Outdoor classroom central to learning

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Welcome to Bellbrae Primary School and its fabulous Outdoor Classroom!

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Bellbrae3_webMeet Helen, one of the teachers who’s driving the development of The Outdoor Classroom and Sam, one of the parents who with her husband, have generously given their time and expertise to help Helen and Bellbrae Primary School with the Outdoor Classroom.

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Now, this Outdoor Classroom idea was born about four years ago. But it’s in mainly the past three years that the school has been successful in involving the parents in it’s development. Towards the end of 2014, about 10 parents worked in the garden one day each week. They call themselves the Friends of the Garden. As it is outside, it’s easier and more accessible for parents and their pre-school children than the traditional classrooms, as you can see here…

 

Bellbrae5_webThe students are most enthusiastic about their Outdoor Classroom, and absolutely love it! It seems that weeding the garden beds is a favourite activity…

Bellbrae6_web…perhaps the strawberry plants in this garden have something to do with this enthusiasm?

Helen used the Outdoor Classroom with Grade 3 in 2014, and the plan is to incorporate it into the entire school’s curriculum. For example, Grade 6 will research, design and build another frog pond to encourage indigenous frogs to breed in the Outdoor Classroom this year. The whole school will then be able to use this as a resource to study and learn about frogs and their life-cycle.

 

This is the Teaching and Learning Shed:

Bellbrae7_webLook carefully! Not only should you be able to see some artwork display at the top of the image, but on the right hand side of the picture, you’ll see somewhere to store gardening gloves.

Like a traditional classroom, the Teaching and Learning Shed has a blackboard, so everyone knows what has to be done…

Bellbrae8_webBellbrae Primary School students visited the Narana Aboriginal Cultural Centre in Geelong to learn about indigenous culture.

They then used this knowledge to help them with their lessons, especially their activities in the Outdoor Classroom.

 

Bellbrae9_webOne of the many projects for 2015 is the establishment of an Indigenous Garden, which will replace this part of the school grounds:

This is the driveway and fence, looking towards the Outdoor Classroom, which you can see just beyond the white car in this photograph.

 

Part of the Outdoor Classroom is an olive grove. As well as an olive grove, the Outdoor Classroom comprises a chook shed (with chooks)…

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…and the students are already proving to be entrepeneurs, selling the eggs (and produce) from the school’s front office. Notice the clever use of resources in this Outdoor Classroom. For example, Crocs clogs re-used as plantersand kettles too. No waste here!

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The school already has a worm farm, and mulches and composts the garden, the Banana Plantation and Citrus Orchard. The plan is to eventually incorporate the students’ food waste into this waste management program. This will help improve the soil, and also help students to learn about soil the role of soil in growing food.

Here’s a group of Helen’s students collecting mulch:

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Notice the large rainwater tank? Another example of using the resources (rain) around you! And here’s where they put that mulch – the Citrus Orchard and the Banana Plantation.

And yet another clever idea using waste: the partly finished greenhouse made from plastic bottles!

This greenhouse will be used to grow vegetable and flower seedlings; the vegetable seedlings for the Produce Garden, and the flower seedlings for the new Sensory garden.

Work on this Sensory Garden has begun. It will attract native birds and bees to the Outdoor Classroom, and be another tool for students to use to learn about plants, growing food, and the life-cycles of plants.

Bellbrae19_webWhat has been happening at Bellbrae Primary School is already attracting attention among the locals:

These two well-dressed folk seem keen on discovering what’s going on!

The Outdoor Classroom is also attracting the attention of local environmental groups such as Landcare. Students are now collaborating with these groups to help them with their work.

And locals running similar enterprises are proving most supportive of the school’s efforts. For instance, Rob Pascoe, who runs The Farmer’s Place nearby at Freshwater Creek, is one of these. Here is an article about Rob’s Farm ‘The environment comes first for Robert Pascoe’.

Rob’s farm is thriving thanks to the compost machine that revitalised the topsoil. Rob has donated one of his fantastic CLO’ey’ Domestic Composters to the Enviroweek prize basket.

The school is actively pursuing community networks to help them with the development of their Outdoor Classroom. Another source of information and support was Bentleigh Primary School. As, of course, are the students and their families.

Helen’s idea is to introduce more animals; when one of her students mentioned that a relative has an alpaca farm, Helen’s eyes glinted with delight. Maybe an Adopt-An-Alpaca Scheme is on the cards? Alpacas would be a valuable addition, as they are fearless, and would keep snakes and foxes away from the Outdoor Classroom.

Bellbrae20_webFinally, another idea is to incorporate public art into the Outdoor Garden: both the students’, and that of local artists. This project has already started:

And no corner of the curriculum is left out. Chris, another teacher, uses the Outdoor Classroom for his music lessons.

For  lesson ideas about sustainability, art and music click here.

BY: VIKTORIA ROTHER