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A place which successfully marries the values of sustainability with education and challenges students to preserve the environment for their future.

If you take a walk up the hill behind the Year 8 Centre, a path well-trodden by Donvale students for many years, you will find yourself among fruit trees, herb gardens, scratching chickens and curious but friendly alpacas and goats. You’ve reached the College farm, a precious remnant from the days before the school was built.

But it’s much more than a mere curiosity. Over the years we have discovered that certain students thrive when their class work is tied to outdoor activities. Their academic learning and motivation soars when practical tasks are interwoven with their lessons. A growing body of opinion also strongly advocates closer interaction between humans and animals, particularly in schools.

Here you might see a group of Primary students growing plants or harvesting eggs – they’re engaged in the Enviro Literacy and Sustainability program, in which they develop leadership skills, discover hidden talents and gain recognition as the ‘Creation Carers’ of the Primary school. One parent described the program as “scratching them where they itch.”

Or perhaps you’ll meet a group of students who’ve chosen an Animal Husbandry elective, a course designed to build confidence and knowledge with the handling, care and breeding of animals – in our case alpacas and goats.

The farm supports classroom subjects such as Food Technology – yes, not only do students cook their own, they grow their own! It also offers a priceless safety valve when fresh air is needed.

Additionally, it has become a place where students may engage in more vocational learning programs: in Years 10 and 11 it’s possible to take a VET Course Certificate 2 in Animal Studies, a general qualification for entry into sectors of the animal care and management industry, where you care for animals in workplaces such as shelters, kennels, catteries, sanctuaries or the local vet surgery.

To be in touch with nature brings us back to who we are as humans, made in God’s likeness, with responsibilities to each other and to the world around us.