Tatachilla’s EcoClassroom Has an Amazing Impact
By Dolores Amos
This article is part of a series kindly provided to us by Trees for Life.
In 1997 the vision to create an Outdoor Learning Facility became a reality with a 2.4 hectare site at Tatachilla Lutheran College in Willunga being designated as a dynamic environmental project. After discussions with local community and professional advice from environmental landscape designers the site was to be modelled on pre-European ecosystems that would have once existed in the area.
Given the name ‘EcoClassroom’, this facility was essentially created to develop in students and others a sense of the importance of nature and natural processes, promote an attitude of enjoyment and at the same time, a caring and responsible approach towards the environment.
The first step was the direct seeding of a mixture of indigenous plants in a one hectare section with another section seeded with native grasses.
Since then students in conjunction with the local and wider community have propagated and planted seedlings through Trees For Life and engaged in planting on an annual basis. Material supply and technical support from Trees For Life, in particular the Willunga branch, have been integral to the development of the EcoClassroom.
By 2001, walking trails were established and seven distinct ecosystems identified then mapped. Brush-tailed Bettongs, Long-nosed Potoroos and Tammar Wallabies were introduced soon after.
Introduction of other native species once found in the McLaren Vale area is ongoing. Many reptile species call the EcoClassroom home and migratory bird life is dramatically increasing.
A ‘Friend of the EcoClassroom’ group was formed in mid 2000. Contact email@example.com if you are interested in joining. Participants from the school and wider community were invited to be involved with all aspects of maintaining the area especially through regular working bees and fauna monitoring nights which are always interesting.
Visitors are involved in trapping and checking the wellbeing of the bettongs and potoroos.
Through this they learn about the importance of Australian flora as habitat.
Recent years have also seen local and wider schools, community groups, government and non government agencies visit, day or evening, covering topics ranging from plant communities, threatened and introduced species, human impact, maintaining revegetated areas to just enjoying a walk amongst this vegetated area.
Kaurna Tappa, an Indigenous Interpretive Trail was developed with the assistance of the Kaurna community in 2007 when plants grew to a more practical stage of growth.
The growth of the EcoClassroom is extraordinary. Native plants are now regenerating naturally, many species of insects have moved in and birds are nesting. 2011 has seen the Willunga branch of Trees For Life hold their monthly meetings in the EcoSkills Centre; a recently built, passive design building located amongst the vegetation. Guest speakers present to an interested audience in a warm environment surrounded by nocturnal native animals foraging for food.
Once again seeds supplied by Trees For Life were propagated by students and local community last year and seedlings were planted during Planet Ark’s National Tree Day for Schools. Over the week around 500 seedlings were planted by approximately 400 students and adults. Species planted this year included Cullen australasicum (Tall Scurf-pea) recorded as rare in the Southern Mount Lofty Ranges. These plants were kindly donated by the dedicated and knowledgeable group of volunteers at TFL Willunga.
From humble beginnings, through the commitment by Tatachilla Lutheran College Council and the vision of one person, Barry Peek, the EcoClassroom has had an impact on many lives. Thousands of people have either supported the growth of or have visited the site and through this involvement have learned about the importance of indigenous flora. The valuable relationship with Trees For Life and local community will continue with future plantings focussing on middle and understorey species that will expand the diversity and establish important habitat for native fauna.
We congratulate Trees For Life for their achievement and the impact they have not only made to our landscape but for their contributions to the community as a whole. Education across generations plays a fundamental role on our world in so many ways and volunteers are at the heart of this success.