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School garden wins award

Benalla 31 Primary School has won a merit award of $500 for its garden and kitchen program.

December 7, 2012 4:58am

Benalla 31 has won a merit garden prize.

Benalla 31 Primary School has won a $500 merit award for its gardens in the 35th Schools’ Gardens Awards.

Sponsored by Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens, this achievement follows on from winning the $1000 award in 2010 and 2011.

Launched 35 years ago by the late Kevin Heinze and the current patron of the program Paul Crowe OAM, the Victorian Schools’ Garden Awards celebrate and recognise the power of gardening to foster a sense of community within a school setting. With more than $35000 in total prizes, the awards are an opportunity for schools to explore fresh approaches to the outdoor environment.

This year 200 entries were received from Victorian schools. The judging panel was ferried via helicopter across the state — from Port Fairy to Swan Hill, Bairnsdale to Benalla — to assess the diverse range of garden entries.

According to 3CR gardening presenter and Schools’ Garden Awards judge Pam Vardy, the judging panel was impressed by the standard of this year’s entries.

‘‘The judges were looking for more than just a neat and tidy garden. What rated highly were gardens that demonstrated student involvement — not only in the planting and maintenance of the garden, but also in its planning and design. We also looked for evidence of involvement from parents, staff and the wider community. The use of recycled materials, stormwater collection and sustainable practices were also taken into account.’’

Ms Vardy says some of the more interesting entries incorporated creative and cultural activities within the garden environment.

‘‘It was delightful to see many schools incorporating chooks, guinea pigs, rabbits, frogs and even miniature pigs into their garden designs, with the children taking a very active role in caring for and handling the animals,’’ she said.

Ms Vardy said the Victorian Schools’ Garden Awards program was an important reminder of how school gardens could play an important part in the learning experience.

‘‘Planning and preparing a garden provides an opportunity for learning across a range of skills and topics. From understanding climate, to learning about design and construction and how plants contribute to our environment, each of these activities provides an avenue for learning across all areas of the curriculum.’’

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