Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Rebuilding of a Primary School

Middle Kinglake Primary School (MKPS) was destroyed in the Black Saturday bushfires that hit the Kinglake Ranges. The full devestation of those fires is difficult to fully comprehend, even to this day, when you consider the lives lost, the destruction of such a large number of homes, businesses, community assets, and the turmoil, grief and stress that the fires caused to so many people.

My two boys are students at MKPS. Ben, my youngest, had been in Grade Prep for all of one week when the fires destroyed the school. Here is what part of the school looked like before the fires.

The school itself was established in 1898 (as confirmed from the MKPS School Song). Until relatively recent times, the student population had been fairly small (there was even threats of closure during the early years of the Kennett era), and since my involvement with the school in 2006, student numbers had been steadily increasing. The school enjoyed a good reputation as a result of the hard work of then principal Ed Gill (principal for 20+ years) and following his retirement by the current principal, Janette Cook, together with the many fantastic teachers, aides, staff, parents and friends that make up the school community at MKPS.

Due to the increase in numbers in the years preceding the fires, the school's classrooms were mostly in portables. School Council had spent considerable time trying to work out a Master Plan that would allow for growth on land that was steep, and expensive to develop to accommodate more students.

The fires on Black Saturday completely destroyed the school buildings, and pretty much everything else on that block of land.

Temporary solutions were provided after the fire that included use of facilities at either Epping or Kinglake and by the start of second term temporary facilities had been built on land located at the Kinglake Memorial Reserve, right next to the football oval.  These facilities allowed the school to regroup as one community, and provided structures that in some way were superior to the buildings that were burnt to the ground.

Still, good as they were, these were only temporary facilities and the school would be rebuilt (The Prime Minister himself made that pledge). 

I mention all this because yesterday we celebrated the official reopening of the school (The school was ready for the first day of school on the 4th Feb). The State Ministers for Education (Martin Dixon) and Children & Early Childhood Development (Wendy Lovell) attended a small formal ceremony to mark the event. Channel 10 News were good enough to attend the event, and to screen the report last night.

The school is not at the old site. Thanks to the generosity of one of the local farmers and their donation of land, the school has been rebuilt on a much larger, and more usable site. The site also accommodate the new Childcare Centre/Kindergarten/Maternal Health Centre and also has a large multi purpose building, courtesy of the BER (Federally funded).

The facilities are a world away from those the school had access to pre fires. The artist's impression of the grounds are shown below (the school is in the middle, up the back. The multi purpose hall is on the left and the early childhood centre is on the right). And the artist's impression ended up being pretty spot on.

The school website shows the construction of the school and the hall on timelapse. Look out for the snow days. The weather threw everything at the builders, and they still completed construction on time.

Now I could go on an on about the living wall, the running track, the undercover courts, the interactive whiteboards, the open plan of the school rooms, the music and art rooms etc etc, but I wont. You get the idea that this is a pretty special place. And that's just the facilities. With the same great bunch of people working there, this is one of the finest schools in the state.

Thanks heaps to the school reconstruction committee for their incredible hard work in getting the school rebuilt. This is something that our community can be proud of, as these facilities will only make it easier for our kids to get the education they deserve.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Whose Line Is It Anyway?

Well, it's crap getting a cold in the middle of summer.  After more than 2 years without so much as a sniffle I've had two colds in the last 6 weeks.  This one shirtfronted me, meaning I've been laying in bed for much of the last two days. It's times like this that you fully appreciate the unlimited entertainment value that is YouTube.

During times of illness I tend to head towards looking at comedy, probably to try to get me out of the state of self-pity that one seems to get into when one is home, sick. I'll also look for comedy that I haven't previously seen on television here. Whose Line Is It Anyway (or WLIIA) fits that bill and there are hundreds of clips from the shows on YouTube. Hours of fun.

Taking Wikipedia as my authority here, WLIIA was originally a UK concept (first on radio with Clive Anderson and Stephen Fry and then in 1988 - 1998 on TV) that the US then adapted, where it ran from 1998 - 2007. The UK host was Clive Anderson (seen on Australian TV now on some episodes of QI) and the US presenter was Drew Carey (best known here for his comedy series The Drew Carey Show).

The format of WLIIA was as a comedy improvisation show, whereby the host would provide instruction to a panel of 4 performers. 2 of the panel were on every show in the US - Ryan Stiles and Colin Mochrie, whilst a third, Wayne Brady appeared on all but 9 of the 220 episodes. Ryan and Colin were also on a large number of the UK series. Other notable performers include Stephen Fry, Peter Cook and Jonathon Pryce in the UK and Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg and Stephen Colbert in the US.

Each show consisted of a number of different games, all based on either acting or singing improvisation. Some of the games also involved audience participation.

One of my favourite segments was called Sound Effects and involved two members of the audience that would use their voices to provide appropriate sound effects for Colin and Ryan as they act out a scene described by the host. In most cases the audience members don't have much of a clue and the comedy stems from Colin and Ryan interacting with the poor sounds provided to them.  The scene below is proably one of the best examples of this:

Another segment was called Scenes From a Hat, where the audience provides various scenarios that the performers then need to act out, drawn out of a hat by the host:

Some of the best performances in improvisation were provided by Wayne Brady in the musical segements. In my opinion singing improv is a couple of steps above acting improv. Here is Wayne is a segment called Greatest Hits:

The final segment I'll show here is another one of the rapid fire segments called Props, where all four performers need to use allocated props to act out different scenes. The tube below features Drew Carey actually performing, as opposed to hosting:

Whilst the show Whose Line Is It Anyway ceased production in 2007, Drew Carey has continued to use the general concept in a number of other shows such as Improv All Stars and Drew Carey's Green Screen Show.  This year he is producing a new show called Drew Carey's Improv-a-Ganza based pretty much along the same lines as WLIIA.

It's a pity that there was never an Australian series of Whose Line Is It Anyway. I guess Thank God You're Here, produced by the guys at Working Dog, would come close, as an improv comedy on the TV.  And Theatre Sports, off screen. I can alwys hope that WLIIA will be made in Australia some day. In the mean time, thank you YouTube.