St Damien’s Catholic Primary School showcases its exceptional Environmental Program to the parents and local community every day via the three garden centres on the school grounds. Each garden centre has a chicken run filled with either Silkie Bantam chickens or ISA Brown chickens, an aquaponics set-up with a minimum of one tank filled with Silver Perch, dual worm composting containers, and a number of garden beds. Within the Northern Garden Centre is a seemingly secluded area that contains a spectacular seating area overlooking three ponds that provide functional habitats for the coy, frogs and the goldfish in the area. Students at St Damien’s Catholic Primary School are exposed to a variety of living things within the garden centres that present exciting and unique learning experiences. These experiences reinforce the learning that takes place in the classroom and within the community.
With systems in mind, the school’s numerous aquaponics setups help the students at St Damien’s Catholic Primary School to identify and understand the relationships that exist between living things, particularly their dependence upon one another for survival. By understanding how the aquaponics setups work, students recognise that the concept of dependence extends to all living things and that systems exist within nature and society. These systems provide structure and function to all things within them. The Silver Perch, which currently face a high risk of extinction in the wild, live comfortably within the tanks in great numbers, further reinforcing the idea that when systems work, living things thrive. All produce from the grow beds is sold at the Monday Markets or repurposed as feed for the living things in the garden centres, with both outcomes upholding the various systems present within the school.
Cooking is among the many educational programs running at St Damien’s Catholic Primary School that develops basic skills in the vein of life-long learning. The Cooking Program utilises the fresh organic produce that is harvested from the school’s garden centres and delivers tasty treats to the participants. This process emphasises the fundamental, yet often misunderstood, link between initially locating or unearthing the ingredients and later cooking them to create an appetizing meal. The understandings generated by the Cooking Program encourage students to identify and harvest the right ingredients, to prepare accordingly, to follow a plan or recipe, and to explore the vast cooking options available as they learn for life.
St Damien’s Catholic Primary School is located in the setting of Dawesville; a hub of native wildlife. Interestingly, the school is situated in the flight path of Carnaby’s Black Cockatoo which can be seen passing over the area from time to time after the breeding season concludes. Among the many animals indigenous to the area, the school is witness to the appearance of Western Grey Kangaroos early in the mornings on a daily basis. This program develops understandings about these animals and more, including, but not limited to, Quendas, Brush-tailed Possums, Ring-tailed Possums, Western Grey Kangaroos, Kookaburras, Pink and Grey Galahs and Red Capped Parrots. Furthermore, understanding the importance of habitat conservation to assist in the continued survival of native animals is paramount within this program.
The chickens are a popular attraction at the school with students quickly becoming attached to the hens. Our hens are contained in a free range enclosure and monitored daily to ensure good health and comfort. The Monday Markets owe its ongoing success to the eggs produced by the chickens at St Damien’s Catholic Primary School. The ISA Brown chicken is hybrid, not a true breed, developed by breeding unrelated ‘dam’ and ‘sire’ lines together. As a result the ISA Brown is selected within the poultry industry primarily for its high egg laying capacity of approximately 300 eggs per hen in their first year of laying. This program educates students about the ISA Brown chickens with a focus on their origins, their anatomy, their life cycle and process of reproduction, and notions for their proper care and protection. As ongoing residents at the school, each and every chicken is considered a part of the St Damien’s Catholic Primary School family.
As part of the school’s commitment to sustainability and the environment, each class participates in the Recycling Program and is assessed against established criteria. This weekly process encourages students and their teachers to be proactive about the correct disposal of their waste products. The Recycling Program is also purposed with the education of students around the ideas of reducing and reusing waste items before considering the items for recycling. Finding alternate uses for waste items offers form and functionality to otherwise useless items and demonstrates respect for the environment in the process. St Damien’s Catholic Primary School is proud of its efforts in sustainability education and, like all programs offered, has strong curriculum links to each learning area.
A vast system exists within the school that relies upon all component parts working in unison. Without the propagation and planting of seeds to produce seedlings, the system would cease to operate smoothly. This program supports various other programs that run in the school under the scope of the Environmental Program, by ensuring that there are sufficient plants of all varieties to be planted out at any given time over the course of the year. Students are educated about the plants being propagated, with a focus on the common and scientific name of the plant, the plants life cycle and the process of reproduction, growth and maintenance via water and fertilizer, the ideal time for planting and harvesting, and the various culinary or practical uses for the plants. Like other programs offered under the Environmental Program, the Propagation Program reinforces the ideas of ‘systems’ and ‘cycles’ while working in the school’s Greenhouse and Hot House.