International Connections

Professor Paul Clarke - PopUp Foundation

NATURALLY SMART – Professor Paul Clarke, United Kingdom

AISNT connected with Professor Paul Clarke, Executive Director of the Popup Foundation, in 2013.  Paul is an educationalist and global leader in sustainability.  He advocates that as educators ‘we need our teaching and the conditions we generate for learning, to be informed and guided by nature, its systems and solutions’.  As educators, we need to connect our students to their environment through experiential learning experiences, so that they learn to work within their local natural environment, to achieve a healthy planet.

Paul has developed the Naturally Smart program and established a global network of schools, that are digitally connected to share project ideas, involving connecting people to place, through sustainability activities focusing on developing a connection with the space they live in.  Each school place is unique, and each project is designed to enable students to work with the local natural environment, to develop an understanding of the unique ecosystems and how to preserve them.

Paul has conducted workshops with staff from our Schools, with a focus on developing localised teaching and learning programs, with a focus on connecting people to place, through historical narrative and observation of the local environment, including ecological systems. 

These workshops were followed up in 2015 with a Sustainability Study Tour, to the United Kingdom and France, led by Paul. 15 staff members from schools participated in this professional learning experience. Participants were taken on a tour of a places in the UK and France, each place had a historical narrative, that connected people to that place, showing the development of humankind through the use of innovative technologies, starting with the relics of the Mesolithic and Neolithic tribes, in the Orkneys, to the modern architecture of London.  The tour finished at Millemont Chateau in France, with participants using the first iteration of Paul’s Naturally Smart program, to reflect and plan on how to reimagine their school spaces, to make them sustainable. Paul then used our observations of using the program, along with other partners around the globe to refine the Naturally Smart program, that is now available for use by schools on the Naturally Smart website.

Member Schools have had the opportunity to connect with the global community through participation in the Naturally Smart program.  Nyangatjatjara College, an Aboriginal Independent Community School located in remote Central Australia, is an active member of this network.

Paul returned to Australia and used the Naturally Smart program with staff at the College.  He workshopped staff at two of the campuses, and together they plotted to develop a master plan for each campus, to make each school ‘Naturally Smart’.  This included the reimagining of spaces at the campuses, to build gardens that included local bush tucker and plants; food gardens; water capture processes and rubbish recycling procedures.  He then worked with staff to develop teaching and learning programs, that connected students to their country. 

Paul spent some time at the Docker River Campus of Nyangatjatjara working with the school and wider community to design and build a sustainable garden, using permaculture.  There was much excitement after the chooks laid their first eggs.  Elements of the Naturally Smart are now evident in the community. 

Claire Warden, Mindstretchers

NATURE PEDAGOGY – Claire Warden, Scotland, United Kingdom

AISNT connected with Claire Warden who is an educational consultant and experiential pioneer in 2013.  Claire has developed a unique approach to nature pedagogy.  Claire used this approach to develop a Nature Kindergarten in Scotland, which is an outdoor living classroom, where the teachers use nature to provide children with authentic learning opportunities. This approach provides children with ‘an understanding of our sense of belonging to land, our sense of working with nature. There is a pedagogical shift when you move outside into nature... it's learning with nature, not just teaching about it'. Claire advocates the importance of providing learning opportunities for students to interact with nature in their local environment.

AISNT brought Claire to Darwin, where she ran a series of workshops for teachers. Staff from Milkwood Steiner School, located in the Top End attended.  Through these workshops, staff shared and built upon current pedagogy used at the school.  As a Steiner School, nature-based play is a major part of the teaching and learning program.  Milkwood has developed a Seasonality and Nature Studies Program, which utilises the local, tropical environment of the Top End.  Students regularly go on field trips to interact meaningfully with nature.  Students use natural products in the classroom, in Art classes.

The Alice Springs Steiner School is located in Alice Springs, in remote Central Australia.  This school also utilises the local environment, connecting students to their natural environment through their teaching and learning programs.  This school has established an on-site community garden, which utilises permaculture techniques.  The food is used in cooking classes and excess food is sold to the local school community members.

