January 27

Post Script to Remembering our Armed Forces and Giving Back

I was delighted to receive some mail in the holidays from some of the armed personnel who were given our care packages. That they took the time to write back to us was very thoughtful. All were impressed to hear we were learning about the conflicts and reasons for them being away from their families. We are glad that we made their day a little brighter and spread some Christmas cheer.

One from Jade from The RAAF who is currently deployed to the Middle East and missing her 4 year old daughter and Fiancee very much. Read her story.

We also received this lovely Christmas card from RAAF Officer Linda also serving in the Middle East who wishes you all the best of luck for year 4. read on.

The final card was from Lieutenant Fiona an Army Officer experiencing her first visit to the Middle East. She really loved your letter Matthew! She writes….

In 2016 I visited Vanuatu and saw first hand the tremendous support the Army gave to the Islanders after they were devastated by a severe Tropical Cyclone. We are indeed fortunate that these folk are working hard to support communities and protect Australia and her Allies. Once again we say a big Thank You.



November 26

Remembering our Brave Armed Forces and Giving Back

During our preparation for Remembrance Day, many discussions were had about the life and conditions of the armed forces during wars and conflicts. I shared my experiences of visiting Anzac Cove in 2006 and we talked about the battle that had taken place. I also shared with them the poem written by Ataturk and showed them a statue of soldiers helping each other out.

A deeply moving poem.

Headstone line the foreshore, young men who paid the supreme sacrifice.

Courage, Mateship, Bravery on both sides.

While discussing the past, the children were stunned to discover that in the present our service men and women  are still working to defend our country and help out our allies. They had also just watched the Christmas pageant and their thoughts are turning to fun times with their families.

I had heard from my husband Peter about a wonderful idea to spread some Christmas cheer to our scattered defence force. With the help of Australia Post, we could say thank you and acknowledge their hard work.

I put out a request for some donated items to place in care packages. The response was overwhelming.

Thank you all so much, I was touched by your generosity.


Each box could only be 2 kg. After weighing everything individually, the students had a task.

What was the total weight of our items and how many boxes do I need to get?

Each team was given a list of weights and as a team they needed a sub total. Once that was completed they could find the total weight. They could use any procedure to get their answer and could check it later with a calculator.

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They eventually worked out we that had 22.5 kg. of donated goods and that we would need 11 boxes. Given we had 7 teams, if we shared the donations we could make 2 boxes per team. They agreed and set to work!

Making and assembling the boxes was tricky. Then they needed to decide on what to give the soldiers they had selected.

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It was a great collaborative effort, thanks everyone young and old. We included a photo of ourselves so they knew we were thinking of them.

The words say  We wish you a Merry Christmas  Thank You 

Something to think about.

What did you enjoy about making the care packages?

What did you put in your box?

What do you think the soldier will say when they open their box?

Have you ever had to be away from your family?

How would you feel to be away from your family for a long time?

What are you hoping will be in a box for you at Christmas time?


June 12

Camp Illawonga 2017

We were busy packing on the weekend. There was a lot to bring to school!

Mickey courtesy of Tumblr

Week six had finally arrived. The day we had been waiting for since we started in grade three.

We were going …. Camping!


Most of Mrs Woolford’s year 3/4 class would be joining our excited campers. We left our families for three days and two nights. Would they survive without us? They would just have to be brave. But it was okay if some parents needed extra hugs good-bye.

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We had a long two hour journey to get to Camp Illawonga in Swan Reach, which would be our new home for the next few days. Thankfully the coach had comfortable seats and seatbelts.

Map from Illawonga home page

The road trip was fabulous, but travelling made us hungry, so we stopped to stretch our legs, have a bite to eat and of course have a little playtime. Angaston was the perfect place.

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Another short ride, well sort of …… and we were soon settled into our dormitories at camp. Our class was on lunch duty so it was straight to work. Yum … Tacos.

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Mark, the Camp Leader, gave us a lot of information and instructions about being safe for our stay and expectations around the camp site. Soon it was back on another bus for a short ride. We were crossing the Murray River on the punt to visit The Murray Aquaculture Centre. This was an interesting place where we learnt about almond farming and yabbies.

