First-Language play-based learning for Indigenous children

Millipede is currently raising funds for a pilot app to be trialled in the remote communities of the Warlpiri Triangle.

We believe that early learners in schools should be introduced to learning concepts in their first language. And, we know that young children learn best through play. Through past projects, we have found that play-based apps for young children have supported positive outcomes in educational settings, especially when contextualised through a culturally appropriate setting and deployed to tablet devices.

Nearly all Indigenous children in the communities of Yuendumu and Nyrippi start school speaking their home language—Warlpiri. These central desert communities are passionate about maintaining their language and culture.

In November 2018, we attended the Jinta Jarrimi workshop, held at Nyrippi, for Warlpiri teachers and linguists. This workshop was led by Gretel Macdonald—a linguist from Yuendumu School. We presented our proposal and spent a session concepting ideas with workshop participants, including teacher linguists, Indigenous literacy staff and Indigenous elders.

The participants at this workshop spoke of a lack of quality resources in Warlpiri, especially ones aimed at young children. They also identified an issue with a decreasing number of teachers in schools who speak Warlpiri. Together we explored where the affordances of a play-based app delivered in their first language could help support children in gaining foundational skills , before they start their transition to the English-based school curriculum.

We collaboratively identified early maths concepts, such as directional language, positional language and counting from 1–10, as a focus for the app.

Our proposal is to design and develop the app in Warlpiri for children in the early years (preschool–Year 2) with the following aims:

  • develop a sustainable program that has lasting impact, and can be easily deployed by educators and supported by trained facilitators
  • help support students successfully transition their first-language learning of maths concepts, across to the English-based curriculum
  • help support the maintenance of Indigenous languages, and to instil pride in children in their first language and culture
  • appropriately modify the materials for other Indigenous languages, as feasible
  • demonstrate to the Australian Government that supporting Indigenous young children to initially learn early literacy and numeracy concepts in the language they speak at home will help to achieve improved understanding and learning outcomes.

For more information, contact Millipede Managing Director Wil Monte.

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