Tucked away behind Nagle College’s Bairnsdale Campus at the bottom of a steep, meandering path you will find a hidden treasure, in the form of Nagle College Landcare Rainforest Project.
Broken into three separate areas, this unique project is the brain child of Nagle College Science Teacher and Landcare Coordinator, Andrea Savage, who has spent many years developing the project with help from her self-made Landcare group and the students of the school.
“I really don’t think there is any other school in Victoria doing anything like this. We work so closely with our funding bodies and the East Gippsland Catchment Management Authority to maintain the area,” she said.
The project grew wings in 2012 when Andrea came up with a plan to revegetate the area, which runs right along the bank of the Mitchell River. At this time it was fenced and being used for grazing cattle and was overgrown with weeds.
“I was lucky the principal at the time took a leap of faith and we started the project as part of the school’s Stewardship Program. It ticked several boxes, mainly exposing students to nature and allowing them to make that connection between their natural environment and how this impacts on the rest of the world,” she said.
“We know that youth who have no connection to something often do not care about what happens to it. So by giving the students hands on opportunities in the project it allows them the opportunity to understand and then play a positive role in hopefully reversing some of the effects of the loss of biodiversity in the area.”
The project has been heavily funded by various bodies and would not be operational without the support of funding provided by the Love Our Lakes project funding.
“The most recent grant is being used to target the restoration of the gully area that flows directly into the Mitchell River.
“We have used some of our funding to have willow trees removed, however there is one large stump in the centre of the gully that we can’t remove until we rock the area to assist with bank stabilisation.”
Without the support of the Love Our Lakes funding, external contractors could not be employed to help with the gully project and also assist with weed eradication and general clean up.
Students in year nine at Nagle College are given the opportunity to choose the Mitchell River Eco Warriors subject, which gives them the chance to be directly involved with the restoration of the rainforest area.
“It’s a great subject, a fun way of learning. They are hands on as far as collecting seed from our other established trees, they work on site in our hot house to pot their own seed and care for it. Once it’s ready to plant they get their hands dirty in the rainforest area by planting and putting up their own tree guards.”
The Eco Warriors project also stems out into the technology teaching area, with students in wood work engaged to build nest boxes (funded by East Gippsland Water). The boxes will be placed all through the project area to provide safe havens for birdlife and the sugar glider population that is living in the area.
“Thanks to ongoing funding this project will hopefully continue long into the future as we now have all the foundations in place,” Andrea said.
Nagle College is now the only East Gippsland school offering Environmental Science as a VCE subject and thanks to the rainforest, students engaged in this subject can conduct research and get a real life feel for what they are studying.