Margie Thomas

On Tuesday 27th April, after a few hiccups due to COVID, 45 students from Bullarto and Yandoit Primary schools plus the Dharma schools attended the “I care for Landcare” event on Cornish Hill. The Friends of Cornish Hill were delighted to welcome students back to the Hill and had worked diligently to provide a workshop which would not only be engaging but would provide real educational opportunities for all who attended.

John Caldow from Bug Blitz provided a wonderful hands-on session for the students in which they were able to learn more about some fascinating spiders and ‘bugs’. John shared his love of these creatures by first introducing Teddy, the Mountain Huntsman, followed by other spiders, a scorpion and leaf insects. Students had an opportunity to hold many of the bugs and observe them closely.

Louis Caldow also from Bug Blitz had brought a selection of animal skulls, pointing out the individual characteristics. Students had to decide on whether they were marsupial, feral or domesticated, predator or prey, carnivore, herbivore or omnivore, common, stable, threatened or extinct. Louis was such an enthusiastic source of information that the children were all engrossed with the subject. Students also had an opportunity to share some of their own animal encounters. Louis’ has inherited his father’s flare for working and engaging with kids in biodiversity education.

A fun hands-on and informative learning session about Fungi was led by Ema Coro of Fungi map and well supported by Gayle Osborne from Wombat Forest care. Each session was spent examining a variety of wild fungi, slime moulds and lichen through digital microscopes provided by Fungi map. Ema and Gayle explained the different parts of the fungus (mycelium, fruiting body, spores, etc.) and the role these play in the environment.

After studying a variety of fungi, students created their own clay models.

Ceramic Art has been a feature of these workshops with noted ceramicists Ann Ferguson and Kaori Fujimoto leading the way. Using coloured photographs to demonstrate the parts, shapes and construction of a variety of fungi, the students spent some time examining real specimens brought for the event. Afterwards they constructed their own model to be fired and exhibited in the local Bendigo Community Bank.

Using the CSIRO produced book “The Forest in The Tree – How Fungi Shape the Earth”, Nicole Howie led the students on a journey of discovery with stops along the way to dramatise, illustrate, classify, experiment and reflect. Students took the roles of the various microbes and learned how they symbiotically cooperated with the trees. This proved to be a fascinating session for the students linking in very well and balancing well with the Fungi rotation.

Landcare Victoria has been a loyal supporter of the Friends over the past five years and the Friends are grateful for their belief in the work they do with local schools.

“From my way of thinking, our society should consider providing environmental education events as a form of ‘direct’ action for our environment’s future sustainability,” said John Caldow. “We are helping collectively to build our students’ and teachers’ ecological literacy. Those kids received a fantastic, engaging and memorable range of learning experiences.”

Margie Thomas lives in Moorabool shire and has retired after 12 years of being in the position of Chairperson of the Friends of Cornish Hill.