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RE-cycled: Biodiversity and sustainability

 |  01 December 2016

This RE-cycled activity comes to us from Jane Byrne, Sustainability Teacher at St Finbar’s, East Brighton, VIC.

As a Christian, teaching sustainability in the Catholic Education system, I see it as part of my responsibility to empower children to identify how to nurture and manage our environment. As the traditional owners of the land the Boon Wurrung have, for thousands of years, cared for and nurtured this land. Likewise, we are hoping to empower our young students with a knowledge that they are caretakers and participants in contributing to the management and upkeep of the land. Helping students to understand that care of the environment is critical and a message clearly stated by Pope Francis as he calls us to ‘Care for our Common Home’. This concept is also linked intrinsically to the Catholic Social Teaching Principle of Stewardship. 

This is a topic that our Year Three students at St Finbar’s, Brighton East have been looking at, both in the classroom with their teachers and in sustainability classes. Stewardship not only means looking after nature but also includes caring for each other. During this unit of work, students gained an understanding of the value of developing respect and positive relationships, with each other as well as our earth. They also investigated eco-friendly ways to use our natural resources.

As part of the 2016 National Science Week 13th-21st of August, St Finbar’s received a grant of $400 to plant an Indigenous Resource Garden in our sustainable garden - The John Ashe Garden (named after our founding Parish Priest).  

Over the term, Year Three students researched the appropriate indigenous plants that the local indigenous people would have used in their everyday life, both medicinal and edible. The grant application was based on us creating greater biodiversity in our school, by planting more indigenous plants which would encourage more indigenous insects and fauna and helping to strengthen our local biodiversity. 

Students used the City of Bayside Indigenous Garden as a guide to the plants grown and used in this area. All the vegetation planted was sourced from the Bayside Community Nursery. We selected the plants that were culturally significant to the local Boon Wurrung people. The Bayside Community Nursery also donated 50 Grey Tussock - grass and Coast Tussock Grass - these grasses were used by the Ngaruk William women to make string, which they used to construct baskets and nets for fishing.

Students have researched how the habitat has been lost and how the landscape has changed since white settlement. With the introduction of stock, cattle and the chopping down of trees to make grazing land and farm land, the habitat of native flora and fauna was destroyed.

This project, whilst been driven by the Year Three students, also involved other members of our community – namely students from our After School Program and Parishioners of St Finbar’s. These groups enjoyed planting the grasses in the garden shaped as a barramundi – which was designed by the Year Three students. We hope that this action creates greater biodiversity, building a resilient environment that can respond to change and support healthy ecosystems. 

Reflection questions

1. What are the native plants that grow in your region? 

2. How did Indigenous Australians use these plants?

3. Research how the landscape in your area has changed since Australia was colonised.

4. What is the principle of stewardship in Catholic Social Teaching? How is stewardship connected to sustainability and biodiversity?


Talk to your principal or teacher about planting more local plants at your school to restore biodiversity to your area. 


Photos of Year 3 St Finbar’s students planting in their ‘Barramundi’ garden:





Topic tags: indigenousaustralians, spiritualityandtheenvironment, environmentalissues, catholicsocialteaching

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