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Archive for the ‘Recent courses and workshops’ Category

On 16th July 2009, eight teachers, parents and volunteers of Nashville State School’s wondrous food garden participated in a full day Permaculture Design workshop, giving them a range of skills for maintaining the various natural and developed systems that make up a functioning garden.

Participants learned about integrated pest management, relative placement of elements, soil fertility management (including composting) as well as gaining a strong understanding of the ecological principles that underpin this sustainable design system.

Many participants were surprised to discover that Permaculture design is not synonymous with organic gardening, but is actually a system or approach that can be applied to many aspects of life including human social systems, educational methods and economic structures.

The day was lots of fun and participants are looking forward to a cming wokshop in organic growing techniques, followed by a session on linking curriculum to the school garden.

The workshops have been developed for the school by Growing Communities and Living Schools.

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In late 2009 Living Schools worked with the Australian Association for Environmental Education (NSW) to implement the Write it up! workshops and mentoring project. Write it up! was all about encouraging educators for sustainability to develop case studies of their projects and to share what they’ve learned with others in our community of practice.

Ten workshops were held successfully across New South Wales and then ten educators were mentored in the development of their case studies. These case studies are available online at www.aaeensw.org.au. They provide an intimate look at a range of excellent EfS projects including school garden projects, indigenous culture reclamation, online learning and more.

Write it up! was supported by the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change through its Environmental Trust.

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In late 2008 Living Schools worked with Kogarah Council to initiate a community garden project on a local disused bowling green in Carrs Park.

Following initial promotion and community consultation regarding the concept an enthusiastic group had formed, eager to learn and to put their ideas to the test. Educators worked with the group, facilitating two full-day training session, the first focusing on strategic planning and group development and the second on site assessment and design.

Council’s landscape architect attended both sessions, listening closely to the ideas generated so that they could later be translated into a professional design. At the end of the process a strong group of about twenty people agreed on the date for their first independent planning meeting.

The top-down approach to community garden development is often cited as being problematic, probably due to the many examples where such an approach has failed because the community were never actually given ownership. This project suggests that with communication, respect and genuine shared ownership a community garden can indeed be successfully initiated from above. Council is now working collaboratively with the community group to make the garden a reality. We are eager to see how it progresses.

Living Schools have collated the work of the community group during the two training days to develop policy recommendations for council as well as a gardeners’ guide, gardeners’ agreement and initial action plan. These are available upon request to interested parties.

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Over the last couple of months Living Schools has been working with Canterbury Council on a youth leadership program to celebrate Youth Environment Day. Through the program, students from four local high schools participated in visioning and strategic planning workshops designed to empower them to take action within their schools and local communities. Projects developed ranged from biodiversity gardens, worm farms and recycling systems to solar panels and rainwater harvesting, demonstrating a broad understanding of environmental issues and their solutions. More importantly, students showed that they have the imaginative vision to design a sustainable future.

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Year four students from Gordon West Public School have been working with Living Schools over the last few months to learn about stormwater. In partnership with Ku-ring-gai Council, Dunoon Bushcare group and the Sydney Metropolitan Catchment Management Authority, students participated in the development of a small rain garden, or bio-filtration device, in a local reserve. The garden is designed to filter nutrients and other pollutants from stormwater, reducing weeds, water pollution and soil contamination problems downstream. The focus was to give students an understanding of their impact on waterways and to help them develop a sense of responsibility and ownership for their local environment. Students enjoyed planting out the garden and later created posters to share their knowledge with other students.

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In April, Living Schools and Peaceboat again teamed up to provide a fun, hands-on introduction to sustainable living for Peaceboat voyagers. Working with translators, skills and knowledge are learned in a practical, participatory way. Through direct experience participants learn to set up a worm-farm, sow seed, mulch a home garden, care for a compost system and restore habitat for native fauna. Sessions focus on providing an understanding of the interconnectedness of all living things and the ripple effect of our actions on this fragile yet resilient web of life. Participants touch, taste and smell the soil, herbs and produce from the garden, exploring their own connectedness and sense of place within nature.

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In February the Glebe Community Garden again hosted Living Schools, this time for a weekend Introduction to Permaculture Design. The course was hands-on with lots of activities, including planting habitat for native birds, sowing seed, setting up a household worm-farm and designing a passive solar home retrofit. Of course the best bit was the many passionate conversations and sharing of skills and knowledge amongst participants. As one person put it: “What a wonderful weekend. I’m looking at the world around me with new eyes!”

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