Biodiversity at Chatham Primary School

Chatham Primary has been officially working towards the Biodiversity Module in 2011, but has actually been increasing biodiversity on the school grounds for many years.

The Productive Gardens:

Vegie gardens have long been established and seem to multiply every couple of years. There is a large area covered by raised garden beds full of vegies, benches with pots of seedlings and a row of fruit trees joined the mix in 2009. All of this sits next to the chook palace, the compost bins and the mulch bays.

The compost bins are supplied with fresh food scraps that are collected from each classroom. When mature, the compost is used to enrich the vegie gardens.

The mulch bays store prunings that have been put through the chipper and leaves collected at working bees. A Council green bin is used for weeds with seed heads and fruits.

Produce from the vegie gardens is harvested and either sold to the school community, or is used for cooking by the students.

The Indigenous Gardens:

For the last four years on National Tree Day, the children have planted indigenous tubestock. The selected shrubs and grasses would have grown in the Boroondara area before settlement and are well adapted to the soil and conditions. The school environment is a challenging one, and these plants have coped very well with the extra stresses of growing in highly compacted soil and regularly being battered.

The Indigenous Garden was planted in 2008. It is now lush and bushy, with tussock grasses covering the soil and wedge-leaf hop-bushes providing the mid-storey. Golden wattles are now nearly three metres tall and are very happy. The area has changed over the last three years as children have played within the garden and some plants died. But after they were removed, neighboring shrubs have expanded to fill the space so the garden still looks well balanced.

A green corridor was planted along a fenceline in 2009 and this area has proved to be the most challenging to date. The soil was hard clay and children were used to standing in the garden beds while waiting to be picked up after school. It’s been difficult to change this pattern, with many of the plants being trodden on. More plants were put in to fill in the gaps in 2011 and happily many are still alive, although some have suffered the safe fate as their predecessors.

A Habitat Garden was planted in 2010. Plants that attract insects and birds were chosen, including wallaby grass, cut-leaf daisy, correa, bottlebrush and gold-dust wattle. The area was fenced off for about six months and looked spectacular for a time. Since the fence came down, there has been a lot of traffic over one corner of the garden bed where children cut the corner instead of staying on the path. The wallaby grass has multiplied and loves its new home, but the shrubs are having a hard time and continually have branches broken.

The Koori Garden:

The Sustainability Committee successfully applied for the Coles Junior Landcare Grant in August 2011. We chose to create a Koori Garden where plants were chosen according to their traditional Aboriginal uses. Rather than just a bush food garden, we expanded the range of plants to include those with many different uses. For example, lomandra and dianella were used for weaving and creating baskets, indigofera flowers were used as a dye and the bark as string, banksias were used for sweet nectar drinks and yam daisies have edible tubers.

To complement the choice of plants, we created a striking design with five circular garden beds. The beds are ringed with flax-leaf plants and contain ground covers and mid-level shrubs. One of the circular areas contains granitic sand and is ringed with upright tree logs. This is the ‘Meeting Place’. Behind the logs is a row of the stunning-smelling river mint, so that when children are sitting on the logs, they will brush up against the shrubs and release the beautiful, vibrant fragrance.

This garden bed has just been constructed, so it is now fenced off so the plants can establish themselves. The grade 3 children are the water monitors and will be in charge of collecting buckets of water from under the drinking fountains and using it to water the new plants.

The garden will be used by all year levels throughout their curriculum. The younger levels study life cycles and mini-beasts and look at products made from plants. The mid-levels study cultural groups including the Aboriginies, and older levels study Aboriginal history including how they cared for the land and how they used the plants. These are only some examples of how the garden might be used; no doubt the teachers will weave it into their plans as it becomes more established. The garden will provide a wonderful opportunity for hands-on learning and really heighten the students’ engagement with their units of study.

The Koori Garden will no doubt evolve over time. We’d love to include aboriginal-style artwork and will of course include signage about the use of the plants.

Maintenance:

The Sustainability Committee created a Garden Planting and Maintenance Guide (biodiversity improvement plan) that outlines schedules for planting, plant choice, weed and pest control and plant maintenance, including pruning and mulching. Serious weeds were identified and a plan for their removal put in place. Maintenance is carried out at general school working bees of which there are several per term, or by the school’s gardening group, the Chatham Garden Fairies.

By Chatham Primary School|2017-11-06T17:15:21+10:00April 25th, 2013|0 Comments
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