Welcome to School Harvest, Wodonga Middle Years College (WMYC) Community Garden blog site set up to share the story of our innovative and rather special gardening program.
It might seem like a bit of an experiment really – trying to bring about a change in school culture through the medium of gardening.
These days most primary schools have a veggie patch. This not only dispels any misconceptions young kids might have as to the origins of their fruit and vegetables, it also gives them, in many cases, their very first exposure to the process of soil maintenance and the cycles of seasonal planting, nurturing , harvesting and then sampling all kinds of plant foods.
At WMYC, working with students of years 7 , 8 and 9 , we take school gardening to the NEXT LEVEL …
Felltimber Campus of WMYC, designed in mid 70’s, was originally surrounded by vast and beautiful native gardens. Many years of student traffic, prolonged drought and the very nature of native vegetation left the structure and the plants in need of some pretty serious upgrading. Much of the structural work in more formal areas, such as the front of the school and central courtyard, has been addressed by professionals, but a large section of ornamental/ recreational gardens between the buildings and the old unused agriculture plot have been allocated to be re-generated and maintained with assistance of student volunteers.
The Purpose (and a bit of Philosophy with a pinch of Hope) behind….
Firstly, on most practical level, it’s about giving our students a degree of ownership of the somewhat abuse prone school grounds. The kids contribute to decision making and invest a lot of hard labor in re-planting, maintenance, etc. ; this tends to make them protective of the garden environment and empowers them to influence their peers in the right direction. Lovely ideal? To my slightly gob-smacked surprise, less than a year on it’s already showing dividends…
It’s also about giving them an experience based platform from which to make vocational choices for themselves later on. In the 3 years at WMYC our students would have experienced a wide range of activities which these days are not necessarily part of every household’s lifestyle. Looking after the ornamental school gardens; growing fruit , vegetables and herbs; harvesting and preparing produce for sale to the community will be just some of their experience. By the time they get to Senior College and are faced with vocational placement options, they will have a pretty good idea if landscaping , horticulture, or any of the related areas, are in any way appealing as a career choice.
There is much material available online about the short and long term benefits of involving school children of all age groups in gardening activities. While the focus of school gardening programs might range from increasing dietary awareness to informing on environmental issues, they all appear to have one outcome in common: children who learn to cultivate (edible) gardens and harvest the produce develop nurturing skills which in turn enable them to nurture themselves and hopefully , in the future, their families and the community they live in.
People involved in our project
– our internal school community: our staff and students from both campuses who contribute ideas, donate labor and materials, purchase produce and plants, encourage and hold my energy daily;
-several members of Wodonga’s Bhutanese community: traditionally , Bhutanese people grow food communally. Coming from subsistence backgrounds, they are creative, ingenious, very frugal and in tune with Earth ‘s natural cycles. They can teach us a lot about sustainable methods of small scale food production. In return they learn from us about Australian seasonal crops and get a chance to practice conversations in English on topics related to gardening and food, which we all greatly enjoy.
-last, but by no means least, are the groups listed on our “Supporters ” page: businesses, community organizations and individuals, who offer freely of their good will, time , energy and resources to support us in this venture.
in the words of Japanese poet Ryunosuke Satoro:
” Individually, we are one drop,
together, we are an ocean. “
Not an ocean yet, I think our garden already is a fine example of what a community can achieve by joining forces, and we’ve only just started.