Hamilton schools working together to produce wetland field guide

Our first activities at Walker Swamp this year are going to be truly amazing. The project involves two local schools working together: Hamilton Parklands School – a school for children with intellectual disabilities, that supports and prepares students to become active and engaged members of their community; and the Good Shepherd College – a school with a commitment to learning, environment, relationships and their community. Over the next six months, under the guidance of their teachers and NGT staff, the students will all work together in small groups, to produce a wetland field guide that is accessible to people of all ages and abilities.

Looking south-west across Walker Swamp through the ring of River Red Gums

Each group will focus on a plant and an animal found at Walker Swamp. They will research the species, record information, and take photos. The children will gain invaluable experience, as they work with each other, adult volunteers, and NGT staff. The students will determine what information will be included in the booklet, and the design and layout. NGT staff and volunteers will be their guides and mentors at the wetland, helping them find their chosen animal or plant, while helping them feel comfortable, safe, and immersed in the very nature that abounds there. We want to introduce the children to this spectacular place, and show them how to look really closely and calmly, to find creatures and plants, great and small, to discover and learn about the species found at Walker Swamp. They’ll learn how to take fantastic photos, and how to identify species. And they’ll learn how to write up information and present it in an easy to read and interesting way.

Growling Grass Frog (Litoria raniformis), one of the species that students may choose to profile.

Aside from mastering these scientific skills, something arguably even more important will be happening. The students will get to know their peers from the other school, to help each other, to respect, and look out for each other. They’ll meet other adults, and gain the confidence to ask questions and discuss ideas, and ultimately (hopefully!) they’ll begin to develop a passion for their environment and understand the ongoing care it needs. School staff and NGT alike are excited for this social aspect of the project.

Another component of this project, already underway, is the establishment of a core group of volunteers in the Southern Grampians region to assist with on-ground tasks and conservation activities at our NGT reserves. In 2021 we began introducing interested people to this idea, and are now building up a great group of people who are wanting to participate in many and varied activities on NGT Reserves in this region. Last year, our dedicated group of volunteers assisted with acoustic monitoring and motion sensor cameras, planting native vegetation, weeding, tree guard construction, and assessment of red gum health. We are in the process of developing our event calendar for 2022; it will be available next month and will include camp outs! If you would like to become involved, or just find out more about this concept, or have any thoughts or ideas for future activities and projects, then please get in touch with Lisa.

The activities mentioned in this article are part of a new volunteer program, “Increasing diversity among environmental volunteers at Walker Swamp” which is supported by the Victorian Government through the 2021 Community Volunteer Action Grants.

Lisa McIntyre