Environmental education with a difference

Students get to learn in the field.

By Melissa Grant

Students are learning about the ecosystems that make up the Noosa Biosphere thanks to a world-class environmental education hub.

The Noosa Environmental Education Hub (Noosa EE Hub) provides students with hands-on learning experiences by partnering with local environmental groups.

About eight schools have been involved in the hub since it started in October last year, including Sunshine Beach State School, Noosa District High School, Sienna College and Good Shepherd Lutheran College.

Students, from kindergarten to Year 12, have learned about the ecosystems unique to the Noosa Biosphere through various programs.

One program taught students about bushfires, including traditional fire prevention practices and how to develop a household bushfire emergency plan.

In another program, students analysed waterbugs and generated data via a waterbug blitz app.

Students have also planted more than 60 koala feed trees on degraded farmland as part of a program with Noosa Landcare.

Then there’s the hub’s Noosa Youth Advocacy Group, where students aged 14 years and over champion environmental causes to council. They are already looking at the issue of sustainable transport and will be involved in next year’s climate summit in Noosa.

Noosa EE Hub co-creator Dalia Mikhail said the hub was “recoding education“ by giving meaning to the curriculum.

“Students learn outdoors in nature about the ecosystems that are unique to where they live, and can physically engage in the natural biosphere,” she explained.

“It works like an environment education centre. But rather than having schools come to us, we go out into the biosphere and explore.

“We take the curriculum and really localise it.“

Good Shepherd Lutheran College curriculum leader Theresa Tapara said the Noosa EEHub program has enabled her to make teaching the curriculum real for students.

“The biggest change has been the change in the kids. It’s the connection between what we do in school and making it real so that the students can see a future with it,” Ms Tapara said.

The Noosa EE Hub has forged partnerships with local environment groups who volunteer their time to protect the Noosa Biosphere.

These groups include Noosa Parks Association, Slow Food Noosa, Zero Emissions Noosa, and Super Koala and Mates.

The not-for-profit hub also has a partnership with the Kabi Kabi Traditional Owners, meaning indigenous perspectives are embedded into the programs.

The hub was seed funded by Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation and has recently received a small grant from the Noosa Councils Environment Grants.

They are currently seeking sponsor a school donations and special guests who have knowledge in any field.

NBRF chair Rex Halverson said the education hub will provide rich long-term benefits to the Noosa Shire.

“Dalia and the team at Noosa EEHub have developed excellent programs which provide students with a deep connection between their natural environment and the community in which they live,” he said.

For more information, visit www.noosaeehub.com.au