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That was fun because we also had a challenge  to see which team would catch the most yabbies. Yabby catching sounded simple enough, but there were some tricks to learn…… patience.

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The girls were Yabby catching heroes, how did they do it!

The sun was going down, and it was getting cooler, but there was still so much to do… more duty groups for tea.

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After our delicious meal, we went into the gym for some outrageously exciting fun. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring the still camera!… But trust us, we worked up an appetite for a yummy supper with twisting and jumping, turning and rolling, hanging and falling…… before it was time to hit the sack. We had a huge day planned so we needed our beauty sleep.

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Some of us slept soundly. Poor little Scarlett.

Up and at em, the next morning was quite eerie. A mysterious fog crept in, it threatened to hide the sun… but we found it.

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Lucky the Sun burnt off the fog by the time we were ready for our river cruise. We needed our floatation devices before we could walk down to the boat.

While we went on the cruise, the other groups went on a caving expedition and a Safari ride. We would all rotate activities throughout the camp. Once again, I left the still camera behind for the cruise… but I remembered it for the ride to the caves.

Those hard hats were fabulous protection, without them I think we would all be a little shorter!

After that adventure we had a short bushwalking to a HUGE river red gum. That tree was so big we just fit around it! We had enormous fun building Tepees with all the twigs and sticks lying around.

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Each time we visited the river, it meant a short but steep 400m walk down a gravel path… naturally we had to walk back up too. That was tiring, luckily Ellen makes us do fitness each week so it was a piece of cake.

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We needed to get back to camp quickly, as we had to get ready for an exciting adventure at Sunny Dale sheep farm.

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What a whip cracking great time we had. We really earned our tea that night. In fact some us sang after supper! Karaoke was so much fun, we have stars in the making. Stay tuned for the videos.

It was a perfect night for a camp fire.. but oh,we forgot to sing a Letter from Camp! Still the planets were smiling for us in the night sky. Then of course the marshmallows needed toasting… yum.

Time for bed, it was a big day indeed and it isn’t over, there’s more to come. To bed!

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Getting up wasn’t that easy, lots to pack and clean up before breakfast and be ready for our last activities. I missed the Safari ride, but I did managed to check out archery. We had some bullseyes. Bravo.

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All too soon we needed to pack the bus and say our goodbyes to Mark and the team. Camp was the best. Three cheers for Illawonga.

We reckon it was sad to leave, but we were glad to get back home to our loving families too. Thanks to our brave Dad, Shane Brow who gave up his time to help with the boys and group C.

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Dear Families,

Apart from a few sore tummies, there were no problems just loads of fun and learning. Thank you so much for allowing me to borrow your precious ones for those few days, we have some wonderful memories. Stay tuned for some great videos the kids will be working on. I might have a go too.

Warm regards, Ellen

November 25

Respect, Friendship, Enjoyment, Diversity, Identity

These are the values that are at the core of what we do here at Grange Primary School. fb_img_1479645417651

Cricket Australia will be promoting the Australia Day Match soon and they will be using this picture.

The two girls proudly holding the Australian flag are Jorja and Jordan both of whom attend Grange Primary School. Jorja is a student in our class, Jordan works in our Games Day Buddy class.

Both great friends and who, in a moment of time, have captured the essence not only of what our school values, but indeed what Australia does. I think this picture speaks volumes.

Thank you Jorja for sharing this with us, now we will share it with the world.

If you could put a slogan under this picture what would you write? Let us know.

August 28


Hi everyone,

I have missed being in touch with you and thought I’d let you know what I was up to these past few weeks. As you know I went to a couple of islands in Vanuatu with my husband Peter. Here is a map showing you exactly how far I travelled. It took almost four hours to fly there from Sydney. Have you ever been on a plane? Where did you go?Vanuatu Islands map


As you can see Vanuatu is about the same latitude as Cairns, so if you have ever been there the climate is very similar. This part of the world has a tropical climate so there are lots of rainforests and the terrain is mountainous. I stayed on the largest island Espiritu Santo for ten days. The local people refer to it as Santo. Then we caught a plane to go South to a smaller island Tanna for the remainder of our holiday.


vanuatu map_lrg

In Santo Peter and I stayed in a resort by the ocean in a small Bungalow and I was able to look out of the rain forests to watch the ocean.

