Head of Junior School, Maria Hodges, explains the importance of the Sustainability Garden for boys and girls at Wesley College Junior School.
The three ‘Rs’ – reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic have always been at the heart of education, but recently they have been joined by three more – reduce, reuse and recycle.
Admittedly, the six ‘Rs’ might be a little unwieldy, but the truth is, in modern education the need to be aware of sustainability is an important addition to the essentials of Mathematics and English.
After all, while the three ‘Rs’ will always be the building blocks for the curriculum, we can’t ignore the need for humans to change our habits to protect the planet for future generations of children.
Teaching our children how to do this is vital – from learning how to eliminate waste, to vermicomposting, to growing their own vegetables.
In fact, the Melbourne Declaration on Education Goals for Young Australians, identified sustainability as an area of prime importance for young people to learn about. As teachers, parents and a community, it is our charge to take this on to ensure we equip our children for their futures.
This is a large responsibility resting upon us. The good news is it is fun and children love this subject area. If many of us think back to our own childhoods, it was not uncommon for us to have many sustainable practices as part of our regular lives growing up. I don’t remember it being called sustainability or it being something I ever thought about. It was just what we did.
In our house, dad had a large compost bin and we would save our scraps and turn the big barrel handle around and round until it was ready to put on the garden. A trip to the tip with dad was the best and we would search for recycled goodies to take home and furnish the cubby – much to mum’s disgust!
Our back yard had lemon and fruit trees and even some chickens roaming around. Digging, planting and harvesting were part of our everyday lives and when we were hot and thirsty a long drink from the garden hose did the trick!
We made cubbies out of sticks and bits of rubble we found, we dug in the dirt and splashed in muddy puddles after it had rained. We collected eggs and picked mulberries from any neighbour who happened to have this delicious fruit growing, coming home stained from the juice running down our chins!
Our swings were recycled tyres hung from trees and our skipping ropes were literally ropes dad gave us once he was finished with them. It was real and it was fun.
This also happens to be the kind of environment we provide for our children in the Junior School. The chickens, mud, and materials to build a cubby can all be found in our Sustainability Garden, along with plants for children to grow and tend to. They can even nibble on the result of their efforts when the harvest comes around.
We are fortunate that we have the expert guidance of our Sustainability teacher, Sarah De Laeter, who ensures the children are taught about the safe handling of equipment and materials as well as overseeing the garden program and classes with the children.
At the end of each term, a Market Day is held where the children sell their produce to families. The money raised funds the garden and the program.
So, of course, every child at Wesley learns the very best in reading, ’riting and ’rithmetic – but they also learn the very best in sustainability. Skills that help them see themselves as part of the wider world – a global community trying to do our bit to protect our planet. As we push further into the 21st Century, that is vital.
Plus, the carrots are delicious.
This article first appeared in the Wesley College magazine, The Wesleyan. To read more articles, please click here.
Subscribe to Wesley College News & Events