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Augusta Primary School students have rallied to the aid of Western Ringtail possums, learning about the endangered animals, building dreys, removing weeds and planting trees to create habitat.

It’s all part of Nature Conservation Margaret River Region’s dedicated schools program called Our Patch, which involves 10 classes from five different schools across the Capes region. Each class learns about the environment in their local waterway or catchment and hears from scientists, researchers, landholders and cultural custodians. Then they select a particular environmental threat in the area, and devise innovative solutions to project the local ecosystem or biodiversity.

Among them are the students from Augusta Primary, who first heard about the work to restore possum habitat from their local Coastcare group and then learned from Nature Conservation citizen science research about possum populations in Augusta.

The students then investigated ringtail habitat in their school bushland, observed possum nesting and behaviour, and came up with solutions to protect and enhance the habitat. That included identifying and removing weeds, replacing them with local native species, and building and installing possum boxes for the animals to use. They’ll be complimented by possum boxes decorated during the Augusta River Festival by local artists and community members, which will also be installed in the school bushland.

Student Kayla Challis said: “I learnt about how to make a safe possum home so that we can take care of the Western Ringtail possum. I love the Our Patch program because I want to help the environment.  I enjoyed learning about where the possums live and what they need to make a home, and I enjoyed planting peppermint trees.”

Year 5/6 teacher Rona O’Brien thanked Bunnings and Mitre 10 for supporting the project and she described the Our Patch program as “fun, engaging, hands-on” learning that taught students “how to assess their local area and the simple steps they can take to make an impact”.

The exciting nature-based learning culminates on September 14 when each class will present their project and solutions at the Margaret River HEART for the annual Our Patch presentation day, following a Welcome to Country from cultural custodian Zac Webb.

Nature Conservation’s Our Patch officer Lauren Scanlon said the students’ projects are making a real difference to the community and environment. She said the program also relies on enormous community support. “The Augusta children explored the Hardy Inlet, thanks to Blackwood Houseboats, they also heard from local experts and stewards including Deb Perry from Augusta Coastcare, Chiara Danese from Lower Blackwood LCDC, local fishermen Trevor and James Price and bird specialist Christine Wilder,” she said.

“Working with local people who are passionate about connecting with and protecting our environment really inspires the children to get involved and make a difference. Our Patch depends on these local legends volunteering their time to share their passions with the next generation. We’re grateful for the opportunity to work with local people and inspire direct, meaningful local environmental learning and stewardship.”

Our Patch is generously funded by Lions Club of Cowaramup, Shire of Augusta-Margaret River, Margaret River Rotary, the Paskeville Foundation and local schools.