Dr George Otero, Center for Relational Learning, New Mexico

RELATIONAL LEARNING – Dr George Otero, Center for RelationaLearning, New Mexico, United States of America

AISNT connected with Dr George Otero, Director of the Center for RelationaLearning in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2016.  George has worked extensively with Native Americans in New Mexico and established the Center for Relational Learning.  George works with schools to focus on the importance of relationships. We know that relationships hold the key to educational success. As educators we know the factors that determine achievement, well-being and better life chances, and we know that parents, communities and schools must work in partnership to assure these outcomes for every child.

AISNT brought George to Darwin to work with staff from our Member Schools.  Through his workshops, participants had the opportunity to examine how they can improve understanding and connectedness for their school community, and to improve learning outcomes for their students. Conversations during the workshops focused on the importance of engaging families in learning, building social capital, and strengthening relationships between all members of the school community.

As a followup to the workshops, AISNT took representatives from two Aboriginal Independent Community Schools, on a Study Tour to New Mexico. Each school brought teams, which were made up of representatives from their governing bodies, school leadership, teachers and Aboriginal Education Workers.

Participants engaged with Native American communities, known as pueblos, which reinforced the importance language and culture plays in the development of self-identity in students, and how connection with, and confidence in, their own self-identity, enables them to be one person, who can seamlessly engage in two cultures….and not have to be two people, who change identity as they move between cultures.

Yipirinya School was one of the participating schools in the Study Tour.  Yipirinya School is located in Alice Springs, in Central Australia.  It is ab Aboriginal Independent Community School, with a governing body, that is representative of the four language groups.  It caters for students who reside in the Aboriginal Town Camps in Alice Springs.  The School has developed and implemented a ‘two way’ teaching and learning program, which is bilingual and bicultural, and embraces the Aboriginal cultures of the students who attend the school.  The School has developed teaching and learning programs and support materials and resources, for four Aboriginal groups.  The School produces its own books in the four languages.  The cultural programs are taught by community members from the four language groups.  The elders of the four language help in the development of the support materials and resources, some of which involved the capturing of their oral dreamtime and cultural narratives, which were made into books.

The School has developed an ‘On Country’ program, and students are engaged in cultural activities, where the elders and community members take the students ‘On Country’ to participate in activities that embrace their culture. The governing body has also established a Culture Committee, which is responsible for the overall culture and language program of the School.

Professor Russell Bishop, Culture Counts

CULTURE COUNTS – Emeritus Professor Russell Bishop, New Zealand

AISNT connected with Emeritus Professor Russell Bishop in 2015. Russell is the Professor of Maori Education at the University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. He is the initiator, lead designer and developer, and for the first twelve years, was the Project Director for Te Kotahitanga, a New Zealand Ministry of Education funded research and professional development project that seeks to improve the educational achievement of Maori students in mainstream classrooms through the implementation of a culturally responsive pedagogy of relations and culturally responsive leadership. Russell advocates for the need for school leaders and teachers, to provide a classroom context where caring and learning relationships, which are paramount to the educational performance of Māori students, can be developed.  Through his research, he developed the Culture Counts program.

AISNT took a delegation of educationalists from the Northern Territory, including a Senior Manager from the Department of Education in the Northern Territory, representatives from the Indigenous Education Council of the Northern Territory; representatives from Member School governing bodies; school leader and teaching and non-teaching staff on a Study Tour to New Zealand to engage with the Culture Counts program. Participants visited schools throughout New Zealand where the Culture Counts program has been fully implemented, and evidence demonstrates improvement in student attendance; student engagement and student well-being.  Connections were made between the Culture Counts program and the potential for implementing the principles of this program in Australian Aboriginal Community Schools.

