Enviroweek at Mirboo North Secondary College means one thing, tree planting! Under the guidance of teacher, Allen Riseley students play a big part in rejuvenating and restoring the local environment to its natural state. School’s Tree Planting Day and Enviroweek’s plant care theme are excellent opportunities for Allen and his team to promote their program and showcase what they have achieved.
Leading up to the main event of planting young trees on farm properties surrounding the school and council land, students work hard to raise seedlings. Using seeds purchased from the South Gippsland Indigenous Seed Bank, students at Mirboo North learn about the propagation process, planting seeds and tubing seedlings ready to be transported to local properties and planted by keen volunteers from the student body.
Learning opportunities inspire growth
Allen explains, “The teaching opportunities are rich and varied. Not only do the students gain environmental knowledge and skills (how to produce trees, why reforestation is important and where trees should be planted) it is also a real life project that instills a strong work ethic in the students.
“We plant come rain, hail or shine and some work, such as tubing, can be tedious but students understand that this is a necessary part of the project.
“It’s a mini business that the students have ownership of and they follow through from raising seedlings to planting the trees.”
Local land owners have shown tremendous interest in the project. Three means of production are employed to meet the growing demand for the seedlings:
- Members of the Enviro team help during their lunch break. Students water, weed, clean, sort and tube the plants. This is open to all students and is voluntary.
“The Enviro team allows students the opportunity to learn about the planting process, develop leadership skills and offers a safe and comfortable environment for them to interact and build relationships with others who share the same interests”.
- Community Breakout: With the aim of helping young people engage with the wider society, Mirboo North offers a Community Breakout program to all year nine students. ‘Land Care’ is an elective dedicated to theory of sustainability and positive action, whether it be tubing seedlings, planting trees on properties or maintenance on the near by Lyrebird Walking Track, Mossvale Park and Baths Road Reserve.
- Mass tubing days: Each term, one period per year level (7-10) is dedicated to tubing plants. “As the demand for trees grows, this is a useful strategy to prepare large numbers, using minimal time. One of these sessions can result in a huge amount of seedlings ready to be planted. The current record is 2800 tubed out in 100 minutes with 50 year sevens for half of the time, followed by 50 year eights.” Enviro Team members develop leadership skills assisting and supervising the sessions.
School’s Tree Day is perfect for planting on site and Enviroweek supports it with plant care and maintenance skills. Enviroweek itself gives Allen and his students a chance to celebrate the hard work and dedication that goes into this project throughout the year with all the community supporters.
Strengthening bonds with the community
“This project is not just about planting trees, it also promotes school and community links. We have built a relationship with the farmers and our Council.”
“Members of the local Landcare group help, parents water the plants on weekends and during holidays. A retired nurseryman also volunteers his time three or four times a year to check the health of the plants and offer advice.”
Allen’s aim is to have his students raise and plant in more than 10,000 trees a year. He is passionate about this project and would like to share his experience with other teachers and students. He is currently looking for funding to help him achieve this goal.
Allen won the 2015 environment minister’s award from the Banksia Foundation for the project. He would like to work with other teachers and assist in the implementation of this initiative in schools throughout rural regions across Australia.
“We started from scratch and now have an enterprise that earns more than $5000 per year for the school, which is all pumped back into student initiatives. Financial backing to help us provide full time logistical support as well as purchasing adequate potting mix and seeds would give the project a real kickstart.”
If you are interested in participating in such a program or offering financial support, Allen can be contacted at [email protected]