Friday, December 20, 2013

It's Christmas in Australia!

Christmas in Australia means many things, i.e fun hair decorations, painting seed pods from Jacaranda trees to use to make a genuine Aussie Christmas Tree and of course making delicious Christmas biscuits to share with friends - all of this is done to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas ... Peace on earth, Goodwill to all! 
Happy Christmas & Summer Holidays!

Friday, December 6, 2013

One Potato, Two Potato ....

One potato, two potato, three potato, four, five potato, six potato, seven potato, more!

This was the hope of students at St Bernadette's Primary, Lalor Park as they planted their sprouting potato! They articulated that the potato would also need Sun and Water as it snuggled under the layer of Soil, which was just like a blanket or a quilt!
A visit to the Library was a good follow-up to the planting activity and it was exciting to discover that two great Potato books were available to share with the rest of Kindergarten!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Singing in the Rain!

The community at the Catholic Early Learning Centre, Stanhope Gardens welcomed the recent drenching rain, however James Scary Crow needed a large, colourful umbrella to keep him high and dry! Rumour has it, that singing was heard floating across the Outdoor Learning area!

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Potential of a Puddle!

The Potential of a Puddle is a wonderful book by Claire Warden and the children at the Catholic Early Learning Centre, Stanhope Gardens, tested the truth of the statement, when an overflow from the sprinkler caused a muddy puddle, in their outdoor learning space. Words such as soft, squishy, dirty, and phrases such as "It looks just like chocolate" "Mud is cool" were used, as their bare feet and toes, explored the mud!
A special sign was carefully placed over the area, once the sensory experience had finished, to warn children and educators (who were wearing shoes) of another potential of a puddle!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

From Little Things Big Things Grow!

The children at The Catholic Early Centre - Stanhope Gardens have started in a small way, with great success! Cherry tomatoes have appeared after regular watering ... thanks Christopher!
Sunflower seeds have been planted along with the pea seeds and the girls have taken responsibility for keeping them watered!
The iPad was used to check for identification of a plant growing in the garden bed ... and 'YES' ... it is corn!
Rosemary's Flower Shop was constructed in the Learning Space and business was so good that Devante decided to set up a Mail Order facility ... good idea! Charlotte and Grace assisted by scanning the seed packets!
When problems occurred outside, namely the Pineapple Sage and Chocolate Mint were looking very thirsty, Grace decided it was time for them to have a drink of water!
Connie and Claudia discussed the type of food suitable for the Organic Kitchen Bin,
which feeds the Worm Farm! Elena and her friends thought the blackboard needed a new illustration, so a 'Nature Garden' was drawn, complete with a slice of watermelon!

Nicholas and friends checked in with 'James Scary Crow' to ensure that he was keeping all the birds away from the growing plants, not just the crows ... good recommendation, Devante!
Children, parents and staff are very keen to keep the Garden Project growing and are aware that the concept offers a great deal of opportunities for Naturalistic Language, both outdoors and indoors, at the Centre and at home!

Friday, November 1, 2013

QR codes learning in the environment

This week at the Parramatta Learning Community for Sustainability meeting at Sacred Heart Mt Druitt we learnt about utilising QR codes for environmental education.

What are QR codes?
QR codes are like a barcode but square and can encode information like words, instructions, urls etc that can be read by a mobile device QR code reader.

How to read QR codes?
There are many free QR code readers for any mobile device.  Try searching for reader or scanner in the App store.  Try these to start with:
  • QRset
  • Qrafter 
How to create a QR code?
Some simple QR code generators are:

Tips:  Keep your url short by using a URL shortening service.  A good one is:
Goo.gl - it will shorten the url and then if you are signed in and click on details it also creates the QR code.

How can QR codes be used for learning ?
  • Provide links on real objects to web based information. eg a QR code on a pot or stake in the schools kitched garden to give information about the plant.
  • Link to a maths or literacy activity in a google doc or website.
  • Provide instructions around gardening, counting, literacy.
Access the QR code slides here

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Every Child a Talker!

There's a lot to talk and read about as the children at the Catholic Early Learning Centre, Stanhope Gardens get stuck into their garden project, in earnest! Grace, nominated her strawberries as a healthy fruit!

Elena and her friends are wondering when the strawberries will be ready to eat?
Charlotte suggested that a sign be made to keep 'little feet' out of the garden!

Harry is keeping the Spring Onions alive by watering them with his orange watering can!

 AND ...
James  Scarycrow (a name voted on by the children) is about to venture out into the garden ... watch this space!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Mind of Its Own!

The children at the Catholic Early Centre at Stanhope Gardens were excited to discover that one of their strawberries decided to grow leaves on the outside of the fruit! A great opportunity for Discovery Learning ... "WHY IS IT SO?" "WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT?" "I WONDER WHAT IT WILL TASTE LIKE?" "WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?" "IS IT REAL?"

