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‘Living classroom’ provides unique experience for students

The local natural environment and an exploration of Australian Indigenous culture have been the focus of an innovative educational partnership involving students from Commercial Road Primary School, Monash University Gippsland and community representatives.

Over the past three years, Commercial Road students have been working with university primary education students from Monash Gippsland, who as part of their studies, designed and facilitated outdoor learning activities. These have taken place at the Morwell River and Brodribb Road wetlands, managed by IPR-GDF SUEZ Hazelwood (formerly International Power Hazelwood).

Dr Monica Green, Lecturer with the Faculty of Education at Monash Gippsland, said grade 3 and 4 students at Commercial Road had explored a range of topics with the guidance of Monash education students, including innovative and action-based on-site activities at the wetlands.

“This has included bug collection, nature-trail treasure hunts, photography, environmental journalism, artwork, hut building, hunting games, canoe making and a range of other activities,” Dr Green said.

“This term, the focus has been framed by the theme of Indigenous education, with a number of schoolbased activities taking place, which have introduced the students to Australian Indigenous culture, including music, art, sport and local stories.”

The educational opportunities in this ‘living classroom’ were part of a program developed in 2002 by leading teacher Max Sargent and staff from Commercial Road. Guidance and expertise was also provided by Gunai / Kurnai educator Doris Paton, and Environmental Officer for IPR-GDF SUEZ Hazelwood, Kevin Jones, who provided historical and ecological knowledge of the wetlands.

“Simultaneously, the program involved Commercial Road teachers mentoring Monash primary education students to develop the activity-based program in the wetlands,” Dr Green said.

“Working in small teams, the Monash students planned and delivered learning activities that supported students’ ‘wonderings’ about Indigenous culture.”

To celebrate their involvement in the program, Commercial Road students recently participated in a Wetlands Expo at Monash Gippsland to showcase their projects.

“The expo provided a wonderful opportunity for the children to discuss the wide range of topics they had researched during Term 3. The students loved the opportunity to visit the university and share their work with the broader Monash community,” Dr Green said.

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