Life skills harvested in garden

A student planting a tree.

Taking care of the garden helps students at Mary Brooksbank School grow.

A school for specific purposes, Mary Brooksbank provides education for 69 students aged four to 18 years who have intellectual and physical disabilities.

The school supports the students' development through a variety of programs with a keen focus on horticulture and recycling.

"Our environmental program aims to provide students with meaningful and relevant access to the curriculum in work education, science, food technology, personal development, English and creative arts," assistant principal Jennifer Neradovsky said.

At the heart of Mary Brooksbank is the school's flourishing 'living classroom' - a permaculture garden - home to a wide variety of plants, fruits and vegetables.

"The garden consists of four no-dig garden beds, two compost bins, a mulch storage area and rainwater tank, a green house, a worm farm, and bush tucker plants," Ms Neradovsky said.

"It is joined on one side by an outdoor food preparation area and has a sensory area with winding paths and seating where the students can sit and enjoy the garden."

As a keen gardener herself, Ms Neradovsky is an advocate of the benefits of being outdoors and had noticed the positive impact being engaged in environmental activities had on the students.

"The students have taken ownership of the living classroom and outdoor area, watering and caring for the plants. They are very protective of each seedling and are keen to nurture the things their class has planted," Ms Neradovsky said.

"Aside from learning how to care for and cultivate their plants, many of our students benefit from being outdoors, finding it calming and relaxing."

The environmental initiatives also support the students' interpersonal development.  Due to the students intellectual disabilities their best way of learning is by participating in activities and doing things for themselves.

"The programs provide students with the skills they can use for life as active and valued members of their community," Ms Neradovsky said. 

Student management of the school's recycling had been a way of implementing the work education syllabus for the high school students.

"The students collect recyclable materials from classrooms and offices. Donations of aluminium cans are received from community and external organisations. Students use wall-mounted crushers to crush these as part of the school's work groups and transport these to the recycling centre," said Ms Neradovsky.

The money collected through the recycling and the sale of fruits and herbs from the garden goes back into the school to support further environmental activities.

Photo: A student plants a tree in the school grounds. Photo supplied by Mary Brooksbank School.

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