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Think Tales: Embracing & Understanding Our Origins & Past
The goal of the project is to help the students become story thinkers of their own cultures, origins, languages by getting them to read stories, tell stories, write them and reflect upon the values and messages of these stories. The project was inspired from the dreamtime or dreaming stories of origin of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and histories. This project focuses on the indigenous cultures of Sabah Malaysia located in an island of Borneo, like Kadazandusun, Bajau and Ilanun. The primary project consists of three aspects: (1) Familiarizing students with stories related to indigenous cultures native to our state, Sabah Malaysia of Borneo. (2) Encouraging them to share their stories orally based on their experience, memory or perspective. (3) Getting them to write their stories. Although it focuses on the indigenous cultures in Sabah, it can be expanded to include other non-indigenous cultures as well as replicated in different contexts, cultures & countries. With their consent, the stories can be published online and perhaps in print.
An on going research has been conducted on the use of indigenous stories as teaching resource and the outcomes were positive as students became more engaged in telling their stories in English language. A series of workshops for teachers has been carried out several times so teachers can be more culturally competent while being able to explore students’ origins and cultures to increase their level of engagement in class. The plan also involves visits to cultural centres, places and interview people in order to gather more information in making this project more meaningful and successful. Materials like photos, videos, articles, painting and objects that can be linked to indigenous cultures may be used to stimulate discussion and interaction in the class for students to share their stories.
As someone who belongs to one of the indigenous groups, I myself have written approximately 75 stories and poems and a special collection of these stories comprises of indigenous stories related to my own native ethnicity, Bajau, one of the main native tribes in Sabah. I uploaded them online n received great downloads and feedback. This is how I became passionate in pursuing this project and I would my students to tell and write their stories and we can get them published. This is crucial so so they can learn to be proud of their origin , embrace their culture and own their identity.
Think Tales is the original name I gave to my collection of stories and poems that I started to write since 2011 and has been downloaded worldwide with that as its title. The word "Think" in Think Tales refers to how the stories stimulate their thinking skills to interpret, analyze and evaluate the meaning of the stories and the various aspects of their indigenous cultures. This helps them to deepen their understanding about indigenous traditions and histories, raise their awareness about their significance and appreciate its diversity and uniqueness.
Significance of the Project
Sabah is the poorest and most isolated state in Malaysia but it is the state that is rich with diverse languages and cultures. It is located on the island of Borneo, the third largest island in the world and home to dozens of indigenous groups of people. Thus, there is a need to preserve and enrich indigenous cultures that makes Sabah a unique, peaceful and multicultural land especially when modernisation has slowly eroded the native cultures. The younger generation especially school students play an important part in maintaining the richness and uniqueness of their cultures by linking or discovering its role in their life or their community like childhood memories, meaningful experience, traditions, foods, legends and myths etc. This is how “Think Tales” empowers students to celebrate their origins, childhood, family, traditions, community and languages by becoming story thinkers. Stories are meant to be told, to be listened to, to be read, to be written, to be understood, to be imagined and on top of these all, it is to be established as one’s identity.
There are several essential objectives of this project. It is meant to raise students’ awareness on the importance to understand their cultural backgrounds, embrace them and establish them as their identity. This helps them develop self-concept, self-esteem, cultural pride, grit and passion for their own cultures. This is essential for students in Sabah located in Borneo as this state is a home to dozens of indigenous groups of people and the current generation tends to see their culture as travesty to modern lifestyle. They feel embarassed, worried or insecure about who they are and where they come from. Hence, this project aims to make them realize that their origins are the greatest aspect of their true selves.
This project has great classroom potential use especially in English language education that can provide students voices and platforms to communicate their stories to their classmates and to the world. Such story-based teaching that is tailored to their local cultures will engage them actively in their learning and they will directly contribute to the preservation and enrichment of the different cultures in Sabah and Malaysia in general. However, this approach can be replicated and applied in other contexts in different countries with different cultures.