A concern for the future of koalas has inspired students at Warrawee Care Centre to use Kreative Koalas as a tool to “learn more, raise awareness and be heard”, which has allowed them to create a legacy for their school and community.
Warrawee Care Centre is an outside of school hours (OOSH) service located on the grounds of Warrawee Public School in northern Sydney, which empowers students to plan experiences alongside educators. Over the COVID-strangled years from 2020 to 2022, 100 students developed a community action plan called “Save Our Koalas”.
“Our project began with the bushfires of 2019 and an interested group of children who watched the news and learnt of the plight of the koalas across the eastern coastal areas of NSW. They came to staff keen to make a difference and have their voices heard and within a week were actioning a way to raise awareness and funds to support the koalas.”
Guided by Sustainable Development Goals 13 Climate Action and 15 Life on Land, Warrawee students set three goals of their own to learn about koalas, raise awareness and establish partnerships with koala-friendly organisations.
In order to increase their knowledge they collaborated with a range of people and organisations. They invited local veterinarian Prue Honson to speak to them about the effects of the fires on koalas, they visited the Koala Park Sanctuary at West Pennant Hills to learn about koala habitat and they connected with the Port Stephens Koala Hospital to learn how to care for injured koalas.
Collaboration continued when Warrawee reached out to Clovelly OOSH that was also campaigning for koalas. The two centres set up a pen pal program and children shared research and posters. Another pen pal program encouraged care and awareness in families and community:
“Children developed a family pen pal program during the COVID 2021 lockdown in which we had 8 koala soft toys that visited children’s homes for the weekend. Children then researched about koalas, created a koala shelter and took a photo then added the photo and what they had learnt into a scrapbook. This allowed our SAVE THE KOALA campaign to continue and for families to be involved. Our koalas visited over 60 homes and raised awareness in many households!”
Students raised $890 by holding market stalls and selling donated koala merchandise. They researched how best to invest their funds and once again connected with the Port Stephens Koala Hospital.
“We now sponsor four koalas each year and when our current koalas are released we vote on which new koala to adopt. The legacy of the SAVE THE KOALA campaign lives on!”
COVID created many challenges for the students of Warrawee Care Centre. Lockdowns meant schools were closed and their Kreative Koalas project extended over two years. It also meant a cohort of students leaving the Care Centre (for high school) and leaving specific projects (such as a website) uncompleted. But despite the setbacks the staff reflected on success.
“Children learnt how valued their collective voices could be and the importance of speaking out when you are passionate about something. The plight of our koalas and the link with Port Stephens Koalas is now part of our service culture and something that children will continue to talk about for years to come. The legacy of the Kreative Koala project will live on visually through our giant painted koala, our wall displays and our sponsorship budget.
“Overall, the Kreative Koalas program has been a rewarding and empowering experience. When educators were ready to stop, the children kept driving the project forward. They investigated, researched and advocated for SAVE THE KOALAS and through community involvement, educator collaboration and family engagement are one step closer to helping the koalas in NSW.”
Through child-led learning, facilitated by Kreative Koalas, the students of Warrawee Care Centre have taken an idea from the ashes of the 2019 bushfires and used their voices to make a difference. They set and met goals to increase their knowledge, raise awareness in their community and create a lasting legacy with Port Stephens Koala Hospital. Warrawee students and staff represent the Kreative Koalas program at its finest.
#KreativeKoalas #YouthVoices #EndangeredSpecies