Melbourne’s Merri Creek is a great educational site for the schools close by. It’s an important cultural site, protected and restored by the local community, and home to lots of native flora and fauna. So when Newlands Primary School, located close to Merri and Edgars Creeks, wanted to undertake a biodiversity project, they decided to get in contact with local Landcare group, the Merri Creek Management Committee (MCMC), to lend a hand.
Having received a Powerful Youth Project grant, the school engaged with environmental educators from the MCMC. They hosted excursions and incursions to help the students involved in the project better understand biodiversity and the interconnectedness of living things in the natural environment. They helped identify key species of flora and fauna native to the local area and understand human impact, habitat creation, and biodiverse planting. The students loved getting up close and personal with the creek environment, and observing birds, insects, and signs of other animals living in the area.
Learning about biodiversity and local ecosystems helped the students prepare a large site within the school grounds for their native garden. 180 students weeded and mulched the former grassy area and planted it with more than 300 indigenous plants of more than 25 species. The garden will provide fauna habitat and food sources as it matures. It also provides nature play areas and shade for the students.
Some of the 30 volunteers also involved in the project were parents, who installed natural play elements – balance beams and stumps – alongside the new indigenous planting to encourage children to interact with the planting when it is more established.
Evidence abounds that opportunities for unstructured play in nature benefits children’s wellbeing and the creation of a more varied and more vegetated school yard was warmly welcomed by the children. Through increasing appreciation of biodiversity, the children have also developed a foundation from which to understand broader issues of sustainability and the way humans interact with other life.
The Powerful Youth Projects are funded by Momentum Energy through its partnership with Junior Landcare.