Castlemaine Steiner School: Spring Festival – mountain bush walk

Castlemaine Steiner School

Spring Festival – mountain bush walk

Following in their footsteps
– a little school’s celebration of Spring

by Nerrida Johnson, Principal Castlemaine Steiner School

In the May of 1907, 1200 primary school children from across the state of Victoria gathered to walk up Mount Tarrengower for a field excursion to study flora, fauna and geology. 116 years later children from Castlemaine Steiner School & Kindergarten followed in their footsteps.

As a Steiner School we can sometimes find ourselves imitating the traditions of our sibling schools in Europe for seasonal celebrations. This year, however, we broke from these traditions and sought to create a festival that allowed us to observe the changes our local landscape makes during spring. Mount Tarrengower was chosen for its distance from school, natural beauty and accessibility.

Prior to leaving school for the day, Principal, Nerrida Johnson, told a story about sugar gliders as a way to share the more subtle form that Spring takes in Australia and which flowers and creatures we might discover during our journey.

Loaded up on three buses we travelled to the Maldon Botanical Gardens where we had an early morning tea and formed into groups – the younger children buddying up with students from Classes 7 and 8. As we began to walk, the excitement was palpable. Loads of chattering, giggling and calls of ‘too fast’ to the leaders at the front. We soon settled into a rhythm of walking all together, all 150 of us. We cannot imagine what it would be to walk with 1200 young people without walkie-talkies and only one man teaching geology.

As we walked, the younger children were looking out for flowers to tick off on their Flower Finder Booklets. Older students helped this process with keen eyes and kind hearts, often carrying bags or drink bottles for the younger ones. Many smiles of adoration in both directions were observed by teachers and parent volunteers.

Morning tea was eaten amongst the Murnong Yam Daisy and lovely Candle flowers, and a few children discovered ants being protective of their nests. One Class had baked a tray of Flapjacks to share, an idea I think will be taken up by other classes in the future. Keen to carry on, we were up and walking quite soon and we found ourselves at our lunch spot much earlier than anticipated. Children were divided into younger years (1-4) and older years (5-8) for festival activities. The younger children had space to discover and share with others about their Flower Finder Booklets and have a free play and lunch on picnic mats. Older students swapped between climbing the tower (trying not to lose their hats) and enjoying a bush meditation with First Nations woman Arkeira Armstrong.

With a final group photo of all 150 of us, we announced that the children had done so well climbing the mountain that we had decided to change the plans of a mountain top bus pick-up and let them all walk back down again. And we did just that with only a few moans and groans before getting back into the swing of it and enjoying the company of walking together. The trick then was to keep everyone walking slowly enough as we neared the pick-up place.

The students, staff and parents should all be very proud of a successful day of walking, sharing company as the whole school, and of being beautifully respectful and interested in Mount Tarrengower.

Nerrida Johnson
Castlemaine Steiner School