Using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as the lens one Kreative Koalas school inspired another to put the program “front and centre” of all its learning – and created a rival to Gardening Australia in the process
“When you dig up a piece of soil like this all you think is brown dirt”, says a student from Hamilton Public School (HPS). With a shovel in his hand for a video camera, this pupil and his peers who have created “Blue Gate Garden TV”, part of their entry for this first-time Kreative Koalas school, could be the next Costa Georgiadis.
The brainchild of the Newcastle school and filmed in their community garden, the seven-episode series aims to educate and inform parents, neighbours and others across Australia about the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It’s one of the many initiatives of HPS, led by assistant principal Zane Osborn and inspired by award-winning Medowie Christian School, who shared their Kreative Koala’s storytelling success tips. With the SDGs already embedded in their curriculum for the past two years, HPS applied for a Sustainable Schools Grant at the end of 2020. At the same time, they began looking at adapting the Centre of Excellence in Agricultural Education (CoE) No Bees No Future program to students learnings
“Kris Beazley from CoE who delivers the No Bees No Future program said to us ‘you’re doing Kreative Koalas without knowing about it. You need to get on their website and register your interest in the program”
“We were already on the way to producing Blue Gate Garden TV, and Kreative Koalas was the final piece of the puzzle that provided the pathway to pursue it.” says Zane.
The grant money allowed HPS to buy film equipment, and they hired permaculture gardener, sustainability educator and video artist Suzy Bates for the shooting.
To create the series’ scripts, exploring SDG goals such as Goal 2 – “zero hunger” – Zane’s students practiced informative and persuasive writing techniques. In the process, they drew upon the advice of Martha Atkins from Medowie Christian School in the NSW Hunter region. In her tips and tricks video Martha advises schools to make Kreative Koalas “front and centre” of their teaching program
“It’s a really helpful way to allow time and give you space to do this well rather than try to fit it in on top of what you’re already teaching,” Martha says.
Zane says when he saw what Martha had done he thought “this is incredible”.
“Martha certainly provided lots of inspiration based on what she did and the nuts and bolts of how to get it done,” he says.
HPS were already aligning every unit of work with a global goal and using novels such as Boy Overboard and Refugee to explore human rights issues, Zane says he didn’t envisage jumping into another program at the start of 2021.
“I didn’t have this in my scope, but once the year evolved and we started to go down this path with the bees we realised Kreative Koalas was a perfect complement ” he says.
After they held an ‘ideation design thinking day’, the HPS students came up with nearly 500 different ways of working towards fulfilling the SDG goals with a strong focus on SDG 15 – “life on land”.
“As we refined our brainstorming further, we took our inspiration for our model from Gardening Australia,” says Zane.
The school ended up dedicating a whole term to the project. After conducting all the research, storyboarding the episodes, learning how to use the film equipment and shooting, they spent about three weeks in early June filming.
In one episode of Blue Gate Garden TV, students Rafa, Luca, Ryder and Mateo demonstrate how to test the soil with a pH kit, using dye, sulphate, vinegar, bicarb soda, water and other materials. In others, three girls demonstrate how to “grow a pizza” with ingredients picked from the school’s Blue Gate Garden, and a boy pretends to be a bee escaping from a pesticide.
Blue Gate Garden TV featuring the use of pH Methods
With seven episodes done and dusted, there’s another ten of the series in the pipeline. While Year six has been the focus for Kreative Koalas, the success of the program for HPS has meant that year four and kindergarten have also done some filming for Blue Gate Garden TV. One year four class has been so inspired by the series, that they’re even hoping to create their own show!
Blue Gate Garden TV Making Wicking Beds
Making Kreative Koalas front and centre of their subjects put HPS ahead of the curve for the world-renowned schools Kreative Koalas when COVID lockdowns started. HPS’s supportive community of parents, also hungry for sustainable solutions to environmental problems, has also ensured its success.
“The things that you work hardest at are the things that you find most rewarding,” says Zane, who teaches geography, science, English, creative and performing arts, of his school’s Kreative Koalas results.
A “UN Blue Day”, an open day for the school to showcase the work they’re doing in pursuit of the SDGs, where they will launch Blue Gate Garden TV, is also planned once COVID restrictions are lifted.
“We are always looking for innovative ways to teach principles embedded in the UN goals for sustainable development, which are central to our programming at HPS.
“We also have a strong sustainability policy and several projects which promote a ‘think global, act local’ approach to issues.” says Zane.
Zane is an example of a teacher taking every opportunity to ensure their students have the best experience and are prepared for the jobs of the future, says A4A founder and national program director Lynne Strong.
“He is one of those people who plan, plan, plan, plan and he made sure that his students made the most of every non-COVID moment in term two to create Blue Gate Garden TV,” she says.
Zane, a teacher of a decade who has been at HPS for the past five years, says that his advice for other Kreative Koalas teachers is setting aside time and making the program a learning priority, as it’s already connected to so much syllabus content.
“It’s becoming the best practice model for education where students can see that the Science, English and Math they are learning are all connected to real world issues.
“It allows you to create more meaningful and more relevant learning for students.” he says.
Hamilton Public School Blue Gate TV talk Biodiversity
Having participated in Kreative Koalas for the past two years, Martha Atkins says that in 2019 Medowie Christian School realised that the program “ticks off so many outcomes in nearly every subject, so we didn’t need to do it as an added extra”.
“We could make that our whole program for the term or the whole two terms and for a whole semester our main program for science, art and English,” she says.
Like all schools in lockdown areas the pandemic situation for students’ learning is far from ideal, and schools like HPS are doing the best they can to ensure no student is left behind.
Kreative Koalas had helped to keep the students engaged in what had been an “incredibly challenging” time.” Zane says.
Hamilton Public School also followed Martha’s advice to take lots of photos of your journey
Medowie Christian School’s tips for Kreative Koalas
Shoutout to our supporting partners nurturing next gen changemakers