Say the word “biodiversity” over and over again and it loses all meaning. Let environmental sustainability edge away from the forefront of people’s minds and even the hardiest plant loses the will to live. This year our school tried to change that mindset. Secure in our strong waste reduction, energy and water saving ethos we chose to move the school towards biodiversity. All building works have finally ceased, garden areas have been designated and the school was chosen to be part of the Mali In My School project with Zoos Victoria which focuses on endangered species. Now all we needed was a plan.

We started the process with a whole staff biodiversity PD run by the charismatic and passionate Kirsty Costa. The staff did a biodiversity audit and became enthused about getting things up and running….. but then the inevitable happened…. Everyone got busy. Things fell by the wayside. The gardens became weedy, the permaculture garden became unkempt, the school working bee was pushed back another term. Then came Mali. Mali arrived in a big brown box and seemed to the elephant in the room that everyone wanted to talk about. A renewed vigour for biodiversity was engendered by the white elephant and plans began to form once again.

Biodiversity is not described in any of the dictionaries in my classroom, not even the Oxford Australian Reference Dictionary. This is a symptom of the problem that our school faced. What is it really and how do we achieve what we don’t understand. We knew that the gardens were part of it but it was really Mali that provided the big picture thinking that helped us to grasp this inconceivable notion. Mali is the mascot for Melbourne’s Zoo’s 150th birthday celebrations. Mali is also a representative for the endangered species campaigns that the zoo runs. The real life Mali herself is one lucky member of the endangered Asian elephant species. Biodiversity suddenly became an ethical matter to the school; it encompassed animal life as well as plant life, a form of symbiosis and something that we could finally identify with.

With the focus shifted from just the gardens, the school embarked on a whole school focus on endangered species and their habitat. For two weeks the curriculum focussed on endangered species. Garrett from Zoos Victoria kicked off the fortnight with two entertaining and informative assemblies. Each class studied the 20 endangered species of south eastern Australia and the plight of the Asian elephants and orang-utans. Some of the Year 6 students organised a fundraiser and raised enough money to sponsor an orang-utan for 12 months and also to protect 100 hectares of rainforest. Endangered species campaigns were highlighted each week in the newsletter and displays were made of environmentally responsible products and services. The two weeks culminated in the students showcasing their work at assemblies. With a new found understanding of the relationship between habitat and animal survival our next step was to match what we had learnt with action within the school. Bring on biodiversity!

We arranged for Kirsty to visit the school and the Senior Environment Team worked with her to do a biodiversity audit of the school. In groups they looked, checked, counted and ticked boxes on sheets and then came together to form one document. Success in some areas was celebrated and recommendations for other areas were made: more plants to be planted, noxious weeds and exotic plants to be removed, extend the wildlife corridor at the back of the school, build a green waste compost farm and hold more working bees with the school community. The Senior Environment Team decided to spread the word via the Lorax. Classes watched The Lorax dvd or read the book and discussed the importance of trees and plants. Tree Planting Day was scheduled, plants were ordered and classes did activities relating to biodiversity and habitat generation or maintenance in their rooms. Although the official Tree Planting Day was washed out and postponed to the following week, the enthusiasm of staff and students spread the celebration into the next week and onto our next Tree Planting Day. The Senior Environment Team wore Lorax moustaches as they ushered classes to the planting site, made pledges with the classes to look after the gardens, explained biodiversity to the junior classes and helped to plant the shrubs. The sun even came out for the day as well! At the end of the day we went onto the SETS website and added our 400 shrubs to our biodiversity audit. This increased our biodiversity rating by 6% from our baseline data of the year before.

The excitement has continued. Staff are working on ways to get classes involved with garden maintenance. Parents and Friends Committee are looking at ways to help as well with fundraising and our next working bee is in the process of being organised. The permaculture garden is being revamped, the green compost farm is being designed and the new plants are being tended lovingly bystudents. Mali is nearing completion in the Art Room and there will be a whole school Green Day at the end of this term where all of our green achievements will be celebrated! In order to achieve biodiversity we have had to diversify our thinking and our actions. A task that seemed monumental was herded along by one small white elephant.

~ Loretta Leary, Mount Waverley Primary School

By Mount Waverley Primary School|2017-11-06T17:18:58+10:00April 26th, 2013|0 Comments