SFSF - Schools For a Sustainable Future
Joseph Natoli, SFSF Project Director, surrounded by happy, enthusiastic children
synergy vol 1 issue 1

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The Plenty River
Discovery program

Have you ever strolled along your local creek or river and felt upset at the amount of rubbish, pollution and weeds you see? Have you wondered how you can become involved in a community effort to learn about and improve your local natural environment?


The Plenty River Discovery Program (PRDP) is an environmental education and action program currently being undertaken along the Plenty River in the City of Banyule.  Now in its second year, the program aims to foster a 'sense of place' by encouraging local schools and the wider community to actively participate in the natural environment right outside their door.  The program is designed to support and encourage lifestyle changes and action that will ultimately reduce the further degradation of the Plenty River.

The PRDP is a joint initiative of the City of Banyule and Genus Loci, an environmental consultancy specialising in community environmental education and action initiatives.  Genus Loci is undertaking the implementation of the program under the management of the Plenty River Works Coordinator for the City of Banyule.

Throughout its first year, PRDP was based at Montmorency Secondary College.  Interest and ongoing support has led to the continuation of the program in 1998; the plan in this coming year is to extend the program beyond the pilot school and into the wider community.

Students and teachers were enthusiastic about the environmental activities initiated through the Plenty River Discovery Program.  Genus Loci, with a typically 'hands-on' approach, integrated the river into various areas of the Ecology component of the year 8 and 10 Science unit.  Activities focused on creating a comprehensive understanding of the river and its catchment area, and the related human induced pressures.  The year was capped with the establishment of a student-led Environment Group.

Keeping students interested in ecological issues is the real challenge of any environmental education agenda.  Genus Loci uses lots of fun techniques to make the environment real and relevant to students' lives.  Particular effort is focused on giving students' environmental  activities a place within their local -and global - community.  Creating displays for local festivals and events (including, in late 1997, a display for the launch of Schools For a Sustainable Future); participating in a student Community Streamwath group; the design and eventual implementation of a Plenty River Discovery Program Internet homepage by a VCE Graphics student; and participation in an indigenous planting session with the Banyule Council Bushland Crew.  These all helped to take student activities beyond the school fences and into their wider environment.

On World Environment Day students were treated to two special guests:  Peter Malcolm, the statewide Community Streamwatch coordinator, entertained students with music and discussion about environmental issues; and Betty Sargeant, from the popular Melbourne percussion band Ruby Fruit Jungle, helped Year 10, 11 and 12 students to write a song expressing their feelings about environmental issues.   Both guests emphasised that the small parts we each play in healing the planet are vital.

A project like the Plenty River Discovery Program has the ability to strengthen relationships between schools, councils and community groups, enabling a more cohesive approach in the quest to achieve environmental goals and to live more sustainably.

For more information please call Melanie Kelly or Karen Kost from Genus Loci on (03) 9481 6736.



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