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Options

Before we explore other matters about becoming a partner with a school, let's look at some of the options available to community groups. 
You as the community group require help. Your group does not want to do a lot of work with a school for little return. There is no reason why the work you put into the school should not have a large multiplying affect compared to what your group could achieve on its own. 

Habitat restoration

If a school contacts you about wanting to do something like a tree planting day, don't say yes immediately. Consider if that is what you want to do, is it worth your while and will you achieve the quality control that you want. There might be a project the school can do that will be of greater value both to you and the students. Of course you might be desperate for the help they have suggested. 

The following is from personal experience. You may well have a better way of doing the same job. 

  • Students are not allowed to apply herbicides or operate mechanised machines. 
  • Make sure teachers are quickly informed to stop any unacceptable student behaviour. 
  • Your group will be responsible to make sure the site is safe.
  • It will be brilliant if you can involve students in the planning. In any case, with your first meeting, show students the plan but only talk about it briefly. 
  • Make sure you have enough equipment, materials and work to involve all the students on the site.
  • It is preferable that any simple jobs students can do to prepare a site will be of benefit to the students so they understand the full process required to successfully restore a habitat. 
  • I have found that students of almost any age do an excellent job at distributing mulch, provided it is done before the planting. Rotate the jobs between shovelling, wheeling barrows and raking. Students will need to be trained to use the tools safely. 
  • With planting on a mulched area, I consistently find students only get about two plants in per square metre. If digging small holes, they need to be shown how to place an area of mulch to one side before they start digging. I would assume an expert would be distributing the plants in the location they are to be planted. I suggest students only use small buckets for carting and watering their plants. 
  • It is preferable to involve students in maintenance. However it presents itself with the usual challenge when dealing with people with almost no skills. It may be best to ask students to remove one type of weed at a time. Make sure they are spread out and don't move through the planted area more than necessary. 

Habitat monitoring

Your local school might love the opportunity to help you monitor the success of your habitat restoration programs. The kind of things they can monitor and record is endless. If you do have them monitor some sites, it will lend itself to a fascinating news item in the local papers.

It is always good to have some baseline data, so if students can start their surveys before a habitat is planted all the better. You should work with students to develop a standardised approach to their survey. The survey methods must be recorded so students in following years can repeat the survey. It is helpful for surveys to be recorded electronically. Often spreadsheets are excellent for this purpose. However the information on spreadsheets is easily corrupted so have backups and take other precautions. Make sure your group has a copy of all the data gathered by students. 

Develop a system for your group so that data can be safely stored and easily retrieved for at least the next decade.

These are just a few themes students can monitor: 

Birds 
Invertebrates 
Litter
Reptiles
Weeds
Noise
Vandalism and other unexpected environmental impacts
Vegetation structure
Soil profile changes
Seasonal change 
Photo survey 
Estimate the carbon sequestration of a revegetation project
Estimate the planting success rate. 

Membership drive

Image how much learning students would obtain if they ran a membership drive for you. First they would need to find out about your group- what you did, how you helped the coastal environment and why people have joined. They would need to gather data about the community and draw links between their interests and what your group has to offer.

The students would choose a number of communication (marketing) tools that 

  • together will have the best impact;
  • the students have the resources to develop;
  • have a reasonable chance of being completed and implemented within the time they have. 

So you might have students designing pamphlets, posters and other written materials, as well as sending off press releases, writing letters to other community groups, pestering the council mayor and doing anything else they can dream up that they are permitted to do within the restrictions of their school policy and the need for protecting student well-being. 

So what may have been a drudge for your committee can be turned around by being a big hoot working with a group of school kids. Your membership drive will certainly be different. 

Communication projects

An area of education that students are involved in is called communication. The things involved in the communication area of education are almost identical with social marketing. Social marketing is a developing marketing area that uses interesting strategies for generating social change. Most schools will not have a subject called communication- it will be integrated into their other subjects. 

The idea of a partnership is that the parties all gain something of value. Usually the whole is much greater than the sum of the individual parts, so partnerships can have a multiplying affect increasing the outcomes for all. 

Kids are at school to learn. (It is important that learning is the priority, not teaching.) When students are successfully challenged in school they tend to learn a lot more and this is where you can come in. You can provide students with some real life challenges that can have a positive impact on their community. 

Some of the questions you will need to answer along with the school includes: 
•    How would you like to communicate with your community? 
•    How can a class from a local school help? 
•    Who will come up with the ideas? 
•    What resources do schools have? 

Some ideas for communication projects are: 

  • Develop and maintain a website. (It is unlikely they would be allowed to operate a blog or chat room.)
  • Create displays.
  • Produce a PowerPoint on subjects of your choosing. 
  • Advertise the program for an event.
  • Conduct a performance, eg. play, choir.
  • Organise a theme to be part of a procession at a community festival (or other activities at a community festival).
  • Develop brochures that support your community education program.
  • Write letters and press releases on important issues. 
  • Produce temporary signs.
  • Run a competition. 
  • Organise a launch. 

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