Image above: Grow facilitator Alijah Brod with Story in the Grow kids space
The story of ‘Grow’ begins with native land, indigenous dreaming and a children’s food garden. It unfolds an unusual chain of events, though wonderfully synchronised, that eventuated in the creation of a forest school on the Sunshine Coast.
This story is about connectedness and celebration of nature. It’s about nature’s wisdom and ancient indigenous teachings. This story is also about you and I, and about Story – a bright little girl, who only recently recovered from a harsh whooping cough, which made her miss most of her year 1 at school and is now being home-schooled at Grow Forest School.
Allow me to properly introduce myself, my name is Alijah Brod – AA Arts, BA Applied Design, Diploma of Education – I am 37. Three years ago with the completion of my Diploma of Education, I launched ‘Grow Nature Education’ on an organic farm where I did work-live exchange in the Noosa Valley. Grow started as a kids food garden activity in the local farmers’ market and quickly evolved into children’s workshops in permaculture and nature play on the farm.
One morning, surprising visitors arrived on the farm. It was a European backpacker in her mid 20s and an older indigenous fellow, artist, perhaps in his late 50s. They were on their way north to a gathering. The girl had just landed in Australia after a long term stay at a sustainable community farm in New Zealand and the man was an indigenous local in his late 50s.
I told them about the children’s food garden and aboriginal cubby pods I was going to build for a workshop and about a local indigenous vision of a cultural centre, a permaculture farm and the Grow forest school project. The man was very inspired and asked to meet me again.
He returned to the farm the second time round on his own with a drawing he made.
It was a bold drawing of a hand from the sky, planting seeds in the soil.
It had beautiful aboriginal art elements with earthy vibrant colours and flow to it. He gave it to me as a gift and said he was inspired to create that after his first visit to this land.
We explored the land and stopped to admire the big Bunya trees at the edge of the forest. We chatted about the region’s indigenous history and finally sat in the shade of
a tea tree by one of the dams where he told me a dreaming story about the land.
A week later another indigenous man, a food gardener, had moved to the land and set camp under the very tea tree by the dam where the artist gave me his drawing of the planting hand.
The workshops were launched at the beginning of the school holidays and the first food garden was planted. The workshops did very well although shortly after I launched it,
I was offered a position as a special education teacher at an indigenous community
and the project was put on hold.
2 years later and I am back in Doonan, and Grow Forest School in collaboration with local indigenous community, are working to establish a local hub for indigenous culture and permaculture education facility. Symbolically, the project is set on the very site where the first food garden was planted by the children in the early Grow workshops.
In indigenous culture, man has a special relationship with the land. Because of their ‘hunting and gathering’ life style, indigenous Australians moved across the landscape without leaving hardly any trace. They only hunted and gathered what they needed for survival. They lived according to natural cycles and with the seasons and based their diet on what was in season. Their shelters, were temporary and effectively constructed with natural materials collected around the space of which they chose to camp. They were in tune with the environment and one with nature.
Grow Forest school is adopting Indigenous pedagogy; story based, value based, nature-centred, independent, imaginal, reflective, shared, experiential and transformative. The learning occurs in the forest, with nature play, and we are also practicing permaculture, homesteading and other sustainable life skills.
Pia, who has her 6 year old daughter, Story, come to Grow Forest School says she “love the idea of kids playing in nature, exploring and learning about the environment. Not always mainstream schools provide those opportunities.”
Grow Biosphere is a project of sustainability, permaculture and nature education. Set on 25 acres of native forest, bushland and farmland in the Noosa Valley, in collaboration with local indigenous and non indigenous community and the Grow Forest School, it offers hands on permaculture and nature play workshops and activities for children aged 4-12.
Grow Forest School is now taking bookings for two school holiday workshops in December on building an aboriginal campsite, food gardening with permaculture, building with cob and with more activities and nature play.