Keith and his ‘crew’ plot a course for the future

Vietnam veteran, Ken Duthie helped Year 6/7 students construct wooden sailing vessels. Pictured with Ken are, from left, Johnson Vo, James Hyde, Jade Goggins, Dinah Petsios and Theodore Kakamanoudis.
Vietnam veteran, Ken Duthie helped Year 6/7 students construct wooden sailing vessels. Pictured with Ken are, from left, Johnson Vo, James Hyde, Jade Goggins, Dinah Petsios and Theodore Kakamanoudis.

Students at Virginia Primary School are taking a “hands-on” approach to learning history, with a special project seeing them work alongside a Vietnam veteran to create wooden ships.

Former Third Battalion Royal Australian Regiment soldier, and the 3RAR Associations’ vice president and school military history officer, Ken Duthie, led the collaboration.

For more than a decade Mr Duthie has volunteered his time to work with schools across Adelaide, and relishes the opportunity to give students a first-hand look at history.

He has access to many military artifacts and uniforms, which the students are fascinated by and keen to learn more about. VPS history and cultural studies specialist teacher, Caterina DiTroia, said the project really reflected the school’s philosophy of engaging students in their learning.

“We have been looking at early colonies of Australia with a particular focus on the first fleet,” Ms DiTroia said.

“Within that focus we have also been looking at the indigenous perspective of European settlement.

“He (Ken) has this broad knowledge and the children are particularly fascinated with his personal involvement, that’s how he captured their hearts.”

Under Mr Duthie’s guidance the Year 6/7 classes worked in small groups to construct a ship out of wooden pop sticks. Mr Duthie said it was a process which gave students confidence in themselves.

“They are proving to themselves they can do anything,” he said. “Self respect and direction, that’s the whole issue.

“I tell them it’s their Australia, they are the people who are going to be running it, and we’ve got to give them ownership.

“And this is a great learning exercise for them.”

VPS principal, Ilia Tsoutouras, said the unique program also had strong literacy and leadership underpinnings and was a wonderful way to make history learning more relevant.

“This is bringing history to life,” he said. “It’s making it real for our students.”

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