Disengaged Katherine High School students are taking outside learning to the next level.
Through a Pathways Program, middle years boys have been spending two hours per week at Food Ladder producing products for top Australian restaurants.
Rosella and native lemon grass – grown by the students – are in high demand right now.
Pathways support officer Skott Statt said while it has been difficult to engage the students in school, the gardening project is slowly increasing concentration and willingness to learn.
“Numeracy and literacy skills are incorporated into practical skills, for example they have to measure up plots and work out appropriate yields,” Mr Statt said.
“More technically we are looking at irrigation and watering rates.
“These students don’t quite cope in a mainstream school environment, so it is about bringing them into a practical classroom where they can develop skills they might otherwise miss out on,” he said.
From food development to day-to-day maintenance, the students play an important role in the Food Ladder social enterprise.
“The students are working on their own projects, creating their own crops, doing all the irrigation and giving them the love they need,” horticultural and food trainer for Food Ladder Scott McDonald said.
“The Pathway Program provides practical skills these kids can use in the future.
“The work they are doing is agriculture related and given Katherine has a big agricultural industry, the more we can train these kids the better,” he said.
Keeping in tune with Indigenous culture, the project places emphasis on production of bush foods.
Mr McDonald said there is high demand for the products grown by the students across big name Australian restaurants.
“There is a mind blowing market for Indigenous sourced bush tucker right now.
“Rosella and native lemon grass are both in high demand,” Mr McDonald said.
Profits are invested back into the project, he said.
“Our major goal is training and development here at Food Ladder,” Mr McDonald said.
“The idea is we come in and build these systems to then be able to hand them over to department agencies and the community,” he said.