Tanya Wiggins

A sunny autumn day in May saw more than 50 children from 3 local schools join together to take part in environmental activities to learn more about the biodiversity of Cornish Hill, a very unique Crown Land reserve in the heart of Daylesford, and to build knowledge and skills for how and why we can care for these spaces.

Cornish Hill was a very fitting location for an environmental day focused on biodiversity, having been intensively mined between 1852 and 1950 and now being lovingly restored by the local Friends of Cornish Hill group. It is also an important space for local schools to use for environmental learning and for residents to enjoy the walking trails, particularly along the watercourse of Smiths Creek. Children from the Dharma School also regularly use Cornish Hill for their weekly Bush School program.

This event was made possible from a very generous Biodiversity grant through Junior Landcare. This grant provided funds to bring in presenters, provide resources required for the workshops and to fund the buses to bring the children together from Daylesford Dharma School, Hepburn Primary School, and Yandoit Primary School. Funding for events like this provides opportunities for schools to come together to learn about ways we can care for our local environment and to immerse students into these local spaces in meaningful ways.

Children from the three schools were Welcomed to this special space by Jason Kerr, a local Djarra Elder. Jason talked to us about the importance of caring for Country and each other. They were then divided into mixed school groups to support new friendship connections, and rotated around to four different activities that supported them to dive into biodiversity and its importance for Earth’s flourishing.

The activities included:

  1. Conducting a biodiversity assessment of the area and learning about the importance of these audits for assessing macro and micro biodiversity. This activity was facilitated by Inga Hamilton from Sustainability Victoria. Children were able to take the auditing tools back to their schools to audit their school grounds for biodiversity.
  2. Taking part in a River Detectives Waterbug Workshop led by year 5/6 students from the Daylesford Dharma School, with the support of Nicole Howie, our Rivers Detectives facilitator from North Central Catchment Management Authority. The Dharma School have been part of the River Detectives program for a number of years and ran the Waterbugs workshops which supported children from other schools to learn about the science of water testing. They then took part in a waterbug audit as a way of determining water quality. Simone Green, a year 6 Dharma School student who was one of the “teachers” of the waterbug sessions, said “it was nice to talk to the other children, and it was fun to watch the other kids look at all the bugs in the water, because they were like, ‘Ooh, look at this one!’ It’s a really peaceful place at Cornish Hill.”
  3. Nature Journaling was another activity which saw children looking for bugs and interesting natural elements of nature on Cornish Hill. They then learnt sketching techniques for drawing these items and bugs and then infilling with water colour paints. The paintings were collected from each group and we are in the process of putting it together as a collage which can be displayed at each school for a couple of weeks – shared art creation that will move around to the participating schools.
  4. An opportunity to work with performing artist Lz Dunn, was also a highlight. Children took part in an Ecology workshop which supported children to immerse themselves into the Cornish Hill space in different ways, making connections to interdependence and what we as humans rely on from nature for our own wellbeing.

Children and staff spent 4 hours together on Cornish Hill taking part in these rotations. We are hopeful that this event was a catalyst for finding more ways for local schools to connect in the future to share ways we can care for our important local natural spaces and protect and improve the biodiversity of these spaces.

Tanya Wiggins is the Learning Manager at Daylesford Dharma School.