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Ithaca Creek State School

Ithaca Creek State School has been vital to the integration of Ithaca Creek into school curriculum. Ithaca Creek State School is located less than 300 metres up the road from Ithaca Creek. In June 2008 a meeting was held between the local bushcare group leader, a number of teachers and the Ithaca Intact Coordinator. The premise behind the meeting was to get the school more involved with their local community through the Lugg St Bushcare Group and the Ithaca Intact project. We did better than that! The results of this meeting formed the basis for the development of a comprehensive education unit based on sustainability and natural and built environments, using Ithaca Creek as the local learning context.

The Department of the Environment and Heritage describes the need for a 'whole school' approach to sustainability in their document Educating for a Sustainable Future. It also discusses a focus on innovative teaching and learning techniques. This particular project began as a class based activity. The fantastic (and probably most successful!) part of this process was the ongoing educational effects which were a result of this class facilitating whole school learning!

The following provides a detailed case study.

Use of technology

The unit of work was introduced to the students, through the class receiving an email from the Ithaca Intact Coordinator. The email outlined a 'proposal' that was being put forward to alter their local waterway Ithaca Creek. In fact the ideas presented in the 'proposal' were to dam the creek to form a lovely lake/recreational waterhole or to fill part of the creek to build a road over it. The Ithaca Intact Coordinator asked the class as 'experts on the creek' (they must be considering where they go to school!) for advice on what should be done regarding the proposal.

From here a series of emails were sent between Class 4/3 D and the Ithaca Intact Coordinator. Each email was constructed following in-class discussion of the pros and cons of all the scenarios. As the unit of work being undertaken was sustainability, it was important to discuss the scenarios in terms of environmental, social and economic sustainability.

Response to a Proposal

The response from the students was a larger reaction then expected. Through email they wrote that they would love to meet the Ithaca Intact Coordinator to discuss the proposals, but that they thought that a third proposal should be considered… to leave the creek as it is. It was interesting to note the reasons that the students listed as being important included the removal of habitat, removal of the waterway and effects on fauna. The most heavily weighted response, however, was in regards to the students own identity.

"But we are Ithaca Creek State School… who would we be if there was no creek?"

The threat to alter the local environment of these students clearly challenged their identity, their sense of belonging and place within the community. The students spent the lunch hour after receiving the email writing poems, songs and making protest signs.

Throughout the duration of the unit, all activities were linked back to this theme. The students were required to look at the issue from multiple perspectives and argue to save their creek through emotive, social justice and scientific arguments. The activities encouraged team work, motor skills, social awareness, responsible decision making and problem solving and reasoning skills.

Mentoring through working alongside an 'expert in the field'

The Ithaca Intact Coordinator visited or communicated electronically with the class on a regular basis to discuss catchment health issues with the students. The topics they talked about included:
• catchments
• threats to the local waterway
• value of the local waterway
• water quality issues
• habitat destruction
• climate change
• litter
• biodiversity
• sustainability
• fauna movement corridors
• invasive species
• the role of native species within Enoggera Catchment

Investigation

Building upon classroom discussions, the students were lead through a number of field-based activities. Some of these were undertaken within the school grounds, whilst others were undertaken at the creek itself. The students were involved in the equipment construction (in some cases) and implementation of scientific sampling. A number of perspectives of science were discussed including the role of science in society, various forms of communication in science, as well as correct scientific modelling. The activities included
• habitat sampling
• water quality testing
• macro-invertebrate sampling
• scientific drawing
• biodiversity assessments

The activities undertaken by the class and school can be found in the resources section of this website. The activities of this class were further highlighted through Channel 7's The Great South East, in their Green Special. This further validated to the students the work they were undertaking.

