Above: Students from Penbank Campus – Woodleigh School planting along the Balcombe Creek.
Students from Penbank Campus – Woodleigh School on the Mornington Peninsula have swapped the classroom for the creek, where primary school children are actively involved with a Balcombe Moorooduc Landcare Group habitat project.
A day at school can involve researching, designing and creating habitat for indigenous fauna along a section of the Balcombe Creek at Mt Martha. Students start by researching the habitat requirements of their chosen species. This knowledge is reinforced with hands-on learning through habitat creation. Habitats include frog bogs, lizard lounges, nestboxes for birds, possums and bats, logs for bush rats and bug hotels. The students work with different tools and materials to build habitats.
The wider school community, including parents, grandparents and siblings is encouraged to attend revegetation days, where students share their knowledge and parents can offer expertise, materials and a helping hand. The project is spreading awareness of the issue of habitat loss further into the community and providing the students at Penbank Campus with rich opportunities to improve their communication, problem solving and teamwork abilities.
According to teacher Matthew Chambers the project has provided positive experiences for the students involved.
“It is always a challenge to get children outside, away from screens and involved in authentic learning experiences. The habitat project provides a great way for children to connect to the outdoors.”
In 2016 students from year four used the habitat project as their learning focus. They extended their knowledge about how to build habitats with excursions to the Cranbourne Botanic Gardens and Melbourne Aquarium.
The focus on habitats renewed the students’ interest in monitoring and caring for the school’s wetland, including planning and running several revegetation days. Students have also held a fundraiser to raise money for materials for their habitat projects and improve awareness of sustainability issues. They have sponsored endangered animals and undertaken habitat projects at home. Some parents who have been inspired by their children’s interest have contacted the local Landcare group for information and advice. Teachers have also noticed that students are now more likely to choose the environment as a project topic.
Matthew Chambers was keen to acknowledge the work of local Landcarer, Tony O’Connor, in supporting the project.
“Tony came up with the idea for the Balcombe Creek Nature Trail project and then approached our school to be a part of it. “We begin each year at his property looking at what he has done to attract wildlife. He’s involved in every session. Tony really is the heart and soul of the project,” Matthew said.
At the heart of this habitat project is a partnership between a Landcare group and a local school. It has produced a practical, positive way for students to take action on environmental issues and helped to involve the whole community in protecting their local creek.
“I enjoyed working at Balcombe Creek. I planted so many plants I got blisters! I would like to become a politician because I would like to change Australia to make it a better place by protecting the environment.” Leah Reaper (9 years old).
“I really loved building different habitats for native animals. I learnt what different native animals need to survive and how to attract them by building homes and planting indigenous plants.” Emma Groves (10 years old).
“I enjoyed Balcombe Creek because we get to work in the environment. I liked creating the frog habitat by digging a frog pond and planting native plants.”
Cate Fillipone (9 years old).
“The one thing I most enjoyed about Balcombe Creek is how to live with nature. I also enjoyed learning about animals, like what they like to eat and where they like to live. I also enjoyed learning about when animals are active, like how nocturnal animals are active at night.” Chris Coombs (10 years old).
“Balcombe Creek Nature Trail was awesome! We learnt how to make homes for Australian animals. Connecting with the wildlife is amazing. I’m making a frog habitat!” Molly Morgan (9 years old).