DLA Piper has provided assistance through regular volunteering initiatives with Gardeners Road Public School since 2008. The school specialises in individual educational programs for 40 students with a range of special needs. Our DLA Piper volunteers coordinate and accompany the students on city excursions, visiting main attractions such as the Opera House, NSW Art Gallery, Sydney Museum and the State Library to broaden their experiences and help improve student’s communication and social skills.
In the last year, DLA Piper volunteers and students from Gardeners Road School have visited and taken part in learning programs at the State Library three times.
Each one of our visits have been facilitated by Andrea Sturgeon, the Library's fantastic Education Officer. Andrea conducts tours of the old and new sections of the library and also delivers interactive activities for the students, specifically tailored to their learning curriculum. Andrea is always friendly and polite to our group of volunteers and students, and she always keeps them engaged and interested with her wealth of knowledge on the history of the library.
Some recent examples of tailored activities include:
A special visit to the Shakespeare room to learn about the stained glass windows that depict the Seven Ages of Man referenced in Shakespeare's play ' As you like it'. In the Glasshouse Learning Space, the students completed an activity displaying how much they had learned about Shakespeare. They also had the opportunity to draw a picture from their own favourite stories to take home to share with family and friends. The activity was tailored to complement the students current studying of storytelling and narratives at school.
On another visit, to complement their Australian history curriculum, the students viewed early maps of Australia, and artefacts from Antarctic expeditions and the gold rush. Inspired by early landscape writers and painters, the students then created their own book of Australian scenery.
Both the volunteers and students have enjoyed every excursion to the State Library, as each visit is different. The volunteer program, including our visits to the State Library, is helping the students develop a broad range of skills and give them a degree of independence to move safely and confidently when they are out and about amongst the community. The teachers and parents have provided feedback that the program has improved the student's social skills (eye contact, voice volume, social distance, talking and listening) and confidence. Many of the students from the program have gone on to mainstream schooling, which is the long-term goal of this program.
Volunteers have mentioned that the program enables them to give back to the community and learn the art of communicating and being patient with children. After an hour with the students, most volunteers come back to the office with a big smile on their face, sharing that they're grateful to be a part of a program like this. Our volunteers often feel it's refreshing to take part in activities that are so different to their daily work in a law firm.