Principal Garry Vear says that for both staff and students, the award-winning gardening club is a point of pride. It’s also been successful in enabling the school to better connect with the local community.
“Our gardening club, what it has achieved this year is just extraordinary, as staff we sit back and think ‘wow, this is amazing’,” he says.
“The work that they’ve done, the enthusiasm … now we’re starting to think ‘what are the next steps to further involve our children and our school community?’, it’s extraordinary stuff.”
Vear explains that the school has also been recently blessed with a new cohort of students and parents.
“We’re only a small school, but we’re fortunate, we had quite a big influx of Foundation students at the start of the year. Of course, with that you’ve got lots of new parents, lots of enthusiasm and lots of excitement.”
For teachers too there has been excitement about the gardening club. Students are given the opportunity to work on all of the planning, budgeting, preparing, or financing.
“So for teachers the idea is further developing our program in the classroom. That’s exciting for us,” Vear says.
Recently taking home the Latrobe Council Garden Competition award has also been more recognition of the school’s program which has only served to further reinforce the students’ progress and celebrate their success.
“We have a lot of our children now, as part of choosing during lunchtime, choosing to be part of our gardening club...
“We had a team of five or six kids attend the [award] ceremony, they were just so proud that it was their school, it was their garden, it was a lot of their hard work.”
Another aspect of Toongabbie Primary’s program is that it plays on existing strengths and interests students have.
“When you talk about rural kids … most of them are on properties that have animals. They have orchards, they have veggie patches, so I think within most rural communities, [gardening is] just something that families do.
“I think it’s a part of living in a rural community. A lot of children who are really involved in the program didn’t necessarily start from the beginning, they’ve seen things developing and they’ve developed an interest.”
As student interest continues to grow in the program and local businesses happily take the school’s produce, Vear says that Toongabbie Primary School will be continuing to examine ways to foster student engagement and creativity in the classroom.