Giving Back To Nature One Block At A Time

 

Greenery, bark, potting mix and a group of dirt-smeared smiling faces filled the back courtyard garden of The Hideout Café in Narangba on a humid January day. While there was a fun component to this gathering, there was also an important educational element for the next generation. Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) hosted a children’s workshop designed to equip the young minds with a wealth of knowledge so they could go on to build their own Nature Blocks.

What are Nature Blocks? Nature Blocks is a national initiative that encourages participants to build a native garden. It can be of any size and can be located in their backyard, on their balcony, in their office, or in their local environment. The purpose of these gardens is to provide food and shelter for native species.

The young workshop attendees created a total of eight Nature Blocks during their fun morning. Five of these were integrated into the thriving ecosystem at The Hideout Café augmenting its natural setting, while the remaining three accompanied the junior conservationists home, each taking a native plant so they could commence their own Nature Blocks.

Alec Patten, CVA Project Officer who conducted the Nature Blocks workshop.

CVA’s Alec Patten took the opportunity to speak about the importance of the environment, the impact humans have and what each person can do to make a difference.

“Nature Blocks is all about trying to teach people about what they can do, because there’s a lot more than just koalas and other animals out there that need our help and are good for the environment and nature in general,” he said. “We’re here today (at The Hideout) and the biggest thing we’re trying to teach is about things like biodiversity.

“So biodiversity is basically our whole environment around us. It’s all about all of the living things that are around us – all our bugs, lizards, right up to our bigger animals like the koalas and kangaroos and how they all interlink and work with each other. So if you imagine it as a bit of a chain, but they’re all linked to each other. And if you break one of those chains in the link, it can have pretty big effects further down the line.”

Highlighting how much the environment has been through in just 100 years, Alec spoke about how important it was to try and counteract the damage, even if it was only in small amounts.

“It’s all about trying to help our nature by replacing little areas as much as we can and things that everyone can do in their backyard,” Alec said. “Not everyone can plant trees to get koalas to come into their backyard, but everyone can do something to help out our environment.”
“Not everyone can plant trees to get koalas to come into their backyard, but everyone can do something to help out our environment.”

So, what did the workshop include? It was aimed at educating and exciting the next generation about local native plants and animals, their habitats, and the challenges they confront. After listening intently and answering questions about animals, insects and trees, it was time to get some dirty work done.

To construct the Nature Blocks, CVA supplied a variety of materials, including native plants, small planters, native potting mix, mulch and pebbles to establish varied habitats. To ensure hydration for tiny wildlife visitors, CVA instructed the children on crafting a simple yet elegant water dish. They also provided child-sized gloves and safety glasses for protection and sanitation.

The whole group planted more than 32 native plants from a range of 16 species, including the Weeping Bottlebrush (Melaleuca viminalis), the Hairpin Banksia (Banksia spinulosa) and Koala Bells (Artanema fimbriatum). These plants were all sourced locally and are known to attract a wide range of pollinator species, such as bees, butterflies and birds.

“When it comes to insects and bugs that are good for the environment, they all have their place,” Alec said. “Bees are probably one of the biggest most important ones that are in the chain to help the environment.

“In Australia, we have our native stingless bees, which are really interesting little bees. They’re really good because they don’t sting you and they’re a lot smaller than the usual European honeybee which you see around. Although the European honeybee also helps our environment a fair bit.

“What we’re doing in Nature Blocks and what most people can do for their Nature Blocks is to attract these kinds of insects and bring them into our gardens. Even people with balconies can plant little areas that will attract bees and insects and bugs.”

How much do you know about creating the perfect habitat? Animals, just like humans, need food and water to survive.

“They need these things to be able to reproduce, to live and enjoy their lives,” Alec said. “What our nature blocks are about is trying to provide these three key things for all these things, which is food, some shelter because everyone likes a nice cosy place to live and they can hide in from predators and also a bit of water as well.

“Habitat can be a number of things. It can be anything from things like nest boxes that people put up in trees for animals such as possums and bats to live in, all down to sticks and rocks that are lying around on the ground, which are homes to lots of ants, bugs and other insects you might find around the place.”

 

All you need to do to play your part in giving back to nature is start planting!

“It’s something that we can all do at home and it doesn’t have to be much,” Alec said. “Our nature blocks are roughly one by one metre square, which doesn’t sound like a very big area, but if we have a thousand people do that, that’s a thousand metres square and so on.”

Take the next step

Getting started is straightforward! First, download the CVA Community Hub app, which serves as your gateway to the Nature Blocks community. This is where you can find numerous resources and step-by-step instructions, connect with like-minded individuals, and monitor your progress. Once you download and install the app, you can create an account and then you’re ready to explore the world of Nature Blocks!

Words by Sheree Hoddinett, originally published in The Local Times.