By Lucy Kyriacou, Project Science Officer
It’s been another busy term for the Biodiversity in Schools program, with Blue Carbon at the front and centre of delivery. As awareness about the importance of mangrove, saltmarsh, and seagrass habitat around Western Port grows, local schools are beginning to place the importance of the marine and coastal environment front and centre of their teaching. It’s not all about carbon preservation either. These habitats are vitally important for the biodiversity they support, their value for migratory shorebirds, erosion control, flood mitigation and potentially to protect against the worst effects of sea level rise. We are able to support this with our small team of passionate education officers and local experts, offering guided walks and workshops at some of Western Port’s blue carbon hotspots, or by bringing the marine environment to the classroom with lots of species to explore and migratory shorebirds to learn about.
This term, St Mary’s in Hastings has initiated the Sea is Our Best Friend program, connecting the middle and senior students with their local coastal mangrove and saltmarsh ecosystems with regular walks to observe and interact with the environment. The Biosphere Foundation supported students’ learning with an introductory incursion. . The students had immense fun exploring the trays we brought in filled with mangroves and seagrass, and there were squeals of delight over the crabs and critters that wriggled out of the seagrass, highlighting exactly why these ecosystems are so important for birdlife with the abundant food source they provide. We also supported the students on a guided walk where they learnt about the fossil fuel industry first-hand with the gas works in the background, and the amazing ability of mangroves to absorb carbon from the atmosphere.
St Joseph’s Primary, Crib Point, who have been visiting the mangroves of Woolley’s Beach Reserve for four years, extended the students’ learning about blue carbon by taking them on a trip, guided by the Biosphere Foundation, to French Island to observe as close to pristine coastal ecosystems as they could. They students walked over 11km on the day along the OId Coast Road to Fairhaven Beach, where they explored the environment and observed the natural succession of the ecosystem from beach to saltmarsh, to tea tree forest, as the sea grasses break down providing essential nutrients for the successive ecosystems to develop.
Carrum Primary joined us on a guided walk and workshop day to Woolley’s Beach as an introductory excursion for the coastal and marine inquiry topic they were starting. We introduced the students to the changing habitats and ecological vegetation classifications as we walked through the bush to the sea and engaged them with a ‘treasure hunt’ for species such as the carnivorous groundcover, Drosera spp., the ephemeral vine, colloquially known as Snotty Gobble, and the pupae casing of the rain moth, a large empty brown shell that sticks out of the ground and looks a bit like ET’s finger. On the beach they rotated through four activities, including an introduction to the mangroves, a rock pool rummage, and a talk on migratory shorebirds and the importance of mudflats.
Newhaven College continue to actively engage in their Water Stewardship plan, with the Year 9 students working on a drain design on the school grounds. Students have identified the challenges with the drain and have begun drafting the solution focused drain design which will be further supported with our resident expert Lance Lloyd. The students finished the day with a planting session within the schools wetland, strengthening the riparian zone with plantings of Selleria spp.
Milly Formby from Birdlife Australia has just taken off on a flight around Australia in a microlight plane, on her Wing Threads adventure, and the Biosphere Foundation is sponsoring the leg of her journey from Tyabb to Latrobe. She is going to be visiting Coolart Wetlands for a story book reading and talk for school children in a joint Biosphere Foundation and Coolart Wetland event. Landing in Tyabb is currently scheduled for August, we will keep you updated with the exact date and time closer to the time. Be sure to stay tuned to our Facebook for updates on this courageous journey!
As our funding through the Federal Government’s Environmental Restoration Fund is drawing to a close, we are moving to a fee-for-service model for delivery of the Biodiversity in Schools Program. If you are interested in learning more about the incursions and guided field trips we can offer, please visit https://www.biosphere.org.au/biosphere-projects/current-projects/biodiversity-in-schools-term-2-2022/ , or get in touch with Lucy Kyriacou or Jessica Brady at [email protected].