Kreative Koalas – Design a Bright Future has wrapped up for another year with students from multiple schools exploring the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (SDG) and taking their peers, their families and their communities on a sustainability journey. One such school is Tarrawanna Public School.
“Tarrawanna Public School (TPS) has been building a culture of sustainability over the past three years. When our principal, Bronwyn Jeffree, started at TPS, she recognised the gaps in sustainability learning and introduced ‘The Living Classroom’ project run by Aaron Sorenson at Elemental Permaculture. Aaron is amazing at what he does and has been instrumental in encouraging sustainability at TPS.” assistant principal Kelly Judd says.
The Living Classroom provided foundations and focus for the school’s sustainability journey.
“The Living Classroom is a permaculture classroom where students establish and maintain different systems,” Aaron says, examples of which include a 4-seasons vegetable garden, composting, biodiversity and themed gardens such as tropical food forests where pawpaw and banana now bear fruit.
The Living Classroom demonstrates care of country. We are informed by the legacy of Indigenous people and are setting up frameworks to work with traditional land owners. At Tarrawanna it is, most importantly, a reconciliation garden,” Aaron continues.
The Living Classrooms are designed by Aaron Sorenson and Dan Deighton of Elemental Permaculture
Sustainability at Tarrawanna comes from kids teaching kids. As older students (known as Environmental Leadership Ambassadors) progress through The Living Classroom project, they impart their knowledge and understanding to the younger children so that all students from K-6 have some form of sustainability participation. That may be food-scrap collection for the compost, weeding, mulching or harvesting.
“What we hear from our students is they will correct each other if something is placed the in the wrong bin. They understand the value of the food scraps and how important it is to the garden and the ecosystems,” Kelly says.
The message also reaches families and communities.
“Our experience shows sustainability conversations go home. We’ve had parents ask if they can come in for our Living Classroom lessons (joining their children in a lesson). In these instances, the child becomes the teacher, as students excitedly share ideas about sustainability and the things they can improve around the home to be more sustainable. Families report they have planted vegetable gardens, have chicken coups and are composting,” Kelly says.
TPS furthered their sustainability journey in 2022 when they participated in Kreative Koalas, which inspired them to connect with Wollongong City Council to jointly create a Tiny Forest for the preservation of local wildlife.
“The project has encouraged wildlife back into the area and the students and community monitor the types of animals returning,” Kelly says.
Combining the Tiny Forest, which provides food for native animals, and permaculture gardens, which provide food for students and the community, led TPS to study SDG 2: Zero Hunger for their Kreative Koalas project.
The artwork on their koala Mr T B Kind (short for ‘to be kind’) depicts the animals seen in the permaculture garden and in the Tiny Forest including native bees, kookaburras, the black cockatoo and the iconic Tarrawanna water dragons. These mosaic animals, on Mr T B Kind, are made from re-purposed broken tiles that were discovered as garden beds were created.
“Our Kreative Koala has our community talking. He is the icon in our garden and the children take great delight in sharing the story of why a decorated koala now lives in our school,” Kelly says.
Rounding out the Kreative Koalas project was an open day held at the school with invitations to parents and community members to visit classrooms and see firsthand the sustainability learning that is happening at Tarrawanna Public School.
“We are very proud of our sustainability efforts and how it has connected our community,” Kelly says.
Congratulations to everyone at Tarrawanna Public School for being a leading light on how sustainability, through programs such as The Living Classroom and Kreative Koalas, can become embedded in the community.