Hastings students join local Lions to protect koalas

CUTE AND CUDDLY: Students from Wauchope Public School with the koala they designed.
CUTE AND CUDDLY: Students from Wauchope Public School with the koala they designed.

Students from 25 primary and secondary schools across the Hastings-Macleay region will show their plans for the Port Macquarie-Tacking Point Lions Club's koala conservation project this week.

The Lions' 'Koala Smart' project challenged schools to come up with ideas and solutions to raise awareness of - and help arrest - the decline in the local koala populations.

The students' presentations will include interactive picture books, videos and paintings. The Lions Club also provided each school with a half-metre tall model koala to be painted, and these will also be displayed.

Students from Upper Rollands Plains Public School with their koala.

Students from Upper Rollands Plains Public School with their koala.

Professionals in koala health and conservation, general and environmental education have been evaluating the entries. They will be displayed at the Panthers Port Macquarie auditorium on Thursday October 24 from 3.30pm till 5pm, with presentations from 5pm till 6pm.

Kate Connolly, a teacher at one of the participating schools, Telegraph Point Public School, said the project has given real local, practical meaning to students' environment studies.

"Having the opportunity to go into a serious local issue in such depth, guided by the expert partners in the project, has given the students deeper insights into what conservation's about at a practical level," said Kate.

"We are really looking forward to what the professionals' opinions of the different projects are, and which may be taken further, but it was been a wonderful learning experience for all the students involved."

The Huntingdon Public School koala.

The Huntingdon Public School koala.

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital clinical director Cheyne Flanagan is delighted with the results.

"Some of the ideas appearing have been outstanding," she said.

"It is obvious that children of all ages put real importance on the future of the environment and on the future of our amazing koalas."

The judges are Rebecca Montague-Drake from the Hastings-Macleay Koala Recovery Partnership, Cheyne Flanagan from Koala Conservation Australia Inc., Mike Roache from the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment, Wendy Henry from the NSW Department of Education and Prue Gonzalez from Charles Sturt University.

After Thursday's launch the work will be displayed at Settlement City from October 25 till October 27, and at the CWA Hall at Wauchope from October 28 till October 31.

The Beechwood Public School koala.

The Beechwood Public School koala.

A selection of the ideas and presentations will be considered for implementation early next year by the Lions Club's partners in the project, the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, the Koala Recovery Partnership and Hello Koalas.

Janice McGilchrist and Rob Bruce are co-chairs of the Koala Smart project.

Mrs McGilchrist said the next step in this ambitious Lions project would be to further explore some of the students' ideas to find out which could be applied in the real world.

"And that is where all of us can pitch in and help," she said.

Mr Bruce said the initial value was on community awareness and the endgame was to come up with real on the ground solutions to be put in place by schools, Lions and the community.