A hands on approach to student health and wellbeing

exteriror, three primary school girls planting seedlings on a multicoloured picnic bench while a male and female adult watchPoint Cook P–9 College, in Melbourne’s western suburbs, is one of many schools taking a hands-on approach to promoting the importance of health to students.

The college is part of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation program. The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation program is designed to change the way kids think about food, and teaches how to grow, harvest and prepare fresh and nutritious food.

Point Cook principal Frank Vetere said it had multiple benefits. "There is a clear correlation between student health, wellbeing and engagement, and improved student learning outcomes," he said.

"Through this program students are further connected and engaged." The school uses its edible garden - a winner at last year’s Victorian Schools Garden Awards - for a range of learning opportunities for students in Years 3–4. It also runs healthy cooking classes for parents.

Another winner at last year’s Victorian Schools Garden Awards was Moorabbin Primary School, in Melbourne’s southern suburbs. The primary school took out the top prize after transforming its once-barren grounds into an indigenous habitat, with frog friendly gardens, productive zones, fruit orchards and a chicken coup.

Moorabbin Primary School principal Noxia Angelides said the school’s impressive garden rehabilitation project was providing stimulating learning opportunities for its 245 students, including weekly sustainability classes. The annual Victorian Schools Garden Awards, now in their 40th year, are a unique opportunity to celebrate school gardens while teaching students about gardening, ecology and the environment.

The awards recognise school gardens from across Victoria that are exciting, innovative and educational, with prize categories ranging from the most engaging gardens for play or teaching to the best edible garden.

The awards are run in partnership between the Nursery and Garden Industry Victoria and the Department of Education and Training. Victorian Schools Gardening Awards chairman Craig Taberner said the awards were about promoting a lifelong connection with the natural environment and improving student learning, health and wellbeing.

“We would love 2017 to be even bigger. I encourage all schools to get involved, it is simple, apply for a grant or enter for an award”.

The awards program is open to all Victorian schools, public and non-government, with winners sharing in a prize pool worth almost $85,000.

Winners will be announced in late November at a special ceremony in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. For more information, see:

As featured in Leader Newspapers on 8 May, 2017.