Mangroves are a keystone species in the aquatic ecosystem, whereby whole ecosystems depend on the physical and biological presence of mangroves. Students at St Joseph’s have been exploring ways to ensure the longevity of our coastal waterways by experimenting with growing temperatures, fertilisers and water types. Students are linking their studies of the mangrove regeneration project to their classroom lessons by observing, measuring, hypothesising and collecting data to learn what makes our mangrove seedlings grow best.

Each February, the grade three and four students spend time learning about mangroves and their importance in Western Port Bay. The mangroves that St Joseph’s students grow account for some of the southernmost mangroves in the world, and therefore are imperative for our local ecosystem to thrive. Once the students understand the importance of the mangroves in our environment, they work with the school horticulturist and their teachers to germinate the seeds, hypothesise how they will grow best, and know how to care for them. Throughout the year, they regularly care for the seedlings, ensuring they will be ready to plant later on in the year.

In November, after months of care, the seedlings, now around 25 centimetres high, are ready to be planted. Students travel by bus with parents, staff and other volunteers to Grantville and Lang Lang and spend the day planting the mangroves to slow the erosion process and create a flourishing ecosystem for marine life in Western Port Bay.

In the past twelve months, St Joseph’s Primary School has planted, nurtured and cultivated nearly 1000 mangrove seeds to be planted across shore lines in Victoria to stop erosion. In November 2015, grade 3/4 students planted 360 seedlings at Grantville and Lang Lang, which had been cared for in the school’s hothouse by students and staff. With assistance from the Western Port Seagrass Association, 600 seeds were collected over the summer months (2015/2016) and planted in containers by our students. These seeds are thriving and will be ready for planting in Term Four 2016.

The Mangrove Rejuvenation Program has provided the students at St Joseph’s with a wonderful opportunity to learn about ecosystems by building their knowledge of mangroves in their community and around the world. The students have formed learning relationships with scientists and other experts and have been able to learn from, as well as share their own experiences with them. The students of St Joseph’s are excited about the contribution they are making to the biodiversity of the environment and are passionate about taking action to reduce erosion and support the marine life dependent on the mangroves for their survival.