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Transformational Learning

Work to revive the health of ailing Sydney Harbour is making news right now and few are as knowledgeable on the subject as our Year 5 cohort.

Rapid urbanisation has resulted in the loss of important marine species and the degradation of the ocean habitat. Restoration efforts to bring back animals such as White’s Seahorse, the green turtle, penguins, and seals are starting to take effect, and no one is more excited than Year 5.

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Their learning on marine stewardship is part of the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IBPYP) unit Sharing the Planet. During the six-week study period, they received a visit from an ecologist working to build sea walls in the harbour to help marine life to thrive. Last week they journeyed to Chowder Bay and Cockatoo Island to see the seal walls up close, along with the other elements of the state government’s 9 million dollar rehabilitation project.

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The students conducted marine life surveys, learned from a PhD researcher about the latest on stormwater nets and marine animal reproduction, and saw the new ‘seahorse hotels’ constructed to protect the newly reintroduced White’s Seahorse population.

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They participated in a workshop with Take Three for the Sea, learning that 70% of the oxygen we breathe is produced by marine species and we each ingest up to a scary 70,000 microplastic particles a year, which motivated them to advocate for better marine stewardship.

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Some girls were so invigorated they reorganised their household recycling or advocated for marine stewardship with their family and friends on their return.

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Intercultural experience is a key element of IBPYP learning. On Cockatoo Island, the students participated in an official white ochre ceremony led by Aboriginal community representatives, learned Indigenous fire-making techniques and gained an appreciation for Aboriginal practices around sustainability and ancestral law.

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IBPYP learning is transdisciplinary and Year 5’s learning has incorporated subjects such as English, Geography, Science and Mathematics. Their growing passion for the topic has proved contagious as parents, grandparents and other family members connected to the class began following the news on the Sydney Harbour restoration project and sent in any information they found.

“This is definitely an exciting way to teach and learn”, said Year 5 teacher Carlie Plummer. “It enables the delivery of a more dynamic and progressive approach as we incorporate the transdisciplinary themes to guide and develop engaging and relevant content. A key aim is to inspire the student’s initiative and that is certainly happening”.