Involving city kids in rural life has been the central focus of the Teaching Farms program for a number of years now and this is exactly what happened when a dozen students from Wallarano Primary School, in the Melbourne suburb of Noble Park came to stay with schools located in the King Valley in north-east Victoria.
Partnered together through CEP’s Teaching Farms program, Peter Cameron, Welfare Coordinator at Wallarano P.S and Kris Porker, Principal at Greta Valley P.S have built a strong professional relationship to foster not only reciprocal student visits but also undertake shared professional learning.
“This program presents not just an opportunity for students to interact with a different way of life” remarked Mr. Cameron, “but it also provides opportunities for school staff to come together and share ideas too”.
With the metropolitan students staying with rural students and their families for the week, students were able to get a first hand experience of rural life- taking in not only special activities but the day-to-day jobs of growing up on a farm. Program Coordinator, Louise Kilgour says
“this is the very strength of the program; it is not simply going to a rural place for a couple of days and seeing the sights, Teaching Farms really offers an insight into the workings of rural communities and everyday life as well as exhibiting local agriculture and the opportunities that exist within regional Victoria.”
The five schools in the King Valley cluster that participated in the program- Greta Valley, Myrrhee, Moyhu, Edi Upper and Whitfield District- all offer something unique with their own animal husbandry programs, aquaponics, Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden programs and ‘Vine to Wine’ studies which as Ms Porker highlights,
“gives the students a chance to see different educational formats”.
With many of the visiting students from ethnic backgrounds such as Sudan, Vietnam, Samoa and Cambodia, the King Valley students were keen to learn about their cultural backgrounds and compare the ins and outs of rural and suburban life. Later in the year, the King Valley students will travel down to stay at Wallarano P.S to experience first-hand what it is like to live in a suburb of Melbourne and attend a school with a population that is bigger than their five schools combined.
“That is really the strength of the Teaching Farms program”, Mrs Kilgour said, “it encompasses the whole of community and allows a taste of rural and metropolitan. We have families whose children participated in the program fifteen years ago that still keep in contact with their partner family and will stay with each other when visiting Melbourne or visa versa, when visiting the country. It is an amazing community activity with the potential to establish life-long connections”.