Students helping ecology thrive along school creek
Category: News

Since 2018, the creek running along the edge of St Michael’s Lutheran Primary School at Hahndorf has been transformed into a thriving ecosystem thanks to students stomping weeds, picking up rubbish and restoring native plants along its banks. Both macro-organisms and microbes have been observed in greater numbers at the previously desolate spot, and lessons about the environment are now being practically taught at the creek’s edge.

School principal Terri Taylor said five years ago the creek was “wasted space” so the school decided to hire professionals to get it back on track, reintroduce native plants and learn how to manage the waterway effectively.

“We had to get rid of the blackberry bushes and the things that were dangerous in there and move some plants and trees, put the fence in, and once we had done that then we were able to take the children in,” she said.

In 2019, the students started getting their hands dirty, with half the school’s creek section ready to be rejuvenated by the young horticulturalists.

Water analysis

Beyond restoring the waterway to its natural state, students also took to the science lab to analyse water samples and adjusted their conservation activities accordingly.

As the years passed, the restored area expanded and Mrs Taylor said getting the students involved in the science behind it seemed to spark excitement in the project. However, she said the plan from the beginning was always to the get the community involved.

“We did one section with a grant from National Landcare and then the (Hills and Fleurieu) Landscape Board provided us with grants and we were able to get the second section done,” Mrs Taylor said. “The goal was to clean it up and use it as a classroom, like an outdoor classroom, so that we could take the children down there (and) do things like water monitoring, bird watching, look at frogs, look at micro invertebrates – all of those things.

Service club award

“But one of the things that we planned from the beginning was a walkway, (and) the council has allowed us to open up one end at Alec Johnston Park so people can walk into that area now.” The students’ conservation efforts have not gone unnoticed, and last month, they received the Service Clubs Association of SA’s Harry Tillyer School award after being nominated by the Hahndorf Lions Club. Club vice president Simon Westwood said the local Lions were “very proud” of what the Hills school students had achieved.

“We, as Lions, are very proud of the school’s achievement in both the project which will have positive outcomes for the community of Hahndorf as well as the award which is a great validation of their efforts over a long period,” he said.

Mrs Taylor said she hoped the project would inspire other property owners along the creek to restore their sections so the native ecosystem could thrive across the entire town once again. “It’s a great little community space (but) it does get impacted by things up and down the creek so we’re constantly having to clean it up and keep on top of it,” she said.

This article and image originally appeared in the Mount Barker Courier, 8 March 2023. Author: Sean Murphy.

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