Climate Change & Innovation in the Wheatbelt

Our Year 12 geographers have just returned from their annual trip to the Central Wheatbelt, visiting farms and the settlements of Cunderdin and Tammin. Two of the three farms students visited are owned by Santa Maria families – Yarrandale (Mr and Mrs Fulwood) and Coodernuppin (Mr and Mrs Uppill). Mr Tony York also hosted the girls at Anameka.

Following a study of the links between changes in land cover and changes in global climate, students are completing an inquiry into the impacts of these changes and how these are being addressed regionally and locally.

Choosing the WA Wheatbelt as their region of study exhibits ways in which farming has had to adapt to climate change and strategies farmers are implementing to mitigate climate change. In particular, the students examine two systems – minimum tillage in broadacre cropping and saltbush forage improvement in pastoralism – along with land restoration and rehabilitation methods.

The farms they visited provided outstanding examples of these adaptations and strategies. Students see parts of the properties where these systems are employed and understand the spatial technologies and machinery that make these possible.

At the same time, students gathered information that will help them in their later studies of planning sustainable places, including rural towns. They could see the interconnections between rural and urban settlements and the challenges some smaller rural areas face, especially in providing services.

Fieldwork is a compulsory part of a senior Geography course, as according to the syllabus, “fieldwork enables you to develop your understanding of the world through direct experience.” It enables their studies to come to life as they see and think about real examples of topics they have never had the opportunity to witness directly.

As Michael Palin, a great geographer and traveller writes: “Geography is no longer just something which you learn from a book and a map, and that’s it. It’s very much now a collaborative thing. The world is out there; you can go and see for yourself. What the world looks like, and I think that’s a great opportunity.”

Some of the student reflections illustrate this very well:

It was a great experience, and I loved getting out in the field. It was beneficial to learn directly from the farmers and get a visual understanding of the places we were learning about. I also enjoyed visiting the museum to understand the cultural and historical context of Cunderdin. The experience was fun, and I felt our class grew closer through it. Kate Creasy

This trip had a great structure, and I really enjoyed it as I immersed myself in farming life and got closer to my peers. I learned a lot about how they seed, harvest and maintain the crops and how farmers in Western Australia adapt to changing environmental conditions. It also gave me a deeper appreciation for the farmers, seeing how much work they put into their crops. Charlize Kazmer

Many features of this field trip go well beyond the fantastic learning that takes place! As evident in these reflections, bringing the group together for a couple of days results in informal sharing and fun, especially when boarders can share their knowledge of rural life. As many new career opportunities are opening up in agriculture, including agribusiness,  this experience encourages students to consider these, along with their understanding of rural life generally.

All in all, this is a terrific opportunity for students. It is pleasing that they appreciate the hospitality and input from their hosts and then return with so many ideas and plans!

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