The Northern Gold Coast Catchments Schools Engagement Program 2014
Natura Education provides quality environmental education programs for primary and high schools, early learning centres, tertiary and international students and the wider community throughout the Gold Coast and beyond. In the early part of 2014 our team had the great pleasure of being involved in the Northern Catchments Schools Engagement Program. This program focused around native riparian tree planting and water quality monitoring at sites in both the Coomera and Pimpama River Catchments. The project was undertaken as a free community service initiated by the Catchment Management Unit of Gold Coast City Council, which aimed to actively involve primary school students in the upper Gold Coast regions in the improvement of waterway health within local catchment areas.
The program was designed to engage with local primary school-aged children in such a way that their awareness and appreciation for the value of their local natural environment would be increased. In particular, the importance of the health and quality of their local waterways and the riparian habitats that surround them would become a tangible entity that the children could see, feel and touch so that their experience might shift the way they think about the environments in their own backyards. More importantly, the children could start to see how all of our activities have an impact on the local environment’s health and viability.
The catchment education and tree planting days also promoted the Coomera and Pimpama Study Guides, which are a free resource available to all teachers to educate students on the importance of healthy catchment areas. The study guides focus on learning about everything that happens within a catchment area and how this affects water quality. These study guides are an invaluable resource for teachers and are available from the City of Gold Coast website free of charge (find the Coomera River Catchment Study Guide and Pimpama River Catchment Study Guide here).
A total of 298 students from six local schools took part over the eight days, with students ranging from Prep through to Grade 7. These busy children worked together to plant a total of 2,940 trees along the banks of the Pimpama River and Clagiraba Creek. On each day the children also undertook biological water quality testing and plant identification activities. Water testing involved the collection of macro invertebrates from the waterway before counting and identifying them in order to see what the species found indicated about water quality. The plant identification activity required the children to learn more about the local plant community and then collecting their own plant samples and pressing them in readiness for mounting. The completed pressed plant posters were subsequently displayed in local libraries to showcase the student’s work and raise awareness throughout the wider community.
The program was considered to be a resounding success with teachers and students alike providing positive and enthusiastic feedback about their experiences. In the words of Karen Page from Pimpama State School “I brought the year 4’s along today for a hands-on experience in the environment. It’s great to see the kids getting their hands dirty, planting trees, looking at testing water quality, understanding what happens in the catchment area not only affects that local area but also our waterways and how precious they are on the Gold Coast. It was a great learning experience.” (See Karen’s full interview here.)
Kate Campbell from Mother Theresa Primary School said that “I think it was really great for them (the children) from an educational point of view as lots of the content that we covered in the classroom and explored they were able to be applied in a real-world context. And I think they thought that they were making a difference, which they are, which is great to see.” (See Kate’s full interview here.)
Of course, on the day, the happy faces of the children while being out and immersed in the natural areas within their local area certainly told a wonderful story.
Natura Education currently work with over 180 schools and early learning centres every year, providing environmental education in the form of curriculum aligned programs designed to engage and inspire students of all ages. We also specialise in the development of study guides, teacher professional development and community engagement. We are currently privileged to be teaching hands-on environmental programs to over 43,000 students annually.