I was browsing the DVDs in our local library a month or so ago and came across a series from the Australian Children’s Television Foundation called My Place. I’d never heard of it, probably because we never watch TV. I tossed the DVD onto my pile of books, thinking it was worth taking a look at it. If we didn’t like it, we could just return it next time we visited the library.
So a day or so later, Sophie, Gemma-Rose and I sat down to watch the first episode of the first series of My Place, not knowing a thing about it. From the opening credits, we realised that the series tells the stories of different children who have all lived near a particular fig tree, but are separated from each other by time. Later, I discovered the series is based on the book, My Place, by Nadia Wheatley:
My Place series 1 adapts the book, written by Nadia Wheatley and Donna Rawlins, into 13 episodes about 13 children who live in the same house over 130 years (2008-1888). Their special place is the fig tree that represents a place of belonging.
Each episode is a complete story about one child in particular, but that story is also part of a larger story that reaches back in time. We meet some of the characters in more than one episode. The girls felt like detectives: “Look that’s Mike from a few episodes ago but here he’s only a boy!” Stepping back into the past, ten years at a time, is certainly different from watching a series that moves forward in time.
Some of the stories are better than others, but all are great starting places to discuss events in Australian and world history. Each episode is packed with themes, relevant to the time: Kevin Rudd’s Apology speech to indigenous Australians, boat people and refugees, the Vietnam War, World War I… I’d recommend watching with your children so you can discuss and explain as you go.
The series is visually rich with authentic costumes and settings and activities appropriate to the time period.
When we reached the end of the series we were found ourselves in 1888. By this time, we’d bought a copy of Nadia Wheatley’s book My Place. The book travels further back in time, well past 1888, and so I wondered if there was a second series of My Place. I did some browsing online and discovered not only a second series, but also two associated websites.
My Place for Teacherscontains clips from the series, scripts, still images, summaries of each episode, themes and additional resources, a decade timeline, teaching activities, behind the scenes… a wealth of extra information.
From this site, we followed a link to the ABC3 My Place website. This is an interactive site. If I click onto 2008, I see:
Explore Laura’s house
Visit the canal
View the Community tree
There are similar options for all the episodes. Different places in the community are explored but the same house is returned to again and again, as we pass back in time. It was so interesting seeing how kitchen appliances, toys, garden equipment, food,… even bags… have changed over time.
The girls really enjoyed this site: looking and learning, answering quizzes, solving puzzles.
The other day, the My Place Series 2 DVD arrived in our mailbox. Now we can’t wait to travel back in time from 1878 to 1778 and beyond.
In the meantime, the girls are busy re-watching series one (we bought our own copy). This time they have decided to start at episode 13 and work their way forward in time. No doubt they will watch My Place many times.,, all except episode 9: Bridie. “It was a good story,” says Sophie, “but much too sad.”
So summing up, I would say:
My Place is a very entertaining and effective way for children to learn a lot about the history of Australia.