A Rare Gem in the Goldfields



Language Program

Daylesford Primary School; Country Victoria, Australia.

November 2016


Tilka Brown

Daylesford Primary School.

Sitting comfortably halfway up the hill on Vincent Street, is Daylesford Primary School. She has maintained this position for a few years, about 140 actually. She is a grand Treasure Chest located in the former Victorian Goldfields and inside, great riches can be found. One of the most valuable gems – and the reason for my visit – is the highly successful Italian Language Program.

Even before you step inside the front door, it is clear that the Italian Program here is a well-respected and integral part of the school curriculum. There is an art installation, which contains the names of students who have achieved excellence in their studies of the specialist subjects. Each year, the specialist teachers (Art Teacher, Performing Arts Teacher and the Italian Teacher, Trudi) identify one student each who has displayed consistently excellent results in each of the three subject areas, not necessarily based upon academic results.

“It’s really difficult choosing just one student,” Trudi informs me.
“But I look for that one child who has shown a consistent love for learning Italian.”

A difficult decision indeed. How do you choose just one student out of a whole year-level of dedicated and enthusiastic learners? And this is no exaggeration.

My visit this time was for only one day, but it was long enough for me to confidently state that students of all classes – Prep to Grade Six – enjoy attending their Italian lessons.

This, I believe, is largely due to the dedication and effective leadership displayed by Trudi – although she humbly disagrees; “It’s a whole-school team effort.” Yes it is, but the best teams are led by a passionate and confident leader.

Speaking of leaders, another example of the high level of whole-school respect for the Italian Program, is the existence of ‘Specialist Captains.’ There have been School Captains and House Sport Captains for many years at Daylesford PS but last year saw the introduction of ‘Specialist Captains.’

In order to receive such a prestige position, interested Grade Six students must apply, conduct an interview with the Specialist Teachers and then give a speech which demonstrates why they should be elected. The successful candidates – two students per specialist subject area – are awarded with school badges and are called-upon for various tasks throughout the school year. And for the Italian Captains; they are kept rather busy!

Clear communication and clever collaboration are two key ingredients for the success of this delightful Italian program. The staff here understand the many benefits that accompany additional language learning.

Tilka Brown

This art installation is a celebration of outstanding students.

Tilka Brown

Daylesford PS staff and students are proud participants in the annual Swiss-Italia Festa parade.

They know that by learning Italian, their students are gaining skills which will assist in their literacy development, – amongst other things. And because of this knowledge and respect for learning Italian, the classroom teachers are only too happy to help Trudi with her program. “I’ll often send work back with those students who didn’t quite get it finished.”

I could hardly believe my ears; “And the classroom teachers are ok with this?!” I asked. “Yes, of course!” It seems that even when they have a million things in their planners already, classroom teaches will happily agree to help Trudi in any way they can. Wow!

An annual project which requires an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach is the schools’ participation in the Swiss-Italia Festa.

Each year the townspeople of Dayleford and neighbouring Hepburn Springs, come together in celebration of their strong links to the Swiss and Italian settlers of the district in the 1850’s. For five days, the regions’ finest food and wine is on-show; performances by local and visiting artists are a musical treat to the ears and restaurants open their doors to conduct marvellous culinary workshops with world-renowned chefs.

The children of the community are encouraged to showcase their artistic skills by submitting their pieces to the Swiss-Italian themed children’s exhibitions. But the hands-down highlight of the festa is the Grand Parade and it is this in which the students of Daylesford Primary School play an integral part.

Tilka Brown

Daylesford PS staff and students are proud participants in the annual Swiss-Italia Festa parade.

Tilka Brown


In the weeks leading up to the festa, Trudi, her colleagues and the senior students are super busy preparing the props. Every year, puppets make an appearance. This year, two larger-than-life-sized puppets – Nonna e Nonno – were the schools’ feature.

The parade theme was ‘Let us tell you our story’ and these characters signify the telling and sharing of stories from one generation to the next. Following the parade, families gathered in the nearby Mineral Springs Reserve and enjoyed a wonderful day of music, food, dance, circus and theatre! And what became of Nonna e Nonno?

Well these marvellous props now sit proudly on display in the Italian classroom, serving as constant companions to the many students who happily skip through the doors. The enthusiasm for and learning of Italian by these students is clear. And whilst it’s not necessarily possible for each school to participate in a festa of such magnitude, this model can be replicated on a smaller  school-based level – for any language.

Tilka Brown


Tilka Brown

Classroom posters such as these are used by students and teachers.

The point is this: the children and their teachers are applying their language skills in a supportive and highly engaging  learning environment.

During the rest of the year, Italian is incorporated throughout much of the daily activities. My visit occurred on a Tuesday which meant that I attended the whole-school assembly in the morning. The Grade Six assembly leaders invited the children who were celebrating their birthday for the week, to come forward to the stage.

Once standing proudly, their peers and indeed the whole-school community, broke out in song and sang ‘Tanti Auguri A Te’ – Happy Birthday in Italian! Marvellous! But it extends beyond this. The music teacher incorporates the teaching of Italian songs into her planners and programs and classroom teachers commence their days by marking the roll in Italian, asking each student “Come stai?” (How are you?); their students respond confidently.

Italian is also incorporated into Maths sessions with teachers and students knowing and using the Italian words for the four processes.

Tilka Brown

Daylesford PS has a fabulous Italian kitchen-garden program!

And as for the Kitchen-Garden program? Well, this is naturally FULL of Italian links!

Sandra, the enthusiastic specialist teacher, fully embraces the use of Italian in her classes. There are multiple displays all around the learning space and items are clearly labelled.

‘Il frigo’ (the fridge) is labelled and there is a wall-display of common cooking phrases – all in Italian! A fantastic inclusion is the ‘Growing and Harvesting’ photo board.

It contains labelled photos and images of the produce which is currently growing in the schools’ garden and the produce which is ready for harvesting. So simple, yet so effective.

Tilka Brown

Daylesford PS has a fabulous Italian kitchen-garden program!

At one point during my visit, I asked a Grade Two student if she liked learning Italian. Her response was a resounding “Yes!” “Why?”, I prompted. “Because I can talk to my Grandma and if I ever go to Italy, I’ll be able to talk to them too.”

Clearly this seven-year old has a solid grasp on authentic learning. Another student, an older boy in Grade Four, responded to my same question with; “Yeah it’s great! It’s interesting learning another language so when I go to their country to play soccer, I can understand what they say.” A kid with a vision and a clear understanding of his purpose for learning Italian.

After what was an action-packed and highly inspirational day, my time at Daylesford Primary School came to an end all too quickly. I sadly bid farewell to the students and teachers and gave Trudi a big hug, thanking her for everything.

I stopped by the Principal’s office and thanked him for allowing me once again into his school. I shared my experiences from the day and sang the praises of his staff and students.

“Yes, we’re lucky to have Trudi aren’t we?”

I absolutely agreed. That’s the thing with gold; if you’re lucky enough to find it, you never want to let it go.

Well done Daylesford PS, you are a Stella School!

By Tilka Brown
©The Language Toolbox

For more information about Daylesford PS, please see their school website: http://www.daylesps.vic.edu.au