Of course the first thing we did was to snorkel the warm waters, where we found some interesting creatures. Have you ever been snorkelling?

There are some amazing rivers that are fed by underground springs. We were able to travel by traditional canoe down one. Peter even got to paddle, then we were able to swim in a blue water hole. An absolutely incredible experience. How do you feel about sitting on little boats or canoes? Do you think you could paddle one?

Of course there was more snorkelling and more friends to meet in the waters.

On Santo there are villagers that want to share how their traditional way of life works so they invite visitors in to show us their ways. They build all their huts and make various tools from their favourite tree .. the coconut tree. For them it a sacred tree because it provide so much. They get to drink the water/milk, coconut flesh to eat, cophra for cooking, husk and fibre for weaving, wood for building, the shells can be used for utensils or decorations. It is truly a useful tree nothing is wasted.

The villagers met us with a welcome dance and then showed us to separate huts, one for how the women and girls were taught and the other how the men and boys learnt what to do. Only men are allowed to make fire, they showed us their way in the women’s hut. They also make a special drink called Kava which was interesting to taste, it made my tongue and lips go numb!  But on other islands in Vanuatu, Kava should only be drunk by men.

I loved the dances by the people of the village. At one time all the women went into water and made music with their hands by slapping the water. it really sounded as if they had drums, amazing. While they are not an aggressive tribe, they pretended to threaten us in their dance routine… mm was I scared?

Yes we did more snorkelling, but we also went to visit the higher villages and do a trek to The Millennium Caves, so called because they were opened to public visitors in 2000. For this trip we began our walk at a small village where we were introduced to a tribal elder who would escort us to the cave. As we walked through his village we saw a small school, the teacher kindly allowed us to photo them learning their A,B, C’s. I noticed how carefully they were repeating their teacher. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Remember our research on Papua New Guinea? This country is very similar in lots of ways. How does this school compare to ours?

As we trekked through this village we came upon another close by where we met another guide. So Peter and I had a guide each to check we would safely get through this adventure. One obstacle to get over was a bamboo bridge. That was fun. Then it was through the jungle. we were given information about the different plants and their uses and warned not to touch certain ones!

Our trek took us deep into the jungle and through lots of hilly and steep terrain. Thankfully the villagers had built ladders to climb down or had ropes to hang on to. The sun was shining that day and it became quite hot. However this is an area with high rainfall so this track can get very muddy indeed. Before we could enter the cave, our guides painted our faces with symbols to represent the water, rocks and animals of the cave system.


What an honour to be allowed to go in, I was getting excited because I knew there would be bats in there! Once we got way down to the cave’s entrance we could sense a new adventure just beginning. This cave is 300 m long 30 m wide and 50 m high. We had to walk through water and the base is mainly rocks and pebbles.. very slippery! Lucky we had torches and our life jackets! How do you feel about going into strange wet, dark places filled with flying things?

Inside the cave it was quite cool, I could hear a lot of flapping sounds, I think we startled the small fruit bats and swallows that call the cave their home. Every now and then small bits would fall on me…bat poo! It was quite strange walking through the chilly water in the dark and trying to keep from slipping. After walking for some fifteen minutes, weaving through the twists and turns of the cave, we came out to a small river that ended with huge boulders. We would need to climb up over these.

It took about half an hour to get over the large boulders and then we had the best experience, floating down the river through the canyon. That part was awesome.

There we in fact several rivers to float and swim through as the water level was low. There are times of course when visitors would not be allowed to do this when the river levels are very high. we were fortunate of the drier season. On the way back to Tony’s village he showed us the village garden. They grow all their needs and then bring excess to market. We had a fabulous time and were thankful of our guides help for the dangerous bits. We completed the trek in about four and a half hours, apparently we did well because we heard the next group took twice as long,but then it was a group of twenty and it had rained the day before so everything was very muddy, but we did feel proud! Do you grow any vegetables or fruit to eat? What grows in your garden? Have you gone trekking? Where did you go?

