students at Walgett Community College High School and their peers from Collarenebri Central School are their communities’ superheroes.

On the day this week when Covid came to Walgett forcing a snap lockdown, an Education Week activity of making face masks had an immediate impact on keeping this tight knit community safe.

On Wednesday young students, school captains, members of the Junior Aboriginal Education Consultative Group (AECG) and the AECG’s Pirru Thangkuray program worked together to create cloth masks as a practical response to COVID-19.

Senior Leader for Community Engagement at Walgett Community College High School, Roslyn McGregor, said the sewing bee to create masks for students and their families was inspired by the Education Week theme of Lifelong Learning.

The workshop was developed to incorporate maths, design, graphics, textiles and problem solving in a hands-on activity. but it also had wider aims – to remind students of their lifelong responsibility to help others, teach them the importance of taking practical action in a crisis and to impart a message driven by young people to keep their communities safe during a pandemic.

Students chose and measured fabric, some using a sewing machine for the first time and staff were involved ironing fabric, cutting out patterns, fixing sewing machines and serving lunch.

Ms McGregor said students were really engaged by the activity and finished two or three masks each, making one for their Mum, Nan and Pop, or younger brother or sisters.

Plans to have more sewing bees in the future were under way with the intention of students holding a fundraiser market day, developing a business plan and selling masks to the wider community.

Ms McGregor said these plans would have to wait until the snap lockdown in North West NSW – introduced at 7pm on Wednesday - was lifted.

However she said, until then the masks made by the students were already helping their own community.

Ms McGregor said she was delighted to enter a local shop after school on the day of the sewing bee and see the students’ labours being appreciated.

“It made me very proud to see a mask that a student had made for her mum, already being worn, less than an hour after it was finished,” Ms McGregor said.

“Our ongoing Education Week project is called Winangay, which in our Gamilaraay language means 'will know, will understand, will respect, will love', and that’s what I saw [in the workshop].”

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