15 December 2023

Students' outdoor success earns Fairy Meadow school environmental award

| Keeli Royle
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Fairy Meadow Demonstration School students.

Fairy Meadow Demonstration School has been celebrated for its Living Classroom programs. Photos: Keeli Royle.

Young green thumbs have been planting the seeds for success at Fairy Meadow Demonstration School with students earning top honours in a local environmental competition for the second year in a row.

The school’s Living Classroom program helps connect the next generation with their surroundings and teach them ways to be environmentally friendly and about sustainability by working with a horticulturalist.

“In the garden we like to do harvesting and we learn about the environment around us,” Year Four student Amahli Dobbs said.

“I just really liked learning about the garden and learning about everything around because I used to know nothing about trees names and now I know heaps of stuff and it’s taught me all about where I actually live and all the trees and nature around me,” Year Three student Bronte Narbutas added.

READ ALSO Warrawong High students get a buzz out of latest addition to ‘living classroom’

Principal Gavin Hoy said the program had allowed kids to get hands-on experience beyond the traditional classroom setting.

“There are lots of cross-curricular aspects that we can teach here,” Mr Hoy said. “It is an opportunity for students to get outside of their classroom environment and learn about mathematics, learn about science, use it as an outdoor space for literacy.”

Amahli and Bronte were two of the students singled out by Wollongong City Council staff for their amazing contribution and dedication to rolling up their sleeves and getting involved.

“I’m a hard worker and I think it’s good to do some hard work around here,” Amahli said.

Amahli and Bronte in the living garden

Amahli and Bronte received individual awards for their work in the Living Garden.

The entire group received the Rise & Shine award for most improved, marking back-to-back wins in the category.

“We love to see a local school engage with their environment and take a hands-on approach to growing food, managing their natural ecosystem, investing in good waste management systems, and conducting research,” a Wollongong Council spokesperson said. “Congratulations to Fairy Meadow Demonstration School and its students.”

“A lot of these students are out here because this is their talent, this is their passion; they may not necessarily excel across the key learning areas but they found their niche and so to be recognised in that sense is a great thing because they possibly don’t get it in some of the academic or extracurricular areas,” Mr Hoy said.

READ ALSO Wollongong volunteers celebrated for their dedication to protecting the local environment

The care and commitment from the students are evident in the growth of the garden itself, and the keen kids want to see it go even further.

“Last year when we started it was so small, you’d never think it would grow this much,” Bronte said. “I want it really big with a lot of fruit and a lot of veggies.

“Like a forest,” Amahli added.

And the school has big plans to make it happen, with a P&C subcommittee established to seek further opportunities for the garden, like an outdoor kitchen, with hope that more people can become a part of the project.

“I want to bring the community in, want the outside into our school; I want this to be a hub for Fairy Meadow,” Mr Hoy said.

“I’m hoping in the future there will be self-guided tours here where teachers can come through on their own or in small groups. Our preschool can access it, our support students are able to come here for certain things and hopefully because of our association with the University of Wollongong there might be some way that we can partner with them for the longevity of the garden as well.”

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