On our last day in Santo of course we did more snorkelling. This time we went to Million Dollar Point. During the second world war Vanuatu was used by America as strategic command base. When America no longer needed to be there, they wanted to sell their equipment to the French government, who, knowing America couldn’t take all that equipment back, said they wouldn’t buy it. They thought that the Americans would leave it behind. But the American army had other ideas, they built a jetty and sent all their excess tanks, tractors machines etc into the ocean, if they couldn’t take it no one would have it. That is why the area is known as Million Dollar Point as there was quite a lot of money tied up in that equipment.

We said good bye to Santo, we really enjoyed the country and loved the friendly and helpful people. We learnt a lot about their way of life and had a lot of fun in exploring their place. But the real adventure was yet to come. We boarded a little seven seater plane and headed for Tanna. This island is much smaller that Santo and in many ways a lot more isolated. There are no sealed roads on this island so getting around was very bumpy and took a long time. We stayed with a lovely couple called Tom and Margret who have some small bungalows they allow people to rent.

Our home on Tanna

Our home on Tanna

Last year Vanuatu was hit by a powerful cyclone, Tom said he lost all the roofs and a lot of other things, I was impressed by the work he had done to repair everything.

Naturally we went into the pristine waters to snorkel and met some very odd creatures indeed.

On this island I visited another village that prefers to keep to their traditional ways. Anni the wife of the village chief took us on a tour of her village and showed us the traditional way of making Laplap, a delicious dish made by grating banana, mixing with coconut meat and juice and placed in leaves and cooked over hot stones. She also told me how they read the jungle and use the seasons to know when to plant or collect certain foods. Like all villages they welcomed us with dance and song. The people in this village wear traditional dress so with respect for them I will just show you these images.

Near by is what Tanna believes is the world’s largest Banyan Tree. I read that it was as large a football field and I was very skeptical ( that means I didn’t quite believe it!). But I have to tell you it is true! It took me fifteen minutes to walk around.

That dark green patch is the tree!

That dark green patch is the tree!

Now it is hard to get a scale in this picture but if I stand next to one of the little sections you can see that the first branches are just starting to show.

Tiny section of the tree

Tiny section of the tree

But of course there was only one thing I really wanted to see on Tanna and that was Mount Yasur. The old man of the island the world’s most accessible active volcano. I was hopeful that we would have a clear night in that it had rained quite heavily the night before. Yay, no rain! Now volcanoes have certain levels we needed to be aware of

  • 0 – Low activity not much to see
  • 1 – Normal Activity no real danger
  • 2 – Moderate to high with intense activity visitors permitted but danger exists
  • 3 – Severe activity dangerous – no visitors
  • 4 – Major eruption extreme likely hood of danger to population

Of course I didn’t want us to be put in danger but level two would be nice!


The volcanic dust plains

The volcanic dust plains look closely and you might see some extreme skiing going on.

Being a volcanic region there is a lot of geothermal activity. Here a local woman is showing me how she uses the hot springs to wash her clothes and also to cook her food. she gives us some cooked banana to try.


Julia shows me the pool she is cooking her food.

Before we are allowed to enter the cars to ride up the steep road to visit Mt. Yasur, we need the permission of the tribal chief, thank fully he said yes!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We depart around five o’clock that way we will be on the mountain as the sun goes down and the view is said to be spectacular. We found out it is level 2 with high activity yay!

4wds took us most of the way and we walked the last hundred or so metres. It was of course cold and very windy but how AWESOME IS THIS! to be on top of an exploding mountain a real live volcano, whoo hoo! Watch as the spectacular display develops as the darkness descends.

We watched this fantastic experience at a safe level about 600 m from the crater for about an hour and a half. Nothing will make me forget the whoosh and sound as the crater seemed to breathe and then belched rock, gas and heat continuously. It was truly mesmerising. But sadly all too soon it was time to descend the mountain. Ah, but I have movies! So I can relive Mt Yasur over and over again! Have you seen the Earth in its raw power? What did you see, where was it?


These were just some of the highlights of our time on Vanuatu, there were a few other adventures and events that took my breath away but the sun has set on this holiday. We are now planning another.

I shall share more in class. While it is fun to travel it’s good to be home.