Oxley Park Public School
About our school
Oxley Park Public School is a preschool to Year 6 school located in a highly populated area of Western Sydney. Our 640 students come from a wide range of multicultural backgrounds with 50% of our students from an English as an Additional Language or Dialect (EAL/D) backgrounds. We have strong ties both within our school community and with our local community groups and value their involvement in our school.
Our partnerships heavily support the initiatives we prioritise within the school to assist students to reach their full potential.
Our journey to sustainability
From garden beds to a green flag eco-school
We have a strong environmental focus and are the first school in NSW to receive the Green Flag from Eco Schools Australia and Keep Australia Beautiful. This recognises the ongoing commitment of staff and students to sustainability and environmental practices within the school. We pride ourselves on the many wellbeing initiatives to ensure our students connect, succeed and thrive.
Our program started in 2017, when we set up three garden beds. We then held the first Kitchen Garden Expo with Penrith Lakes Environmental Education Centre (EEC) and nine other local public schools in 2018. Since then, we’ve been involved in whole-school kitchen garden programs every year and have partnered with Oz Harvest FEAST (Food Education and Sustainability Training) since 2019 to support the school with a ‘paddock to plate’ philosophy.
We also ensure that we are working towards the following United Nations sustainability goals:
- good Health and well-being
- quality education
- sustainable cities and communities
- responsible consumption and production
- climate action
- life on land.
How we did it
Our sustainability journey started in 2017, when the P&C helped the school environment team purchase 3 garden beds with mini-worm farms. The produce that we grew was used to make salads for the Year 6 farewell.
In 2018 we added another 30 garden beds made from recycled materials. We also added some chickens, ducks and a rabbit. We had our first market garden stall, selling our produce to the school community and raising funds to support the ongoing growth of the garden. We worked with Penrith Lakes EEC and hosted the first Kitchen Garden Expo with nine other schools from Western Sydney.
In 2019, Stage 2 had an incursion with Oz Harvest on food waste, and we have partnered with them since. For the past 2 years, we’ve been involved in the OZ Harvest FEAST program.
By the end of 2020, we had 65 vegetable garden beds, compost bins and a mini-fruit orchard creating some award-winning produce recognised at the Penrith Show. With grant funding, we transformed and updated our Koori Garden and a habitat garden for pollinators.
We built an outdoor classroom using 3 shipping containers, including electricity, a purpose-built sink, kitchen facilities and equipment that can accommodate a whole class for kitchen/cooking classes, where we use our own produce.
We then turned our attention to plastic waste, becoming ‘litter legends’ by auditing our waste and looking at ways to reduce our plastic consumption. We have an ‘eco code’ with the mantra 'reduce, reuse, recycle'. The code is embedded into the school’s Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL) matrix: Be Safe, Be Respectful, Be Responsible, Be Greener and Be Deadly, as well as our School’s Strategic Improvement Plan 2021-2024
Benefits beyond the bottom line
Having a kitchen garden program provides students with an opportunity for an integrated STEM approach to teaching and learning. This is implemented through scientific skills and processes to identify a need, research and develop a design solution, plus work collaboratively. In addition, it provides food education about food waste, healthy lifestyles and life skills that connect them to life outside of school.
All staff have access to our outdoor café facilities and can take students to the farm and garden to pick fresh produce daily. Oz Harvest FEAST provides professional learning to staff and students to ensure the program’s success.
The benefits to the environment are that our school is fostering and developing students who demonstrate positive behaviours about food and are making healthy lifestyle choices. The students are learning how to grow, cook and eat fresh produce. They are learning a connectedness with the outdoors and the land and are learning how to care for the environment, making them global citizens of the future.
Students are also responsible for harvesting produce and holding market garden stalls, selling produce to our wider school community. Our school has also donated produce to charities in our local area.
Sharing our progress
An important part of our work is sharing and celebrating our achievements with the school community. We share any environment news in a fortnightly school bulletin and regularly through social media. We share our learnings with other schools and learning forums.
As well as the Green Flag we have also received a number of other awards including:
- Kreative Koala: Best Artwork & Digital Learning
- No Bees No Future, with Richmond Agricultural College – Best Board Game Design.
Working with the community
The garden and farm are open every day of the week and students are actively involved in planting seeds, watering, weeding, harvesting, and selling produce to the community at market garden stalls. The whole school has been involved in kitchen garden and OZ Harvest FEAST programs and the cooking takes place in a purpose-built outdoor café/learning space.
The environment team consists of 20 staff and around a third of school students are involved in sustainable projects simultaneously. They meet twice a term, creating an action plan in Term 1, which is revised in Term 3. The school participates in crunch and sip every day, and celebrates Nude Food Day, Fruit and Veg Week, Outdoor Classroom Day, Clean Up Australia Day, and other healthy lifestyle initiatives.
Teachers integrate sustainability through the curriculum, including project-based learning such as:
- Kreative Koala program (Stage 2 and 3)
- the Western Sydney University and Richmond College research project 'No Bees No Future' (Stage 3)
- Oz Harvest FEAST program (Stage 3) and kitchen garden program.
The lesson plans prepared by Oz Harvest meet curriculum outcomes for mathematics, English, geography and science and technology - Living world, and the kitchen garden program also connects with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures.
Sustainability education is futures-oriented, creating a more ecologically and socially just world through informed choices.
Science and Technology K-6 Syllabus.
We will always be involved in the kitchen garden project, as we are committed to the opportunities that it creates for students to participate in sustainable practices.
And we are in the process of working towards maintaining our Green Flag in 2022.
What our teachers say
The best thing about kitchen garden is the eagerness and excitement I see from students. Some students have never had the opportunity to cook in the kitchen and enjoy a meal that they have cooked from start to finish. This initiative makes it a reality whilst promoting healthy eating and rich knowledge regarding food waste. It’s also special when a child truly understands the concept of farm to plate, whether they’re collecting the eggs we’re using to cook an omelette or harvesting the carrots we need to grate to add to our fritters.
Kitchen garden is incredible on its own, but even more so when embedded into Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE), English or Science units. The initiative is a great way for students to engage in hands-on learning experiences whilst learning skills that they will use day to day as they move into adulthood.
Teacher - Taylor Rybeck, Kitchen Garden Teacher.