AISNT brought Russell Bishop to Darwin to provide workshops for Member Schools, with high numbers of Australian Aboriginal students, who were disengaged and not achieving at school.  As Maori students do not learn the same way as Non-Maori students, Aboriginal children do not learn the same way as Non-Aboriginal students. Russell workshopped participants in the importance of developing and implementing culturally responsive pedagogy and providing an engaging classroom, where caring and learning relationships are central to the teaching and learning programs.

Bringing culture into the school. Connecting community and school. Lessons of how kids learn naturally in their own culture and environment.

Tiwi College, which is located at Pickertaramoor, on Melville Island, north of Darwin, is an Aboriginal Independent Community School, which is also a boarding school.  It’s boarding program is based upon Family Group Home model, where each Family Group Home has a House Parents, who are the ‘parents’ of the students, while they are at the College.  The students board at the College for four nights (Monday to Thursday) and students go home to their communities on Fridays for the weekend.

The boarding program is closely aligned to the College’s teaching and learning program.  The College, in collaboration with the House Parents has developed and implemented culturally responsive pedagogy into its teaching and learning programs.

The Tiwi have a long history and connection with Australian Rules Football, with many Tiwi playing for top AFL teams.  The College has implemented a timetable structured on the ‘quarters’ of the game.  The College has AFL players and ex-players on staff.  The College has connections with AFL teams, who visit the College and conduct AFL clinics.  There are two Academy’s established, one for boys, one for girls, which offer sporting activities for young Tiwi.

The College embraces the Tiwi culture and language.  The College holds Tiwi Culture nights, where the community come into the College and share Tiwi culture, including dance; body painting and cultural rites and practices. These nights also serve to enable Non-Tiwi teachers to experience firsthand, Tiwi culture.  An ‘On Country’ program has been developed, where students go onto country with community members, to learn about their culture.  This sharing of culture gives teachers an insight into the students they teach.  Teachers are then able to use this cultural knowledge to develop classroom practices and teaching and learning programs that are relevant and engaging.  Assessment practices and results clearly demonstrate strong participation from students and higher achievement academically, since the introduction of culturally responsive pedagogy.

Dr Stephen Brown - The Brown Collective


AISNT has been privileged to develop a relationship with Dr Stephen Brown, Director of the Brown Collective.  Stephen is a world leader in educational leadership and practice.  Stephen has been instrumental in working with AISNT and the Member Schools on a number of very successful Leadership Development projects, including Study Tours; workshops and forums.

His work on the 2016 International Benchmarking Study Tour to Hong Kong, inspired the Head Teacher, Karen Kohler, from the Good Shepherd Lutheran School, St Andrew Campus, to pursue a Sister School relationship with St Anthony’s International School in Dili, Timor Leste. From her experiences on the Study Tour, she saw the importance of establishing global connections with schools in Asia. AISNT looks forward into supporting both of these schools into the future to develop an interactive relationship, which will grow to include teacher exchanges; student exchanges; online connections; student tours and professional learning activities for staff.

Stephen has also greatly assisted us both in growing our knowledge and understanding in the realm of global connectedness and inspiring us to look at a variety of opportunities for international interactions between educators, schools and students. 


Some of our schools have embraced the opportunities global connectedness offers.

Haileybury Rendall School, Darwin

  • Campus in Tianjun, China
  • CRICOS School – enrol international students
  • Partner Schools
    • Timor-Leste
    • Philippines
    • Japan
    • France
    • United Kingdom
    • USA

The Essington School Darwin, Darwin

  • Junior School Ambassador Program
  • CRICOS School – International students enrolled
  • Sister School relationships:
  • Chiang Mai, Thailand
  • Jakarta, Bali, Kupang, Indonesia
  • Tokyo, Japan
  • Memorandum of Understanding with Tamagawa University and School, Japan

St Philip’s College, Alice Springs

  • Round Square School
  • Exchange students
  • Short term exchanges to other Round Square Schools
  • International Service Projects - Travel to Asia, Africa and South America to assist in many deserving community projects. They can range from digging wells for a better water supply in Asia, building a classroom in a school in Africa, building a storage facility in a village in Honduras or building a community hall in a village on Tanner Island, Vanuatu.