Through her Year 6 sustainability inquiry, Erin Kotses was struck by a “big idea” to improve use of the raised garden beds at Findon Campus and develop an integrated garden-based program which will promote ecology, healthy eating attitudes, community engagement and social justice.
Tasked with researching and creating a practical way to ‘make a change’ and endorse sustainability in the school environment, Erin identified an opportunity to leverage the existing garden resources at Nazareth, and scale them into a project which will benefit students, families and the wider community alike.
Erin’s aspiration is to fill the raised beds with produce that can be sold year-round at a community market.
“I want to make the schools garden bigger, and then when fruits and vegetables have grown, we can sell them to staff and parents,” pitched Erin.
As the first step to bringing Erin’s idea to life, R-6 Eco Chiefs assisted by Greg from the maintenance team, recently worked to clean up the garden beds and plant new seeds which will grow into veggie and herbs to be harvested and sold to our community when they are ready.
Involving the Eco-Chief students in planting, nurturing, and tending to the gardens has already stimulated educational benefits – the first of several benefits offered by Erin’s three-fold project.
“I want other kids to also learn the importance of caring for the earth through them helping out with the garden,” stated Erin in her ‘Idea Action Plan’.
“My aim is to connect kids with nature. The garden will help students connect with the land and rebuild what we have destroyed in the past. It will teach us to listen to nature, rather than work against it,” she said.
Educated in a community of faith, Erin also sees an opportunity for her project to be an act of social justice and service to others. A key part of her plan is to have the sale of Nazareth grown produce provide financial benefit to local charities, or benefit by way of surplus food donation to the NazConnects program or FoodBank.
“When we sell produce to staff and parents, all the money that we raise can go to a local charity. I would like to make this change because it can really help people in need who might have had their lives turned upside down,” expressed Erin.
“If we have any extra fruits or vegetables, we can donate them to a local FoodBank too. It is an act of kindness” she added.
The project would then trigger a chain reaction of other benefits, including strengthening family engagement by facilitating parent involvement, and building community through food market events.
“I would love to have a seasonal community market event, where parents and staff are invited to come to our school and buy what we have grown”.
Erin’s hope is that this would also encourage families to get in touch with nature at home and practice improved sustainability habits.
“Staff and parents will be welcome to donate fruits and vegetables for sale from their gardens at home too,” she said.
An advocate for the inquiry unit and a leader in sustainability herself, Year 6 Teacher Mrs Kay Baker expressed her excitement to see student voice come to life through the progress of Erin’s project.
“Student agency has produced remarkable ideas from our Year 6s, showcasing how we can work with nature, rather than against it,” said Kay.
“Seeing the students watch their ideas come to life is extremely rewarding, whilst making positive sustainable changes to our school community” she said.
As for the next steps in the project, the newly planted gardens are expected to be ready to harvest later this year. Erin will continue to work with the Nazareth Leadership Team to explore what is possible moving forward. She aims to work towards setting up a produce market opportunity for families later this year.