Roundtable paper— education based on a River Red Gum Woodland environment at Jeparit Primary School 2010

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This session had three parts:

· Imagine you were 10 in 2010, what would your experience of your local environment be? Would it be positive, negative, and why? Thanks to everyone who came and shared their local perspectives in this session

· What was the experience of their local River environment like for the Jeparit Primary School senior class in 2010?

· What education activities did I use to teach them about this environment and provide a positive view of it. 


Questions for participants to consider based on the above:

· What are the local problems where the children you teach live, that they are growing up with, that may be colouring their view of the goodness of the environment?

· What sorts of activities/projects could you undertake locally that you could then use to share locally, regionally and  globally?


(I hadn’t learnt how to correctly insert pdf’s when I did this, so I  put in most of the paper and the pdf’s have been inserted later. )


These are the key points and links from the paper: 

My question/dilemma

As we come into a climate changing world (for the worse), how do we bring up our kids so they are positive about the environment, and don’t feel they are inheriting something that is not so good?  i.e.  I want to positively slant my teaching!

My solution:

focus on the good stuff, inspire its appreciation and knowledge for its care, share the good stuff with others, especially in art.


The paper had two parts:

1 Our damaged River Red Gum Woodlands Floodplain 

2 Teaching for the positives in a damaged environment




1 Our damaged River Red Gum Woodlands Floodplain

The River environment the 2010 senior class JPS children grew up with was:

Location – inland, southernpart of the Murray- Darling Basin, a closed sub- system terminating in the large Lake Hindmarsh (dry from 2000 to 2010).

Climate - semi-arid, about 350 mm pa rainfall, but drought through kids lifetime


Salinity story in two pdfs  - a salinity graph for the decade from the Jeparit Waterwatch Group’s monthly monitoring.











And the graphs that the Jeparit Primary School students have created from the Waterwatch data that they collected over the years.












River flows -  last natural run 1996, last environmental flow 2005

River position of Jeparit       The end of the Wimmera River

River environment - dry flood plains (billabongs), stagnant remnant pools

Photos in a 2 page pdf of river responses to drought in the 1997-2009 period:











(Did you see Strange River Colours  as well?)


By 2005, the River Red Gum trees were white skeletons, the banks were lowering and eroding into rills and later gullies, salty water was seeping down to the waters edge leaving red sand deposits where it met the water, water was turbid olive- green, smelly and saltier than the sea. There were no fish caught in the annual fishing competition, no water birds, no turtles, no frogsong, few water bugs – fly-ins that didn’t last long.


In 2009, the cycling of nutrients, salt, algae and bacteria brought strange colours to the River’s remnant water. …. And then the River went red with an incredible carpeting bloom of brine shrimp!


How could children possibly think positively and warmly about such a River environment?


2 Teaching for the positives in a damaged environment

This part is also linked to the previous page Jeparit Primary School

This 8 page pdf shows the creative work of the

senior class at JPS in 2010.








Opportunities to look at many different scales to focus on the good stuff

Use the best of the local area             

· Challenge to find the good stuff ie look for the positives eg slant the field work, don’t fully survey an environment that will come up poor, just survey some part/living thing that will be positive

· Take photos of good stuff and use them for literacy activities

· Take the children out to photograph selected aspects and use their photos

· Create artworks, stories and songs with and/or for the children to focus on good stuff

· Find actions that the children can do to improve some thing in this environment


Share the good stuff  - Going local, regional, global

· Contribute to events eg shows, rallies, festivals, online projects

· Contribute to newsletters, newspapers and websites – school, community, regional, global


Examples of activities and products from the Jeparit PS environmental education program to learn ‘about, in and for’ a healthy River Red Gum Woodland in 2010 – the International Year of Biodiversity. 

The local River environment was used for each activity/product. These were chosen to link with each other.

Within the school        

· Photos from the woodland used for literacy and environmental learning teaching

· Going out to do field work and reflecting on experiences by looking at the positives eg What’s beautiful at the River drawings used for UNEP Art Competition.

· Science Talent Search Creative Writing Picture Books based on two creatures which live in a River Red Gum Woodland –  children’s choices reflected things that were there eg huntsmen spiders.

· Kids Teaching Kids/ Literacy Week activity, not part of formal programs, but used their STS Stories and read them to junior class with comprehension questions they had devised for the juniors.

· Reports and photos put into school newsletter  (aimed for, but didn’t get put on school website)

· End of year poster showing their photos of landform and plants found along the River that Spring


Within the local community    

· Sharing positive images and information about the River Red Gum Woodlands Environment

· June Museum Rally display of story book “ Who sleeps where in the River Red Gum Tree?”

· October Town show display of Dream Rocket panel of a Healthy River Red Gum Woodland derived from grouping their Science Talent Search Stories.

· December photo display of landforms and River plants in Spring for end of year break-up with parents

· Reports and photos put into town paper.


Within the regional community          

· Sharing positive images and information about their River Red Gum Woodlands Projects

· Reports and photos put into regional newspaper

· Participation in Murray Darling Basin Authority e:lit Special Forever project “source to the sea – a virtual river journey”


· Within the global community         

· Sharing positive images and information about their River Red Gum Woodlands and place on earth.

· Reports and photos put into global projects – those sent away as hard copy can also be used digitally

· Online and art display e.g. Dream Rocket art installation

· Global children’s art project e.g. UNEP annual biodiversity art competition


There were lots of other things available that we could have done, but didn’t due to time or lesser linkages.  The website reports above shows how some of them were linked together and developed.




This page was last updated on 10 October 2011 (with working pdfs).


© J. Clark, environmental educator, enviroed4all, Warracknabeal, 2011. All Rights reserved.

National Science Week 2011

Strange River Colours 2009

Jeparit Primary School 2010

WEEC Roundtable paper

WEEC news release

VAEE commendation 2010

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