The Wild Side of Newham Primary School.
Written with the assistance of the Newham Primary School Writers’ Group.
To view the published article in the recent Landcare Magazine go to Victorian Landcare & Catchment Management Magazine.
Newham Primary School is surrounded by nature. Sitting in in the shadow of the iconic Hanging Rock, the school is bordered by farms and rural holdings.
The school is home to 90 students and a host of animals including galahs, magpies, possums, the occasional koala and lots of bugs.
Over the years a strong environmental focus and close relationship with Landcare has helped to make Newham Primary School an example of sustainability in the local area.
Partnering with Landcare
The Newham and District Landcare Group formed in 2004 and has had an association with the school since 2006. The group works to revegetate and rehabilitate land and promote sustainability in the community.
Working closely with the school has helped to showcase the work of Landcare, as well as improve the school environmentally and aesthetically.
Parents also work with Landcare to propagate indigenous seeds, which are then sold. Money from the sale of these plants is returned to the school for use on the grounds and for environmental excursions and presentations.
Long-Term Environmental Monitoring
A tributary of Deep Creek runs along one border of the school. Jenny Waugh, a retired science teacher and trained Waterwatch Monitor works with the school to assess the creek.
The program was started with the support of the Landcare group and the grade 5 and 6 students have been testing the water in the creek as part of the Waterwatch program for nearly 8 years.
Jenny describes the site as ideal, as the creek runs right past the school and the students can collect water without having to travel far. “Waterwatch testing is now embedded in the school’s program and it has been an excellent way to involve the school and younger members of the community in Landcare” Jenny said.
“The first thing the students learn is where their local creek and community fits into the landscape. Deep Creek is in the uppermost headwaters of the Maribyrnong River, so our testing provides the first set of data along the course of the river to Melbourne.”
Waterwatch also teaches students many scientific skills such as the accurate use and reading of scientific equipment, recording of scientific data and interpreting results.
Newham Primary School Principal, Julie Soutter said Waterwatch has been a very valuable program that has helped students to experience real-world learning. “I love seeing kids out here doing real science and using scientific equipment, it is good for the students’ understanding as well as being good for the creek,” Julie said.
At Newham Primary School it is not uncommon to walk into a classroom to find a mushroom farm or an insect brought inside at the end of recess by an enthusiastic student.
A key focus of the school’s environmental and science curriculum is to make use of the opportunity to study the environment at the back door. A specialist teacher takes students for weekly science lessons and the local environment is often featured in the students’ learning.
Students have also worked with Landcare during science classes to learn more about how to improve the environment. With the assistance of Landcare, seeds were collected from indigenous plants and sown in pots, which were later transplanted into tubes. After the holidays, a baby forest had sprung up. These will soon be planted, adding to the revegetation along the creek.
Living more sustainably has extended to the veggie patch which is now part of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. Students have learned about constructing wicking garden beds, composting and when best to plant and harvest. The program also helps teach kitchen skills and how to cook a decent meal.
The school has also recently committed to the ResourceSmart AuSSI Vic initiative that helps schools benefit from embedding sustainability in everything they do. Focussing on sustainability across the school will help save on energy, water and waste bills and it also means students will take home lessons on sustainable actions.
Working with Landcare and the community has helped us as a school to better understand the local environment. According to Julie Soutter, “It really helps us understand the local plants and animals and how our environment works.”
“It’s important for kids to know about ways to conserve the planet for future generations.”