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Local kids are the big winners after one of Nature Conservation Margaret River Region’s youth programs received a big shot in the arm, winning grant funding to blend environmental learning with culture and art.

The Adopt a Spot program has been running for nine years and involves Year 4 students from nine schools across the Capes region, with each class learning about a nearby area of bushland, river, foreshore or coastline and caring for it over the course of a year.

But now, students can engage with their adopted spots at an even deeper level as they team up with local artists and with Wadandi traditional owners as part of new pillar of the Adopt a Spot program, called “Capes Cultural Canvas”. It has been funded by the State of Western Australia and Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries.

“This year-long project provides the opportunity for local students to be immersed in a variety of artforms, environmental restoration and Wadandi knowledge,” said Adopt a Spot coordinator Tracey Muir.

“It allows students to not only learn the science and culture of their local patches, but also how to express and communicate these values through art and celebrate their significance with the whole community. I’m thrilled at the opportunity this new grant provides for local students across our shire to learn from Wadandi elders about the cultural significance of bushland or coastal reserves that they ‘adopt’ and care for. It means some special areas of cultural and environmental significance can be restored and cared for consistently, with the help of volunteers and school students.”

Professional artists will also collaborate with each school to help children engage deeply with their adopted spot, exploring the local plants and animals, the Wadandi stories of connection, and how students can communicate these values through art. Then, all classes will come together for an exhibition and celebration at the end of the year.

Local artists including Fi Wilkie, Emily Jackson and Tania Davey will be part of the program, as well as Michelle Bretherton and Cara Ratajczak from Weaving Boodja and Margaret River Printmaking’s Franceso Geronazzmo and Annie Murphy.

Ms Ratajczak described the project as an “incredible opportunity for local kids to truly investigate a special spot in the South-West”. “Not only will they be learning about their spot’s ecological value, they will also get to connect with the location on a cultural level and explore their area creatively,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to hearing stories from Wadandi custodians about the significance of our chosen locations. It will be incredible to interweave some of these stories with its ecological importance to then create an artwork with the kids.”

In the past 12 months, the Year 4 students planted more than 2000 cuttings, almost 900 seedlings, and laid down 5 trailer-loads of brush to protect seedlings and dunes. Sites that have been cared for and rehabilitated include riparian zones along the Margaret River and its tributaries, as well as coastal and foreshore conservation at some of the region’s most popular beaches, including Redgate, Hamelin Bay, Cowaramup Bay and Yallingup.

“The kids, teachers, parents and volunteers in our Adopt a Spot program are all keen to get their hands dirty, to make a difference and actively care for the landscapes we all love,” Ms Muir said. “Being connected to nature is so important for our wellbeing and to counteract all the doom and gloom. It’s a way to recharge and feel inspired, knowing we can make a positive difference.”

Adopt a Spot is generously funded through the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River’s Environmental Management Fund and the Line In The Sand philanthropic group and the Capes Cultural Canvas pillar is funded by the State of Western Australia and Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries.