Our Lady of the Rosary

Is sponsored by Queensland Gambling Community Benefit Fund

Our Lady of the Rosary, Caloundra is sponsored by Queensland Gambling Community Benefit Fund.

July 2009 sees the start of the Edible School Gardens program at Our Lady of the Rosary.  First it we had a meeting with teachers and interested parents to discuss the commitment  required for the program to be successful and an overview of the year.  Initially only 5 classes can be involved, so a decision had to be made as to who would be the lucky ones.

Over July and August the students learnt about Permaculture design and a final design evolved.  I believe that the whole program is students focused as it is their garden and their food, not mine.  In their design they wanted a love heart in memory of one of their teachers that recently died,  and to remember others that had died.  They also wanted the shapes O L and R representing there school and a wave shape garden, representing living near the ocean which is important in our design to catch and store the nutrients from the higher gardens.  These are just some of the examples of the final design.

September was very busy with one week between the finalised design, done by the students and collecting all the products for set up day, remembering that our Edible School Gardens are an 'instant garden make-over' all done in one day with the students and the wider school community.

Often pre-set up can be very stressful trying to bring everything together, but one this occasion, via our email group communications, I had one the funniest, light-hearted weeks and what a credit that is to the school community to have such a friendly supportive team.  On set up day they had organised coffee at 7.30am for the earlier starters and there wonderful tuckshop ladies cooked us (40+ people) a healthy morning tea and lunch and provided cool drinks for us.

Set up day was wonderful, it felt like a whole of friends had come around and helped their kids with a project.  We all worked hard with the students all day and finished everything by the end of the day (shed and watertank being installed during the holidays).  You can watch the day, see the time-lapse on this page.

Term 4, we have got our seedlings and herbs in and now look forward to a harvest day later in the term.  The students are learning all about composting and why it is so important.  They have discovered that cane toads can be a positive addition to our garden!!!!!

It has been an extremely hot, windy and dry term, so the students have been busy, along with some Dads, working out some ways to reduce the heat stress from our baby seedlings and seeds.

Stage 2 - 2010

2010 we had 4 classes involved with the Edible School Gardens program from years 2-6, all the teachers were really enthusiastic and embraced the school garden program, supporting me with my ideas and new projects.  Because of this, we achieved so much again this year.  Besides attending to our organic gardening practices of compost, recycling garden waste and food waste into compost and worm castings, pest control (yes just use 2 fingers to control most pest but also be mindful that not all bugs in our garden are bad bugs, so don't squash all bugs), planting seedings, seeds and plantings, propagate, potting up for other schools and tasting food from the garden each week.   This has been the wettest year since I started the Edible School Gardens program in 2001 so we spent many days inside doing gardening activities which included games - celebrity veg,  guess what the veg is under the blanket, veggie bingo and cooking to name a few.  An important part of the garden is cooking up the food and I would like to congratulate Master Chef for the influence it has had on the children desire to want to experiment with food, they love to have "master chef salad competitions' where the class is broken into groups and they go into the garden and invent their own salad mix and then  we discuss each mix none of them traditional but all so crispy and mouth-watering (and definitely original) and then we get to taste the different salads.  The highlight of the year is our Harvest Festival, this is the 2nd time we have had the festival and all classes wanted to be involved this year that posed a new challenge for me, an event so large approx feeding 400 students, teachers and some parents and families, but I do like a challenge and Our Lady Of The Rosary has an enormously supportive teacher/parent team so I was confident that we could do it successfully.  Harvest Dayis one of the most important days of the program because it to showcase to everyone that children will eat fresh food if they have grown it, that we don't need disposables (we grow arrowroot leaves for plates and buy "real' knifes, forks and some (real) plastic plates and cups etc from Op Shops), we share and we work as a community.  It is also a time to be grateful for the organic food we have grown and cooked and how lucky we are to be in Australia.  There are so many unspoken lessons in that one Harvest day.   After harvest day we discussed how much it would have cost if we brought disposable plates, cups, forks, spoons etc and I was shocked at just how expensive disposables  are,  not to mention the environmental impact they have for many years, but with the way we did it buying real (second hand) cups, forks etc, not only was our money going back into the community to support those that needed assistance but we now have Harvest Box Supplies for all the other times we have festivities.  Many lessons.

Leading up to harvest day, the students put signs up around the garden asking people to not eat any food from it as we needed it for our harvest day.  Classes started making recycled decorations,  creating dances and songs. We had a team of Mums that took control of the menu for the day we had no kitchen facilities due to new building work, so we had to organise 12 workstations around the school with approx 120 students preparing food for the whole school and community of around 400.  Good planning equals success and that it was.   The teachers and students also decided they wanted to dress up for the day, so we ran a competition for the best "Little Leonie' and the best "Costa'.   The day was a buzz from the second the students arrived all getting into the spirit of the day.    I think that day was the only day it hadn't rained that week, a good sign.  Teachers had already placed all the tents up around the oval before school started and Mums were busy in the staff room sorting out recipe ingredients,  I was in the garden with students and parents harvesting all the food for our feast  - such a hive of activity and all before 9am.  All the food from the garden had to be washed and then distributed to relevant recipes.  Students were allotted their workstation and parents assisted students with creating the recipes, it seemed to take no time at all and all cooking was completed.  Then it was celebration time songs, dancing and judging of the "Little Leonie and Costa' look-alikes, there were so many good copies.    The food was distributed evenly between the 8 tables on the oval and with all the food (all vegetarian) set out it looked  like a rainbow the colours were so enticing.  I was very proud of the students as they tried and ate so much of the food which they had either been involved with growing, or had experienced the progress of the garden “ there was real pride and ownership and of course - I was the proudest person there.  I am extremely grateful to the Qld Gambling Community Benefit Fund for sponsoring this program and making a difference to so many students eating habits and turning a bare dirt patch into a productive organic garden for students to eat from.  There is so little funding out there to support these programs of independent School Garden Programs/workers, and Qld Gambling Community Benefit Fund  took that risk to fund us and we are pleased to say, it has been incredibly  successful.

I also run Parent Basic Organic Gardening classes on a Sunday at the school to give parents  a better understanding of our garden at school, what their children were talking about to them, and to inspire the family to garden at home.

Having been at OLR for 18 months now, I get many stories from the parents about how the garden has changed the eating habits of their children to a much healthier and more varied one.  This to me is the driving force of why I work with children to make a healthier difference to their lives.

Our Lady of Rosary 2011

The summer of 2010/11 was unseasonally wet -, wetter than a normal wet season.  During winter 2010, having suffered a long drought, we changed the garden slightly to redirect any run off from pathways and seating areas into our garden to conserve and hold any rain water that came our way.  That all changed over summer and a massive amount of rain not only fell on most days but poured most of summer and the garden did suffer but not as much as I had feared.  The fruit trees at the bottom of our garden didn’t cope with constant wet feet but the rest of the garden did hold its ground and wasn’t washed down the hill.  The garden was depleted of nutrients due to so much rain and it was a priority to feed up the garden again and to redirect water away from the garden as more wet weather is still forecasted through to next year, so we have built a trench up the top of the garden where most of the water runs down our woodchip pathways (looks like a river when it rains) and in this trench we have planted arrowroot to help soak up some of the water plus to have a living fence.  

In March we had to start planting, but it wasn’t ideal conditions and under normal circumstance we wouldn’t have planted, but we were preparing for a very special gardening personality to visit, Costa Georgiadis from SBS Costa Garden Odyssey was coming to look at our Edible School Garden.  Everywhere we dug a hole to plant a seedling there was a puddle of water in that hole!!! ‘Sorry seedling we aren’t trying to drown you but we need you to grow’, thankfully the seedling, even though not planted under ideal conditions and still more rain, they grew.  

The school was so excited to have Costa come to visit, they dressed up again as Costas’ or Little Leonie and prepared lunch from our garden for selected students, parents and teachers.  When Costa arrived he spoke to the whole school assembly speaking about how he came to be a gardener, the positive influence his grandfather had on his life and the joy his work brings to him.  Costa also entertained students and teachers with stories of filming for SBS Costas Garden Odyssey  and the many retakes required to get that prefect  story.  The judging of the best Costa and Little Leonie was awarded and students lead Costa through their Edible School Garden with every child having a story for him, eventually the students let Costa have some lunch, beautifully prepared by Stephanie and her team.  Costa visit was so well received by the whole school community and every student wanted his autograph and photograph with him.  Thank you Costa for visiting our Edible School Gardens at Our Lady of the Rosary and enjoying it as we did, the autographed photos that the students and teachers  received will be treasured by them.

The new addition to our garden are the Chooks, yes we now have a chicken house and 7 loved chickens, the students adore them and the chickens actually look forward to the students coming to visit them, the chooks hear the students coming for lunchbreak and the chooks wait for the students at the gate, so beautiful to watch and they are much loved and cuddled. 

Around the school other classes have taken the initiative to create their own vegetable gardens, there are now 3 new vegetables gardens in different areas in the school and I’m so proud of them as they haven’t asked me to help them, they have created it all themselves and they are thriving.

We are now preparing for more fruit trees, this time they will be raised and on higher ground.  We are currently preparing the soil in anticipation of their arrival next term.

May 2011