Community projects create real-world, relevant and engaging contexts for deep learning. They allow for interdisciplinary construction of knowledge and provide learners opportunities to see their community through ecological, social, economic and political lenses. Working with others using an inquiry approach promotes social learning and helps to to develop a more holistic understanding of the world.

In 2018 I have been working on the Watershed Land Art Project alongside artists, farmers, community organisations and interested individuals. The project is being facilitated by Kim Williams and Lucas Ihlein, artists/researchers from University of Woolongong. Using a process called socially engaged art, the artists have been working with the Mackay community to create artwork, events and conversation about the ecological, social, cultural and economic impact of sugarcane farming in the Mackay region.

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Young Mackay residents learning about water run-off at the Watershed Land Art Project stall at the Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens open day. Photo credit: Cherrie Hughes Photography

In addition to my own deep learning within this project, I have also been assisting in the on-ground organisation and working to engage young learners.

In September, we welcomed to the site 65 primary students as part of The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s ‘Future Leaders Eco Challenge’. The Beacon provided the perfect context for authentic, place-based learning about land use in our watershed and the effects on waterways and The Great Barrier Reef. We facilitated a number of hands-on children’s workshops on soil, water and biodiversity in agro-ecological systems which can be read about over on the Watershed Land Art Project blog.

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Welcoming future eco leaders to The Beacon at the Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens for a day of hands-on, situated learning. Photo credit: Robert Bole Photography

If you’d like to learn more about the project, become involved or keep up to date with future events please be in contact through the website or the Watershed Facebook page.