With the arrival of the rain, our Class 7 students began a month-long gardening block, in which they will plant close to 2000 native shrubs and trees – part of a 20-year bush regeneration project that has transformed the School's degraded creek-side and agricultural land into a wildlife refuge.
"The students are learning how to address climate change by increasing the carbon-capturing capacity of the soil," said project coordinator and bush regenerator Nadia de Souza Pietramale. "We are using the school grounds as a giant class room, in which computers and books are replaced with wheel barrows, and shovels."
The students get out their gumboots and gloves every afternoon after lunch, for more than an hour of planting with the help of their teachers and the School bush regeneration team.
Students Thea and Amy said planting trees made them feel good. "It makes us feel like we can make a change and, by being proactive regarding climate change, we can give ourselves and others hope for our future environment." These same students had previously expressed their despair for the future. "Right now at 12 years of age we already don’t want to envision our future. We are afraid that its already too late. So we are begging you to listen and more importantly take heed of what we say."
This year, the School’s bush regeneration focus will be on extending the flood plain plant community, which is swamp sclerophyll forest - an important habitat for koalas and many other local wildlife species. This project is part of the development of a wildlife corridor across the campus from the east to the north-west, where it will join established plantings on the western boundary of the property. When completed in the next few years, this wildlife corridor will be almost 2km long.
This year, the students will also add understory plants to areas planted in previous years. These will include indigenous bush food species such as Davidson's Plum, Small-leaved Tamarind, Native Ginger and Midginberry.
Sourcing our Trees
But trees are not for free. The 2020 Shearwater tree planting project has been made possible with incredible community support including the following donations: 1000 trees from Reforest Now (who also came in with four augers and dug all the holes for the project!); 230 plants from Burringbar Rainforest Nursery; six trucks of mulch from Rainforest 4 Foundation, and a grant from the NSW Government’s Biodiversity Conservation Trust that will buy another 250 trees and fertiliser; with additional support from Mullumbimby Rural Cooperative. Shearwater's Primary School children, who propagate bush food plants in the school nursery, have grown another 250 trees to go in the ground.
The ongoing management of the reforestation of the School grounds is a huge job that is supported by the school administration. "All planting and maintenance of the trees follows sustainable, organic and biodynamic land management principles," said Nadia.
"We will cover all the gaps between the trees with biomass, such as pruned branches and palm fronds - resources abundant in the School grounds. This organic material will suppress grass growth. It will also feed soil micro-organisms such as the mycorrhizal fungi which make minerals and other nutrients available to the plants in exchange for the sugars produced by the trees through photosynthesis. Nature is cooperation in action!"
"We hope that this becomes a model for managing young forests, where waste biomass covers the forest floor, feeding the soil, reducing waste burning, and controlling weeds. As we cover the grounds with biomass, we increase the capacity of the soil to hold water, which also increases carbon storage. For some species such as bandicoots this ground cover will create habitat.
"The process of returning biomass to the earth also restores the intelligence in the soil, assisting the trees to catch carbon to their full capacity, helping to restore the solar balance on earth and reducing the risks of climate change."