Growing a future by harnessing local partners

Monday 16th July 2018

In 2016 the Dirranbandi State School received a grant, funded by the Monsanto fund to develop a locally based Agricultural Science program.

Dirranbandi is a town of 640 people in Queensland, at the centre of a large cotton-growing area. At harvest time, its small population almost doubles with the influx of seasonal workers.

In 2016, the Dirranbandi P-10 State School was nominated for an Aussie Cotton Farmers Grow Communities grant to develop a sustainable, locally based Agricultural Science program for students in Year 7-10.

The nomination was successful and in late 2016, the school received a grant funded by the Monsanto Fund. It was used to employ a local agronomist and qualified teacher, Kathy Burrell. Working with the school’s Head of Curriculum, Kathy developed a program targeting the Australian Curriculum learning areas of Science and Technologies. It referenced local industries and issues, such as sheep, cattle, cotton, dry land cropping, biotechnology, integrated pest management, sustainability of ecosystems and water resources, machinery and technology.

The program began in 2017 and is based around strong partnerships with industries in the community. For example, farmers have hosted students on-farm and others have provided resources for class use, as the school does not have its own agriculture plot for practical components of the course.

To raise awareness of the program for the broader community and help raise funds, the students involved in the Ag program ran a drink stall at a Paul Kelly concert in Dirranbandi. Students were quick to volunteer their time outside of school because they enjoy what the program is offering them beyond the traditional school curriculum. A video was shown at the concert, highlighting what the students had been doing and thanking the community for their support.

This new program has provided students with opportunities to develop skills and interest in local careers, at the same time as connecting them with potential future employment opportunities and making school work fun. 

One student said, “The excursion was absolutely fantastic…filled with lots of fun and learning…I would like to thank [the farmers] for letting us join them and Mrs Burrell for giving us plenty of hands on experience within the Ag Studies department.”

The hands-on approach to learning made the course a huge success, with 100% student engagement for the 2017 offered elective. The program is now a permanent part of the curriculum, with Mrs Burrell at the helm, continuing to enhance the program and has future plans to offer a ‘taster’ unit for Year 5/6.

These outcomes confirm that small grants really can make a difference. Thanks to one local farmer putting this project forward for a grant, Dirranbandi P-10 State School has stronger community partnerships, growing awareness of the program and the students are engaged in this different way of learning.