13 April 2023

Extraordinary school garden blooms from bright idea in Boorowa

| Edwina Mason
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school students with plants

The entire school student population of Boorowa Central School took part in the stage three project last week. Photo: Boorowa Landcare.

The vision of one person who sought better health outcomes for the students of Boorowa Central School has transformed the Pudman Street school grounds from ordinary to extraordinary.

Increasing the opportunity for physical activity in outdoor school settings in a rapidly changing climate characterised by rising temperatures, spurred Barb Manwaring to initiate a conversation with the school’s principal Graham Jones and deputy principal Christine Hawkins.

Barb – the health promotion officer with Greater Southern Area Health Service – said the discussion formed the basis of an amazing six-month collaborative project that grew and evolved into a new fertile, productive and sustainable landscape for the school playground.

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The project’s first goal sought to increase the opportunity for physical activity and leisure activities in the playground by providing increased shaded and protected areas for students in increasingly warm temperatures.

That’s where the collaboration between NSW Health, the Boorowa Landcare Group, Tilt Renewables, Bunnings Young, Local Land Services and NSW Cancer Council took form.

Shade trees, sponsored by NSW Health and Bunnings Young, were planted in exposed areas of the school and around the infants’ play equipment on the western side of the playground.

Inspired by this initial effort, Graham Jones and Christine Hawkins stepped things up a notch when they decided to establish an interactive, productive vegetable, fruit and bush tucker garden quadrangle for special needs students and all other students in the school to experience and enjoy.

The goal was for the students and canteen to utilise produce from the garden.

Fruit trees – an apple, cherry, blood orange and apricot tree – were again sponsored by NSW Health and Bunnings Young.

student on a scooter with a plant in his backpack

Each student and teacher was gifted a plant to take home for their own gardens. Photo: Boorowa Landcare.

As the project grew exponentially with sponsorship and ideas, a third goal emerged, to create two protected biodiversity corridors on the school grounds to attract pollinators and wildlife to the playground and provide shelter and educational opportunities for students.

Framing infrastructure and the purchase of several hundred identified local pollinating shrubs was sponsored by a local business, Tilt Renewables, at nearby Rye Park. It culminated in an interactive and educational tree-planting afternoon involving infant, primary and high school students.

Significantly, after the project, each student and teacher of the school was gifted a take-home shrub to plant in their gardens at home by the Boorowa Landcare Group.

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Linda Cavanagh and Tom Reid of Boorowa Landcare said they were thrilled with the establishment of the corridors in the playground and the great success of the afternoon, but especially the linking partnership of education, health and environment in the small community.

“We look forward to being part of many more Boorowa Central school projects in the future,” they said.

The benefits to the school are already evident, according to Graham Jones.

“We can see the spaces already feel different with the additional trees and will only continue to become more inviting as they continue to establish themselves,” he said.

“We have particularly enjoyed seeing the students involved and enthusiastic both in the afternoon of planting and taking home their own shrub ready to plant and support biodiversity in our local area,” he said.

“Better still,” he added, “there’s a new welcoming, shaded, biodiverse and productive playground for all students to enjoy and learn from, now and in the future”.

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