Learning about our waterways

By Sarah Price

Docklands educational and day care centre Gowrie has collaborated with Yarra Riverkeeper Association to teach the children about the importance of the Yarra River.  

Children as young as two have grouped together with their fellow students and teachers to learn about the Yarra and the damage harmful substances such as plastic bottles can cause to its environment.  

Qualified teacher and early years leader at Gowrie Karen Bonson has been facilitating the river project with the children to help them become aware of rubbish and its effects on waterways.

“The children were unhappy with the amount of litter they found in the Docklands waterways while out and about on local excursions,” said Karen Bonson, educator and leader of the two to four-year-old room at Docklands.

The children started to discuss the unclean state of the waterways, and this led to drawings and research to vocalise their feelings.

“This project on learning about the Yarra and the Docklands extended into their home life and communities, because many of the children now look for rubbish on the way home with their parents,” Ms Bonson said.  

Ms Bonson also said the children’s learning about the environment was “crucial” because it gave them a sense of community and responsibility.  

“It’s crucial because at this time of their lives their brains are developing and therefore absorbing everything they see around them … it is empowering for them at such a young age, becoming advocates for the environment,” she said.     
Yarra Riverkeeper Andrew Kelly has been working closely with the children over the past three months to increase their awareness of how vital the Yarra River is to Docklands and “understanding the world around them”.  

After the children noticed how much litter accumulated down the Docklands waterways, the class contacted Mr Kelly to discuss their concerns with the environment.

Mr Kelly is a “hero” to the children who have enjoyed meeting with him at the Docklands wharf near his boat.

“The river is everything to Melbourne. It’s almost like an artery that gives life to the Docklands which is what makes Melbourne, Melbourne,” Mr Kelly said.

“They know a lot more than what most adults do, because the children know if you throw rubbish on the streets it ends up in the river,” he said.

The riverkeeper believes the “world around us is a community” and therefore needs to be preserved in the best possible way.

“It’s all connected and our storm water system leads straight to the river because it’s a different system and not a filtered one. Therefore everything gets washed in,” he said.

According to Mr Kelly, environmental studies focusing on microplastics are being conducted in Port Phillip Bay.  Microplastics are an issue in the bay because of the vast amount building up.  

“The birds are mistaking the plastics for food and then starve to death,” Mr Kelly said.

“We are evaluating how much of a problem this is on the bay and whether it is an issue on the river too.”

Mr Mr Kelly recently put Gowrie Victoria in touch with Jeminah Ready who is producing Scenes of the Yarra as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival. The children hope to be involved in the event, which is being held for World Rivers Day on Sunday, September 27.

When asked what the children thought of the plastics in the Docklands waterways, the group of Room 6 all shouted in unison:


“Don’t throw rubbish in the river!”

“The jellyfish will get tangled!”



May 4th, 2022 - Abby Crawford
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