Editor’s Note: Well done Kym!
Since around April 2008 Free Range Permaculture have been conducting a school garden program at the Flexible Learning Center (FLC), Cairns, which operates as a Positive Learning Centre for disadvantaged youth and migrant kids ranging in age from 5 – 17 years.
The FLC was started in a shed at the same site by a committed group of educators who recognized the importance of providing an alternative approach to working with children who, for various reasons, were struggling with the traditional classroom environment.
A Government grant and support from Queensland Education (Qld Ed) and the FLC was born and recently the centre has been expanded thanks to further assistance from the Federal Government. Unfortunately the two items cut from the budget when the centre was established, were the rainwater tanks and any landscaping.
Being the dynamic accumulators we are, we approached the school after a series of circumstances lead us to the opportunity of establishing a Permaculture School program within the region. We were told, “If you can make it work at the FLC, you can make it work anywhere”. What started as a bit of a litmus test has turned out to be one of their shining lights of successful engagement.
The teachers at the centre regularly kept the Regional Director of Qld Education informed of the success of the garden, the positive impact it was having on the kids and the asset that it was proving to be in often-unexpected ways.
We’re often told by the school, that during the 3 hrs we spend there on a Tuesday each week, we don’t get to see the total impact the garden has on the kids that come through centre. Kids regularly utilize the garden during the week when we’re not there, taking a stroll to de-stress, making daisy chains from Singapore Daisy (often demonized as a weed!) picking salad leaves for lunch, harvesting stir fry veggies to whip up a snack in the kitchen centre, photographing the flowers & frogs, bugs searches, etc.
A few months ago we had the pleasure of doing a day’s filming with Costa from SBS fame, for series 2 of his very popular show Costa’s Garden Odyssey. Costa is a really great guy and we’ve become good mates. Might be a beard thing? When he came up again recently, he came and stayed with us at Rosella Waters for the night, which our son Jack was more than excited about. It’s not every day that the cut out on your underwear drawer comes to life! We talked for hours, got no sleep and laughed endlessly as we all should. Costa has since confirmed that he will be coming to APC10 to learn more about the Permaculture movement and continue his own journey of discovery like all that attend…. more on that in a later posting.
Anyway, once the word got out that Costa was coming with a TV film crew, the interest in what was happening at the FLC really took off and this has, in part, resulted in Qld Ed agreeing to endorse the Education stream of APC10, happening in Kuranda far north Queensland in September, as an official professional development day for all teachers in Queensland. Teachers will be able to attend the daylong workshops, receive a certificate of attainment as well as a copy of Janet Millington & Carolyn Nuttall’s fabulous book “Outdoor Classrooms” for their school. This is a monumental outcome for the region’s schools, and, taking it one step further, we have begun discussions with clusters of schools as well as local council re establishing schools as disaster relief centers. We live in a cyclone prone area. Being the year of sustainability in Qld Ed, all schools in the region are currently working on their School Environment Management Plan (SEMP) and considering how they may actually achieve implementing it: permaculture education in schools as part of the curriculum, SEMP plan outcomes totally achieved and a network of functional disaster relief centers within easy access, all rolled into one!
The episode, coming up next week, will feature a story on the wonderful kids at the FLC and the impact a simple garden can have on their lives. Episode 10 of Series 2 will air on SBS, May 20th at 8pm.