Environmental Education and its Role in Restoring Native Ecosystems at St Narsai

Ornilla Shamon
Saint Narsai Assyrian Christian College,
673-683 Smithfield Road, Edensor Park NSW 2176

Dr AnneMarie Clements, Dr. Anne Baumann, Grant Webster, Maddy Young, Rosemary Snowdon
Anne Clements & Associates Pty Limited
PO Box 1623, North Sydney 2059

Increasingly, environmental educators are incorporating visits to natural areas into their environmental learning programs. Learning in natural environments is attractive to students and has an important impact on their attitudes towards the environment, their desire to look after the environment and their behaviour in natural areas which in turn influences their household environmental practices (Ballantyne and Packer, 2002). Combining observation with instruction is a powerful teaching strategy, allowing students to understand the impact of human action on wildlife and natural habitats.

The recent construction of Saint Narsai Assyrian Christian College, located in Horsley Park, western Sydney has presented a unique opportunity to incorporate environmental sustainability into the curriculum. Situated on former agricultural land (and formerly Cumberland Plain Woodland), the school site features a stretch of Reedy Creek, a degraded waterway that drains much of the Horsley Park area. Approval for the College included re-instating Reedy Creek to mimic the natural creekline and re-establishing Cumberland Plain Woodland in long-term conservation areas on the site. As part of the conservation works, baseline data was recorded for water quality, insect diversity, fauna species (including frogs and aquatic fauna) and seeded/planted vegetation. This presents a unique opportunity for school students to be actively involved in experiments, and biodiversity and environmental monitoring of the restoration of the onsite conservation areas.

By using the school grounds for sampling and population studies on the species present, possible trophic interactions and patterns of distribution of the plants and animals can be studied. Students will relate this to the short-term and long-term consequences on the ecosystem of species competing for resources and possible impacts of humans in the ecosystem. The implementation of the different aspects of environmental sustainability will result in the school having effective environmental education integrated into appropriate sections of the curriculum; ensuring students are active in maintaining and improving their surroundings.