Sustainability at Ainslie Parklands Primary School (formerly Croydon West P.S.)

Follow the sustainable journey of our small school, Croydon West Primary School. We believe in providing learning opportunities through which our students can connect with nature, investigate environmental issues and develop a sense of wonder and enthusiasm for our planet.

Our school's 50th Anniversary

This week we celebrate our school's 50th Anniversary. All through the week we will be thinking about the 50  years our school has been open. Each unique decade is being celebrated tomorrow with a range of whole school, cross age activities planned and will take place in all of our school's learning studios. Displays tell about our school's history, while showcasing just what is special about our school.
Visitors are encouraged to see our school in action while connecting with old friends and reminiscing about how things were in the "good ol' days". I know visitors will love how education has developed to encourage our students' thinking and responsibility for their own learning. It really is a contrast to how things were 50 years ago and I love it!

So please come and see what our school has become...

Saturday 16th June at 2:00-4:00
Ainslie Parklands Primary School
Hinkley Avenue
Phone: 98701566

Big News!

We have changed our school's name to Ainslie Parklands Primary School. Our new name tells where we are positioned (next to Ainslie Park) while reflecting beautifully just what our gardens are like.

Lots still happening!!!!

Regular visitors to my blog may be wondering what I am actually up to. No posts for ages and ages....It is not because our school no longer is interested in the environment or that sustainability is not a priority. It is simply because I am no longer the teacher of Sustainable Futures at our school.
My collegues have taken up the mantle of teaching their own classes about caring for the environment and all the great work is being done at my school generally while I am not there!

However great things continue to happen...such as...
* Redevelopment of our wild "Donut Area" (so called by our students because of the round seating). This has involved a seriously dedicated group of parents and students who worked like crazy last weekend to plant and clean up an area which was a little neglected. The seating is now painted ready for extra embellishment by our kids...looking forward to that! Thanks to Andrea, one of our teachers who is pretty keen to make sure this area gets the care it needs.
*Vegetable Patch plantings.
* Replanting and mulching areas of our gardens which have been affected by our building program.
....just to mention a few things happening in our gardens at this chilly time of the year. :)
 Keep posted...

Twiggy's babies have grown up!!

Thankyou to my colleague, Carolynne who took our many tiny stick insect babies home to look after during the holidays. We now have some amazingly huge stick insects to observe and learn from.
The reaction from the students was priceless when they saw how much they had grown.
All the students had experienced helping to put in new leaves and take out the old in the process of caring for these interesting creatures.
This involved putting down some white fabric (my idea after losing a few on the dark carpet when we opened the cage door) and shaking the old leaves gently to remove the tiny babies. Some students then were in charge of searching the old leaves for reluctant stick insects still on the branches. Some students were in charge of collecting all the stick insects on the cloth using water colour brushes from my art studio.
This was quite hilarious at times with many escaping in the process. When we were satisfied that we had put them all in and had put fresh leaves and water into the cage, we gently shut the cage door hoping not to squash any.
The students really loved this hands on experience and of course got to see the insects up close while handing them.
However now we have huge stick insects and I can see that this is more confronting for some students to manage a big creature walking all over them. Our new students who hadn't experienced the whole ongoing process were a little nervous.
Next week we will use the stick insects as inspiration for some art making and students will handle carefully these creatures to observe just how fascinating they are.
Then we need to make some decisions....
Do we release some? We will need to discuss implications for this.
Do we continue to keep some in each learning studio? (They want to!)
What will happen if they all lay eggs?
These students are very thoughtful about their environment and the implications when unexpected changes occur. 
Are we creating a change in our environment by releasing these back into the wild? Would this many have survived? What part does the stick insect play in the balance of nature and the web of life? 
What I do know though,  is that our students have fabulous "nature  eyes" which spot an amazing array of interesting things and occurences in our school yard and in environments away from school. Being able to experience nature and its wonders close up certainly fosters this valuable interest.

These tiny babies are a few days old.

Very tricky to see the newly hatched stick insects in the fresh foliage.

Many of the new babies still had their egg attached.

Our cage has been made from an old drawer with a frame hinged on the front.

The students used brushes to handle the tiny babies and to put them back into their enclosure.

Wow! Look how big they have grown over the holidays...

There are lots of them!!!

We are finding more eggs which have hatched, so there is a mixture of tiny and large stick insects. Great for comparison....

Nest designs: Art work inspired by Nature.

Nature and the environment is often the inspiration for a range of lessons in my classes. Students in Level 3/4 looked at some amazing nests both man made art works and real nests made by a range of creatures. I asked them to create a nest from terra cotta clay using some ideas they had seen. We bisque fired them.....still thinking of the next stage (colour? glaze?) but they are lovely just as they are!

In the kiln....

More cocoons....Level 3/4

Our older students were interested in the cocoons made by the junior grades. After looking at a variety of found cocoons and images of some really funky ones from the internet, they collected a range of materials from outside as a starting point to make their own. They started by wrapping wadding or wool onto their chosen stick.
They added the natural materials collected from our school gardens borrowing some ideas from nature.

After designing, cutting, gluing, organising etc. they all agreed that nature's designs are amazing!!!!

Organic Gardening.

This year, our school has been involved with the Biological Farmers of Australia's Organic School Gardens Program. We have been selected as a Leader School and we are trialing a range of lessons which are helping us to develop skills and knowledge on how to garden organically. For some time in our gardens, we have made gardening decisions which are based on making sure we consider the environment. These lessons have taken our organic practice much further.

These lessons and resource materials are available free to everyone and offer extensive background material and equipment lists to each topic.
Look here to check it out. Organic School Gardens Program

Last week we tested the pH of the soils in our various gardens. We hoped to be able to find out why some plants were thriving and some struggling. We also had a new garden planned and wondered whether the pH of the introduced soil would allow our plants to take up the nutrients readily.
A simple pH testing kit and various soil samples was all we needed. We discovered our Peace Garden's soil was quite acidic and explained why we had some issues with some plants. We were happy to find out that the Mandala Vegetable Garden's soil was in the correct range for growing veggies. Another area of the school garden tested quite alkaline.
Students learnt about how we could increase or decrease the pH as needed and how our compost will help create a healthy soil.

Here are our tested samples.


Students are fascinated (as I am) with some of the cocoons  we have found in our school garden and at our homes. Level 1 and 2 students created these amazing cocoons using stockings, stretching a cocoon shape with bamboo sticks. Once they created the shape, they painted them in natural colours. When they were dry, they added natural materials from our school ground.
Students considered what a cocoon is, the range of types of cocoon structures, materials used and how they may have been constructed.

Here are some of their cocoon sculptures.

Endangered! Update on our art work.

Here is an update on Level 3/4's art works about endangered creatures. Students considered the various reasons some species become endangered. They created their own endangered animal, thinking about its habitat, reasons for its fragile situation, food sources and particular features of their creature.
They created clay tiles showing the creature's skin, feathers or fur, the animal's eye and a special feature of their creature.
These tiles have now been fired and students have attached them to a background which shows the habitat of their creature.
Other art works included amazing drawings using pastels and some great mini sculptures made from paperclay.