Isn't Nature Wonderful!

Monday, September 2, 2013


St. Patrick’s School Kitchen Garden Blacktown.
A Place to Grow and Learn
Our St. Pat’s Kitchen Garden commenced in 2009. Over that time it has grown and developed from very small beginnings to a large garden growing many and varied vegetables, some citrus fruits, herbs, Rose Cottage (see photo), a rain gauge and a lovely reflective space with a water feature for all to enjoy.
We are a multi-cultural school with 60-70 percent of our students coming from a language background other then English.  We have many refugee and migrant families with a number of our students now being born here, in Australia, but come to school speaking very limited English and having little exposure to proficient English language models.
Our school Kitchen Garden’s primary focus is the development of vocabulary in oral language and the development of confidence in language amongst all the students in order to assist the development of reading comprehension and writing.  We have found that working together on the many and varied projects in and around the garden has improved and developed the student’s ability to socialize, communicate, connect and most importantly co-operate with their peers, learning from teachers and one another. It has created a relaxing place to learn and grow.
We began with 60 students who participated in the program on a rotational basis over one day with three teachers and two teachers’ assistants. We divided these students into three groups of twenty at one time, who would all then be working in groups of five on a selected activity (Literacy, cooking, gardening, craft).  Each week the students would rotate to the next activity. This enabled us to work with each group for approx. 45 minutes.  With limited funding and resources this has been downsized to 45 students at present but working the same way. All students from k-6 are involved, with the groups being of mixed age ranges. The garden fosters the development of leadership skills from the older students and encourages all to be involved. We have not only chosen students who struggle with language but also there is a need to incorporate good language role models for those students. This enables the garden to be an inclusive space for all students, a shared experience for the whole school community. Teachers are also encouraged to use the garden as part of their program enabling even more students to have access to the garden, giving the Kitchen Garden students an opportunity to share their knowledge.
As the program has developed we have worked hard to link closely with Curriculum Outcomes and ESL scales. This keeps us focused and increasingly allows us to expand continually linking into areas of sustainability and the environment. Developing in the students a sense of respect and responsibility towards our community and world. We have explored further the simple things that students and families can do to eat healthy, cook, recycle, compost and care for our world. Our Kitchen Garden Program links positively with literacy, language and life. We can all make a difference and these students are learning new ways to live and enjoy our world whilst increasing their language, knowledge and love of nature.
 From humble beginnings we have now developed and learnt about no dig gardens, planting, harvesting, maintaining and composting. The students feed and use the worm farms, recycle and have developed an awareness of the environment.  We have made scarecrows, tiled areas of the garden, and created a practical outdoor learning space.
All activities are planned, programmed and evaluated weekly, using prepared formats. The garden has fostered and encouraged many students to take their knowledge home, share it with their families and begin their own gardens and lots of conversations!!
The many and varied excursions to Mamre Homestead, Hawkesbury Show and the Youth Eco Summit (YES) have been invaluable new and learning experiences.  A large number of our refugee students have never been to an agricultural show or farm.
Of course as part of our program we cook using many of the vegetables or herbs grown in the garden.  Excess produce at this stage is going home to families and shared with the community, but there are opportunities to grow, sell plants and produce.
The garden has produced enough fruit and vegetables at some stages to give all the students in the school an opportunity to sample the produce from the garden during fruit and water breaks. A fresh, straight from the garden experience.
Students need plenty of varied naturalistic opportunities for language use and the kitchen garden provides involvement in motivating learning experiences, which both linguistically and cognitively challenge students. Our students have come alive in the garden, personalities have emerged and many over-active ones have been more settled. It is now very much embedded in our school culture and programs, constantly growing and improving.
Maria Marks
Learning Support Teacher
See … click on SPKG to view 17 posts!

This item is in the first edition of the Australian Association of Environmental Education - NSW Chapter, journal - 'Conversations'  ... if you would like to receive further information, please contact AAEE Project officer, Jem Hansen, by email ... or phone 02 6585 3601

Friday, August 30, 2013

From Small Beginnings ...!

 Twelve educators from diverse backgrounds attended the 14th Parramatta Learning Community for Sustainability meeting at St Clare's Catholic High School recently and received a warm welcome. A tour of the school grounds by Robert Muscat (Principal) meandered via a beautiful Sacred Space devoted to St Clare of Assisi and concluded at the garden, which students have just commenced, under the guidance of their teacher Lara Hewitson! 

To learn more about how to start a garden at your school and as a bonus, engage your school community in caring for the environment, please join the next PLCfS meeting to be held at Sacred Heart Primary Mount Druitt South on Wednesday 30 October, at 4pm!