Finch Farm is a place where students and community spirit thrives. Built and maintained by the extended family of Brisbane’s John Paul College, it is an engaging extension to the school’s classroom learning environment. ASPECT Studio's Brisbane Studio Director, Deb Robbins, helped the farm take shape and was recently invited to present at the school’s Design Days workshops, which included a student design competition to enhance the use of this vibrant little farm. Deb has worked with John Paul College for about 10 years, as the schools landscape architect and works in collaboration with the Facilities Manager, Lucas Gilroy, around the school campus. Held over three days in August, the Design Days challenged students to design an innovative projects to ensure Finch Farm becomes widely used within the school and the wider community. A series of workshops were held to assist the year 7 and 8 students with their designs. Workshops included “Unpacking the brief”, “Prototyping” and “Pitching your idea”, which honed the student’s problem solving and entrepreneurial skills by preparing written, aural and visual presentations. These are the vital and highly valued enterprise skills that this generation of students will need to as they enter higher education and the work force. The original Finch Farm Concept was tabled by Deb and Lucas at a school board meeting in back September 2011. The vision was for a farm that was cost neutral by harnessing goodwill from interested parties within and outside the school community. Curriculum links to sustainable energy and the farm would be applied across all disciplines and all school years and the farm would be largely maintained by students with opportunities for interested parents, staff and partners to be involved. There would be limitless opportunities for creative expression, with sculptures, land art and edible landscapes all part of the original vision and a strong indigenous focus would be incorporated into bush tucker gardens, ‘blessing of land’ and ‘welcome to country’ ceremonies. Ultimately, however, hands-on learning experiences would be the outcome of the farm and an emphasis was placed on translating lessons learned on the farm to the home environment. The intention was that “Everything done on the farm needs to be able to be done at home.” Bringing this vision to life commenced in November 2011 when the proof of concept was ratified by the Headmaster and the Board. Within five months, heavy equipment arrived to contour and fill the farm site. The college community was central to shaping this vital space and a series of workshops including tasks such as mulching and turfing to add stability to the contoured terraces. Dedicated volunteers raked, dug, stomped, painted and planted their way to a working farm. Garden beds were planted, chicken houses were built, a koala food plantation was created and fruit trees were planted to establish the orchard. The first staff meeting was hosted on Finch Farm in October 2012 to show teachers how the activity of the farm can provide support for classroom practice. The recent Design Days competition encouraged students to develop the confidence to creatively address the challenges and opportunities in the world around them and to provide innovative solutions to complex issues. Judging criteria included innovation, sustainability, cost effectiveness and application to the wider school community, students and staff. The best three project ideas were selected based on how well they met the criteria and the brief. It was satisfying to see the students take up the design challenge with such enthusiasm and to view Finch Farm as a vital source of college – and community – sustainability.
Finch Farm brings agricultural learning to students of Brisbane’s John Paul College