And the winners are …

IEU Environment Grants announced

When applications closed on the round of the IEU’s Environmental Grants on 25 September, we had 67 submissions from members throughout NSW and the ACT. There were 15 applications from early childhood centres, 27 from primary schools and 25 from secondary schools. Almost one third came from the ACT.

Despite the challenges of 2020, some of which were environmental crises in the form of bushfires, drought or floods, not to mention the coronavirus pandemic, the quality and diversity of proposals was as strong as ever. If anything, the challenges of 2020 seem to have inspired some particularly innovative thinking.

The union thanks all entrants and takes great pleasure in congratulating the following recipients:

Broulee Early Learning Centre, Broulee, NSW: The Bee Hotel

The centre receives $3000 to create a self-contained ecosystem and bee hotel on the roof of a purpose-built play space.

The project will attract native bees and enhance conservation and biodiversity of the local area, which was devastated by bushfires in the summer of 2019-20, by promoting growth of trees and flowers through increased pollination.

Using recycled building materials and planting natives such as Daviesia (bitter peas) and Gompholobium (glory peas) will enhance sustainability and attract the non-stinging native bee, perfectly suited to pollinating local plants. This project provides a springboard for many educational opportunities at the centre.

St Mary’s War Memorial School, West Wyalong, NSW: Dry sensory garden

The school receives $1500 to create a garden that does not require watering to teach students that an arid climate can still be a functioning one. The garden will also provide a safe and beautiful space to support student and community wellbeing.

The garden will be self-sustaining from completion and adopts the concept of Tribal Spaces (such as a campfire, watering hole, cave and lookout – see Thornburg, 1997) designed to enhance learner engagement. The school will establish a dry creek bed that runs into a dry billabong that will serve as a group gathering space to share learnings and work collaboratively. Tables and chairs will be made from locally sourced tree stumps.

St John Vianney Primary School, Waramanga, ACT: Sustainable garden and waste elimination

The school receives $1500 to produce sustainable wicking beds using upcycled materials for a vegetable garden to support incorporating homegrown food in the school canteen offering. Students will learn to maintain and care for the produce.

Students will plant out the empty garden beds with native plants, and label them in the local language of the Ngunnawal community. This will support native biodiversity and promote respect and understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language and history.

The school will purchase hungry bin worm farms to help eliminate organic waste and reuse castings in the garden. This will promote an understanding of how to reduce the school community’s carbon footprint.

Northside Montessori School, Pymble, NSW: Bush to brunch to books

The high school receives $3000 for a program emphasising environmental studies, Indigenous studies, food technology, student-initiated micro businesses, art and agriculture, with integrated practical applications within all key learning areas.

For example, student understanding of percentages and ratio in mathematics can be illustrated by mixing and diluting natural fertilisers for the native orchard; in studying mixtures and matter, students can test the strength of resins from native trees in the orchard, including the pink-flowered dough wood and the silver wattle.

Making and selling bush tucker treats from the Indigenous orchard and gardens offer opportunities to explore multiplication of fractions and financial mathematics. Learning will be meaningful and practical.

The project will involve close association with Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park rangers, Indigenous community members. It will also include service learning with bush regeneration, building native garden beds and orchards, cooking using school grown native produce and integration of environmental education into all subjects of the curriculum.

So start planning your submission for a grant in 2021 on behalf of your school or early learning centre.