St Michael’s Primary and Nagle College are located on the same site so they share the Nano Cottage Garden, which is named after Nano Nagle, the founder of the Presentation Sisters who established Nagle College.
Nano Cottage was established in 2002 as a venue in which to conduct Nano Cottage Language Groups, a collaborative project of local primary and secondary school communities, St Michael’s Parish and the Catholic Education Office, Parramatta. The cottage is a place where students with language learning needs can stimulate and enhance their oral language skills in a naturalistic environment.
In the relaxed informal setting of the garden the students, ranging in age from Kindergarten to Year 6, feel more comfortable talking to each other and it encourages spontaneous interaction between them.
Clare Maloney, Itinerant Teacher: Communication, from the Catholic Education Office said the garden had already proven to be a significant tool in developing the talking and listening skills of students with oral language needs.
‘The students have become vigilant gardeners! They water, weed and harvest and they know how to save dry seeds from peas, marigolds and sunflowers and exclaim over sprouting garlic cloves, onions and potatoes,’ said Clare.
‘It is a joy to watch these students shine as they participate in hands on activities as Nano ‘master chefs’ and ‘little diggers’ in the kitchen garden.
The garden is completely organic, so raw untreated materials were sourced and a compost bin is used to dispose of foods scraps from the canteen. The mulch is of the anti termite, anti rot and soft fall variety, so it is suitable for the students to work and play in.
The garden beds have been filled using a ‘no dig’ approach. Newspaper was laid down by the students, followed by lucerne hay then soil and sugar cane mulch. A feature in the centre of the garden is a cross made from pavers to recognise the Catholic faith and an olive tree to symbolise hope (as it has survived many ‘sheep munches’).
The creation of the garden was a combined effort from students and staff at St Michael’s and Nagle College as well as members of the local community. Blacktown City Council contributed $750 in funding as part of a kitchen garden trial project under the Eco Active Schools Program. Bunnings, Blacktown also contributed by donating materials such as bamboo stakes, a compost bin, seed raising mix, potting mix, organic mulch and a variety of seeds. Plants and seedlings were donated by the parents of the Nano Cottage Language Groups, and from teachers at nearby St Francis of Assisi Primary, Glendenning and St Patrick’s Primary, Blacktown.
The designated area was cleared by volunteers from the local community and Technology and Applied Sciences students from Patrician Brothers’ College constructed the 1.5m square timber flowerbeds. Years 3, 4 and 6 students sourced pictures to use as labels and painted colourful flowers and symbols on the sides of the garden beds.