Digging into research at the Junior School Green Patch

Digging into research at the Junior School Green Patch

Mrs Melinda Bargwanna’s experience as a Landscape Architect and University Lecturer has seen her tackle some challenges over the years but she says that none have been quite as rewarding as her current role as Specialist Environmental Educator at Trinity Grammar School. 

“It’s a role that brings many of my favourite things together – designing environmental spaces, writing curriculum on sustainable living practices and imparting my love of nature into my students.  It’s been a steep learning curve, but incredibly rewarding. I love the opportunity to cultivate wonder and ignite the curiosity of the boys from Kindergarten to Year 6 – my own two (now adult) sons have trained me well for this next generation!” 

If you’re looking for Mrs Bargwanna at the Junior School, the best place to find her is the Green Patch – an initiative she has designed and built since starting at Trinity in 2021. The Green Patch has literally grown to become an integral part of the Junior School experience and has become one of the favourite subjects for the boys.

Designing the Green Patch in the first part of 2021 and superintending construction over the mid-year break, Mrs Bargwanna made videos of the building phase to keep the boys updated over the holidays. Excited and ready to invite students into the Patch at the start of term 3, lockdown hit, and the program shifted. She says that although it wasn’t the plan, this constraint created space for new opportunities.

In the years after lockdown, Green Patch has won successive blue ribbons at the Sydney Royal Easter Show in the Schools Produce Competition, as well as second prize with Year 1’s Book Week scarecrow, and Year 4 placed 3rd with their “Donald Trumpkin” creation in the Backyard Pumpkin Challenge.

Green Patch integrates many of the theory topics relating to the students’ PYP Units of Inquiry. Some of these are conducted in their classrooms, but getting outside amongst nature is their favourite thing to do.

“As I walk into the classroom they cheer “Yay it’s Green Patch!” and then question me: ‘Are we going down to the Patch today?’,” Mrs Bargwanna laughs. “They love seeing the progress of their vegetables and catching the butterflies to stop them laying their eggs. Turning over earth in the dig zone or lying on the grass to observe cloud formations in the sky nourishes their souls. This year we’re designing a wetland with a frog pond, to increase our contemplative natural spaces.”

“As a Landscape Architect, I typically design a space, observe the construction then move onto the next project. The Green Patch Initiative has allowed me to immerse myself in the workings of the design and the joy of maintaining it with the boys. It has been a very special process. Adding new elements each year with the boys learning more of the landscape design process has created much delight and gives them ownership of it.”

Now, Mrs Bargwanna has been selected to participate in the International Boys’ Schools Coalition (IBSC) Action Research cohort for 2024-2025, researching Boys and Belonging: Facilitating Inclusivity, Diversity, and Connectedness

Her proposed research will be conducted on the Green Patch Lunchtime Club. Commencing in March 2024, online learning with 40 world-wide educators that leads onto meeting together at pre-conference research workshops, before attending the IBSC Annual Conference at the Harrow School, London, in July.

In between London and her presentation at the 2025 conference in Belmont School, Boston, USA, she will be collecting data on the boys’ interaction with the Green Patch environment and how the boys learn to cherish the earth and practice mindfulness. She’ll gather this information with the goal of gaining insight into reflective practices and bringing about positive change in learning environments – not just for Trinity but to create a model that other schools can benefit from. 

Mrs Bargwanna is thrilled with the opportunity and knows that she has an exciting challenge ahead of her. She is deeply grateful for the support of her mentor, Dr Kimberley Pressick-Kilborn as she undertakes this research process.

Mrs Bargwanna joins Nadene O’Neill (Preparatory School, Year 3 Teacher) and Leah Arthur (Field Studies Programme) who are members of the 2023-2024 IBSC Action Research Cohort – connections that will be invaluable as she embarks on her own research journey. 

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