Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Mount Alexander Schools Landcare Days 2016

Posted on 28 September, 2016 by Asha

There were students as far as the eye could see; sorting through macro invertebrates, feeling the soil, looking for birds and building nests. Over three Tuesdays in September 2016, close to 380 Grade 5/6 students from 15 primary schools in the Mount Alexander region attended Connecting Country’s Schools Landcare Days. The idea developed at a Landcare Link-up last year, as a way to engage kids and their families with the environment around them. As all the locals know, we’ve had an amazing amount of wet weather lately, which meant that two out of three of our Schools Landcare Days were held at the Harcourt Leisure Centre, and one at Vaughan Springs on a rare sunny day.


Students learning about different soil types with Brendan Smith

The activities each day were designed to teach students about natural processes and cultural heritage, and to encourage them to think of ways they can apply this knowledge to look after their local area. The wonderful Patrick Wilson from Doxa Youth Camp in Malmsbury came to all of the days, and maintained an infectious energy for aquatic ecosystems and macro invertebrates. Brendan Smith from Parks Victora had students laughing and getting their hands dirty while he talked about the importance of soil structure and health. They also transferred some young grasses into trays for planting out later, which for some students meant ducking out of the warm Leisure Centre and braving the icy wind outside!

On August 30th Jida Gulbil kindly came along and discussed Dja Dja Wurrung culture with students, helped by his beautiful didgeridoo (or, as Jida joked, his “telescope to see the stars”). That day we were also treated to an activity run by students from Chewton Primary School. Supported by Naomi Raftery, Marie Jones, and Julie Holden; Jet, Scout, Max, Amara and Emma ran an activity looking at food webs and thinking about what happens if you take elements out of a food web.


Looking for aquatic macro invertebrates with Patrick Wilson

Our second Schools Landcare Day was held at Vaughan Springs, so Krista Patterson-Majoor was able to take students for a walk in the bush to learn about our local ecosystems and what has influenced the landscape we see today. Colin Lyons from Parks Victoria joined Krista to give his insights into the heritage aspects of the area. Meanwhile, Cathy McCallum and Graeme Harris from Baringhup Landcare were helping students to find and identify some mysterious bird cut-outs that were hidden in some very tricky places. In a quiet spot down the track, Asha Bannon and students were talking about Landcare and drawing soundscapes of what could be heard around them, which included lots of birds, lots of water, and lots of people!

On the last day, we had Aunty Julie and her students from Castlemaine Secondary College: Shakira, Grace, Cohen, Zeppelin, and Bailey. With help from the secondary students, the Grade 5/6s tried to match cards with seasonal events (e.g. “Wedge-tailed Eagles are breeding”) to the correct Dja Dja Wurrung season. This proved to be quite a challenge, but a great way to get everyone thinking. At the end of the day, all of the students had a nest to take home built at Nicole Howie’s birds nest activity. As Nicole said, it’s hard enough to make a nest with your hands, imagine how difficult it must be to make one with your beak while on the look out for predators.

A huge thank you to all of the amazing presenters who came along and gave it their all. The feedback from schools on the activities has all been extremely positive, and it was easy to see how engaged the students were with what they were learning. Thank you also to the teachers for being so supportive, the students for your patience and interest, and the Landcare members who came along to chat with schools and join in. Finally, we thank Nicole Howie for her hard work putting the days together.

The Mount Alexander School Landcare Days were made possible with funding from the North Central Catchment Management Authority Community Grants Program.

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