Every year, Year 9 students from Billanook College visit the Melbourne CBD as part of their annual City9 experience. The program introduces students to the rich diversity and cultural history of Melbourne.
This week, the synod centre will host 96 Billanook College students and their teachers as they embark on their City9 journey. The synod centre provides a home base for the students throughout the week.
Monica Kutt is a humanities and PEARS (Personal Enrichment and Religious Studies) teacher at Billanook College. She also coordinates the City9 program for the school.
“Five years ago, Billanook College undertook the task of creating and running its own city program for Year 9 students in collaboration with the Uniting Church VicTas synod and Dan Donahoo of Project Synthesis,” Ms Kutt said.
“It has grown and evolved each year to give our students a unique opportunity to explore and experience the Melbourne CDB in different ways.”
On Monday, students took part in The Great Race, where they tried to locate Billanook teachers hidden in various spots throughout the CBD. They were assigned points for completing certain challenges, such as spotting Aboriginal flags and finding different plants that grow in the city.
The activity presented students with an opportunity to visit iconic sites including Hosier Lane, Royal Arcade, Federation Square, Chinatown and the State Library of Victoria. They also interacted with people on the streets, such as tourists, buskers, police officers and The Big Issue vendors.
“By using a combination of formal tours, playful challenges and self-directed activities, we get them out and about each day,” Ms Kutt said.
“The students build resilience, problem solving, collaboration and creative thinking amongst other skills, as they learn to see the city in different ways.”
The students embark on a variety of tours throughout the week. This includes visits to the NGV exhibition 200 Years of Australian Fashion, the pop-up playground at Federation Square, an Olympic-themed tour of the MCG and Melbourne Sports Museum and a tour of the Shrine of Remembrance.
The students share their adventures on Twitter and use the hashtag #city9 to document their experiences and encounters in the city.
“Technology is an integral part of how we connect and converse with the students on City9,” Ms Kutt explained.
“By using Twitter, there is a constant dialogue of photos, comments and videos that form the backbone of recording their experiences.”
During the week, students are invited to slow down and appreciate the wonders of the city. The teachers and facilitators aim to give time and space for the students’ to explore at their own pace.
The synod staff are included in this journey of discovery. Staff were invited to collect tiny objects and place them on a Table of Tiny Treasures, which students will continue to add to throughout the week. The table symbolises all the tiny things we might miss in our busy day-to-day lives.
Ms Kutt said the City9 program is an invaluable part of the schools’ curriculum and creates lasting memories for the students.
“This week is the highlight for most students of their time in year 9 and the stories and experiences each year form a unique narrative for the students to treasure,” she said.