Report: Ms Leptos

The visit to Hutton Street Primary in Thornbury, to see the work being done by Sienna and Leah, was an opportunity to visit my old primary school. How the school had changed!

The bitumen playground has been ripped up and a meandering bush garden now surrounds the school. Hutton St has become one of the few schools officially registered to teach Woi Wurrung, the local Aboriginal language, as a second language. 

This has made it very popular with the newly gentrified neighbourhood and has drawn to it Aboriginal children from far and wide. Aboriginal language is used habitually in instructions to the children.

Sienna and Leah made a deliberate choice in selecting a primary school for their volunteering. Both girls have a plan to seek out future careers that involve working with children. Sienna was inspired to work with children by her cousins who are currently working in daycare and loving it. Leah was drawn to this work as she watched little people develop their various skills and language. 

“They go through some incredible changes and as a primary teacher I would be helping them in that,” she says. 

April 5 was World Composting Day and it was great to see Sienna and Leah at work, because to date, the majority of their work has involved gardening and supporting the prep students in the “outdoor classroom”. This work has been enormously valued by their volunteering supervisor, Assistant Principal Megan Noi. 

Megan had her doubts as to whether the girls would fit as on their first visit she noticed their long manicured nails, but now happily admits she was wrong. 

“They are great, self-reliant and have shown great initiative,” she says. “In a very busy and dynamic school like Hutton St, the staff don’t have the time to micromanage the volunteers, and these girls arrive and get straight into it. They have been pushed out of their comfort zone and have been able to meet the challenge.”

I follow the girls out into the garden, where an excited group of preps are seated in a circle waiting for the teacher to lead them through the theory and practice of composting. While in the natural world, nature takes 400 years to create soil to a depth of 10cm, by composting, the process can be sped up and the product is a rich loamy soil, perfect for nourishing young plants. 

It was exciting to watch as Sienna and Leah scooped matter from the worm farm and dropped it into the waiting hands of the students. Their little fingers stir the soil and unearth the fat, wriggling worms. 

For many WRSC students, volunteering is challenging, and the experience of being pushed out of their comfort zone is both terrifying and enormously satisfying as they see themselves meeting challenges and developing in confidence.