Wiluna Remote Community School & SAKG – RIG News, Sept. 2013 – School Gardens Feature
Wiluna RCS is a school of around 100 students, predominantly Aboriginal, situated around 900 km north-east of Perth in remote Western Australia. The school joined the Kitchen Garden National Program in 2011.
At the time, Principal Arama Mataira was seeking a tangible project for the school that would involve the whole community, and promote understanding between students, staff and families. Local Elders told her they needed a community garden. She then discovered the Kitchen Garden Program and realised it could be the answer.
Due to the remoteness of the school and its tiny community, building the garden meant many hours researching what would work within the local terrain (Wiluna means ‘windy’ in the local language), and what would fit the school’s minimal budget.*
‘The Foundation was incredibly flexible and understanding, and worked with us to ensure the program’s success. We worked very closely with staffer Marcelle Coakley, whose enthusiasm and dedication to the project was just outstanding’.
The program has now been operating at Wiluna for two years and is solidly embedded in school life. Students spend one hour in the garden and one hour in the kitchen every week. The school is incredibly proud of its achievement and so is the local community. Everyone is invited to experience the benefits of growing harvesting, preparing and sharing – meaning people outside the school can contribute to the learning, the pride and the fun of growing and cooking their own food.
Teachers take full advantage of the integrated learning the program provides, building on students’ garden and kitchen experiences, taking that hands-on learning into the classroom and using it to reinforce core educational areas. What is learnt in theory can be understood in practice in the garden and kitchen spaces.
‘The benefits are endless’, Arama says. ‘The children don’t realise they’re learning when they are gardening and cooking, but we use this contextual learning to run through the entire school curriculum. When our students’ families see what they’ve done in the garden, local Elders come and share a meal they’ve cooked, or the local paper features the garden they’ve helped create, they are sharing their achievements with this wider audience and it has a huge impact on their self-esteem. They understand the results of working hard, patience and teamwork.’
Arama’s advice to similar schools is to ‘not go overboard – make it as big or small as you want. The key is to plan, get the community on board and ensure everyone understands the vision and the resulting benefits. Also remember the Foundation is there for you. Our school received phenomenal support from Foundation staff, we couldn’t have asked for more. Finally, remember all your hard work is worth it. When I go down to the kitchen and see my students sitting quietly sharing and enjoying a meal they have made with their own hands, it always makes me smile.’
*Note the Foundation recommends schools start small using what you have.
Story and pictures kindly provided by the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation for RIG News, September 2013.