When we think about the devastating impacts of climate change, and the continued destruction of our natural environment, it can be overwhelming.
Many of us are often left wondering what can we do in an educational setting and how we can make a difference.
One fantastic way we can make a meaningful difference is through citizen science.
Stawell 502 Primary School has initiated an environment and sustainability program with students in years 3-5.
During year 5, students take part in two separate citizen science programs.
These are River Detectives, which provides students with equipment to measure the water quality, habitat, and aquatic macro invertebrates of a local waterway, as well as ClimateWatch in Parks, where students collect phenology data.
This data is used by Earthwatch Institute to interpret changes to patterns of behaviors, monitoring the impacts of climate change on plant and animal species over time.
As a ClimateWatch trail has been set up at Venus Baths in Halls Gap, Stawell PS have relocated their River Detectives site to Venus Baths, to collect a wider spread of comprehensive data for the one site.
When asked about their motivation to participate in both citizen science programs, lead teacher Toni Stewart is quick to point out the proven benefits of connecting kids with nature and the positive feeling of being part of a collective by contributing to data to a larger cause.
"Connecting kids with positive experiences in nature leads to positive environmental behaviors, so we know that we're providing long term benefits for the planet. The students are always enthusiastic to head outdoors; as they think they're escaping the classroom, when in fact they're growing a host of scientific and mathematical skills such as scientific methodology, ecology, freshwater science, as well as measurement and data," said Ms Stewart.
The River Detectives Program is an education initiative of Catchment Management Authorities that supports teachers to get young people connecting to their local waterway. Through the program, educators can access a water quality monitoring kit, and receive river health training.
Participating schools are further supported by a local facilitator and the River Detectives website, where there are a host of activities and resources designed to make the most of being involved, and make participation easy for teachers.
To involve your school in River Detectives, contact Bronwyn Bant at Project Platypus firstname.lastname@example.org.