In-Class Activities

This class began the term undertaking a unit on natural and built environments and sustainability. This expanded to incorporate the local natural feature - Ithaca Creek - to explore these topics. The class teacher arranged activities encompassing a diversity of subject areas which incorporated Ithaca Creek. Activities undertaken by the class included:
• sustainable building designs and dioramas
• Newspaper articles
• Report writing skills through researching and reporting on both native and invasive species found within their catchment
• Creek based photography and artwork

Taking the Message Home

Class 4/3D extended their learning experiences to their own homes. The students undertook sustainability audits on their personal households, to demonstrate how they could improve current practices. Students assessed their families on
• Water use
• Electricity use
• Comparison of turning appliances off at the wall or using standby
• Car use

One student 'secretly' monitored his father's car use for the period of a week. After the week was completed, he showed his father how often he had used the car through the use of a graph that he had constructed. The following week, the boy's father walked an additional 28km to reduce his car use. These activities have demonstrated the great potential for upward learning.

Whole School Activities

Word soon spread throughout the school about the work being undertaken by class 4/3D. It was probably hard not to notice the unusual equipment entering the 4/3D classroom including quadrats, large nets and water collecting apparatus. The Ithaca Intact Coordinator became known as the 'Lady of the Creek'… enthusiasm for what was going bubbled through the school. It was therefore decided that class 4/3 D, with support from SOWN would run activities throughout Science Week for the entire school. Class 4/3 D mentored the prep to year 2 classes through their activities including building frog and turtle habitats and mini-beast sampling. For more details of this, see below.

Class 4/3D established a recycling scheme within the school, undertook litter surveys (which were reported on assembly) and ran a school poster competition with the theme of litter to raise awareness to the whole school about sustainable practices.

Creating Partnerships - Science Week

Science week is celebrated annually to celebrate Australian achievements in science and technology. Part of the aims of Science Week include demonstrating the applicability of science and environmental sustainability to our everyday lives, as well as encouraging young people to consider studies and careers in science. One of the other primary objectives supported by this week are the creation of partnerships between researchers, industry and the community.

Our theme for science week:


As one of the driest continents on the planet, Australia has certainly been faced with the challenge of recognising the value of water. Humans rely on water for drinking, washing, sewage, agriculture and industry. Australians enjoy water through many recreational activities including visiting parks and creeks, picnicking, surfing, swimming ... and I guess if you think about the entire water cycle, even through skiing! Water is not only of value to us, but ecosystems also rely on it to function successfully. In Brisbane we have had to change our thinking and practices with regard the conservation of water. Our waterways (and the health of these) have further downstream implications for our oceans and global environments. What we do locally can impact globally. We can choose whether these impacts are positive or negative. With current changes to climate and global ecosystems being addressed, we have chosen to interpret this year's theme to reflect a change in awareness, attitude, engagement and action with regard our local waterway... Ithaca Creek.

Our Partners

To help us undertake the activities for science week we called on the help of a number of people that we would like to thank and recognise. These people helped to supervise students and to run activities. The day bought together people from a diversity of backgrounds including environmental science, zoology, marine biology, teaching, nano-technology and waste management. A special thanks goes out to the Lugg St Bushcare Group who spend a number of weekends prior to our events preparing the site for the children to undertake safe tree plantings!

• UnderWater World
• Environmental Art Collective
• QUT
• UQ
• EPA
• Brisbane City Council
• Ipswich City Council
• GreenCorp
• SOWN members
• Our local Habitat Brisbane Group
• Parent helpers

Action and Extension

The students and teachers from Ithaca Creek State School came up with a number of activities to extend upon learning opportunities and potential to engage with the community. These included:

• Writing to their local Cr and Bunnings about the need for more bins near the footbridge at Ithaca Creek.
• Writing to the local Cr regarding reports they had written about native and exotic species of flora and fauna found at the creek. The students thought that some good information signs would help others appreciate the creek.
• Creek based studies, in particular Science Week, has been included in the calendar for next year
• An after school photography club has been started to encourage skills in nature based photography
• One of the students is writing a narrative about the history of Ithaca Creek, from the creek's perspective. They will source funding opportunities to publish the book
• The children participated in Brisbane City Council's Catchment Kids performance at City Hall in October

Adopting Ithaca Creek

The students and teachers from Ithaca Creek State School have decided to formally adopt Ithaca Creek. In order to undertake this discussions took place as to what adoption means. The school will commit to the on-going care of the creek including monitoring litter, water quality and engaging with the local bushcare group regarding working bees and tree plantings.

Ithaca Creek State School will be undertaking an Adoption Ceremony on Thursday the 4th of December at 9am.