By Kyra Gillespie
Pakenham Secondary College has secured almost $200,000 through the State Government’s ‘Pick My Project’ community grants initiative.
Lead by teacher Allison Barrie, who specialises in environmental science, the funding will go towards a community school farm and food project, which will see students develop pathways in horticulture, agriculture, food, building and construction.
“Cardinia is experiencing a range of challenges directly linked with food; the area experiences rates obesity 33 per cent higher than the state average, with 95 per cent of residents not consuming the recommended daily amounts of fresh vegetables despite living in one of Melbourne’s key ‘foodbowl’ areas,” Ms Barrie said.
“We see a lot of kids come through the school that have a low-nutrient diet, so we thought a project like this could be a good way to get them excited about food, as well as to create work pathways.
“If they actually get to grow and cook the food they’ll be able to see the value of it and take those skills beyond their schooling life.”
The cash will also fund support workers to help set up the program, a project coordinator and workshop facilitators to further engage the students.
For the trade-oriented students, they will get the opportunity to construct the hothouses and other related structures, while students with an artistic flair will get the chance to work with local artists to create art installations to complement the project.
“This will promote hands-on learning that engages students in new and interesting ways,” Ms Barrie said.
“For example, if we are doing measurement in maths we’ll be able to give the students a chance to apply those equations in the real world.
“For the food tech kids, they’ll be able to use what they’ve been growing in their recipes.”
The project will also be carried out in partnership with Sustain: The Australian Food Network and Cockatoo farmer Vicki Jones of Tarago Valley Organics, who has set aside five acres of her 230 acre property for the students to use.
“I have two daughters and a son, and working on the farm gave them so much confidence that helped them at school,” Ms Jones said.
“That’s why I wanted to be part of this project, to help these kids the opportunity to engage in hands-on activities and develop a strong work ethic.
“Farming really is an untapped resource, and I’d love to see projects like this across many schools in the future.”
Once the money is secured, the school will have 12 months to bring the project to fruition.