School Partnership Program

School partnership programs generate opportunities for long term, ongoing learning experiences for schools. Participating students and teachers are able to understand more fully the work of the Royal Botanic Gardens by developing ongoing relationships with staff and volunteers, using real tools, experiencing real world environmental challenges and finding real solutions.

Partnerships requre a creative input which demands time and resources that cannot be fairly provided for the large numbers of schools that RBG works with. To balance these demands partnership outcomes are negotiated between schools and RBG staff. Partnerships are of a fixed term however they may be continued for extended periods at a reduced level of commitment. The different nature and resources of the Melbourne and Cranbourne sites are also generally reflected in the nature of partnership developed.

Please note, the Royal Botanic Gardens is not accepting School Partnership applications in 2016 as vacancies have already been filled. 

Melbourne Mentor Program

This program provides the opportunity for secondary school students to engage with young children in a garden context. Acting as learning mentors they connect with younger children and make contributions as community members. The program is available in Terms 2 and 4 and aims to:

  • Increase understanding of the environment for secondary students by engaging younger children in environmental education experiences.
  • Provide secondary students with real work experience.
  • Provide a range of programs for young children visiting the Ian Potter Foundation Children's Garden.
  • Positive cross-age and cross-ability interactions.
  • Increased understanding of the work that takes place in the students' community.
  • Encourage students to contribute to their community.
  • Increase student participation in decision making about education programs at the Gardens.

Students work closely with teachers, volunteers and horticultural staff during the program, performing hands-on horticultural tasks in the Children's Garden, assisting teacher led groups and supporting special needs groups, and engaging with members of the public through structured activities they devise.


‘The experience at the IPFCG [Ian Potter Foundation Children's Garden] is a rich and challenging one that has broadened our students' horizons in many respects. There is no doubt that all have taken a real step forward by developing their personal skills in the contexts provided by your programs. For year 9 students it is essential to have community involvement on a practical level. There is no way that we could find an equivalent experience for our students'.

Heather Leviston, Year 9 Co-ordinator, Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School

Melbourne Gardening Program

The program runs throughout the year on Mondays and Tuesdays. Schools visit once a week or once a fortnight for up to six months. Sessions are conducted by Ian Potter Foundation Children's Garden volunteers. Schools manage kitchen garden plots in the Ian Potter Foundation Children's Garden. The program aims to:

  • Provide students with increased decision-making opportunities.
  • Increase understanding of the connections between plants and food.
  • Increase understanding of a sustainable and organic kitchen garden.
  • Promote appreciation and understanding of the work of the Royal Botanic Gardens by forming working relationships with volunteers and staff.
  • Build capacity for students and teachers to develop their own school garden for teaching and learning.

Students select what they will grow in the kitchen garden; prepare the soil, propagate plants, compost, plant, tend and harvest the garden.

Playgroup and Bush Kinder

Cranbourne Aboriginal Kids Playgroup

Balee Koolin Bubup Bush Playgroup is a partnership with the Library Has Legs Program at the Casey and Cardinia Library Corporation and Boon Wurrung Elder Aunty Fay Stewart Muir from the Victorian Aboriginal Corporation for Languages.  It is funded through the City of Casey Best Start Supported Playgroup Initiative and through this support it has enabled the recruitment of an Indigenous Early Childhood Education Officer – Janine “Jaffa” Richardson.

The Playgroup commenced in June 2014 and has been funded again for 2015, meets weekly on a Tuesday during the school term at the Cranbourne Gardens.  Aboriginal families interested in joining this group should contact Mick Robertson on 5990 2207.

Cranbourne Bush Kinder

Bush Kinder is a rapidly growing learning model in Early Childhood settings.  Its philosophy is child centred discovery learning where children interact with each other and nature in outdoor “bush” settings. Currently 5 groups from Cranbourne Day Care and Kindergarten are using the Cranbourne Gardens site for kindergarten sessions.

The day to day running of sessions is the responsibility of the regular kindergarten teachers but RBG staff liaise, assist with establishing processes and induct students to the site.  RBG also run professional development in Nature Play at both Melbourne and Cranbourne.


‘Vermont South Special School [VSSS] is a State run school attended by children with mild intellectual disabilities. Our partnership with the Children's Garden program is a very valuable part of our schools' program providing a rich experience for the students and exchange of ideas and support for the teachers.

Benefits for our students include learning through hands-on experiences, building of confidence, provide and self-esteem, development of life-long skills both recreational and vocational, social skills in dealing with members of the community, and the opportunity to experience a rich garden environment.

For teachers the partnership has provided valuable enrichment and support for VELS Domains as well as the opportunity to develop our own Kitchen Garden and become a wastewise school with everyone involved in composting and recycling.'

Jan Brown, Science Teacher, VSSS

Applying for a School Partnership

We are no longer accepting applications for the 2016 School Partnerships Program as the vacancy has been filled. 

There is no charge for participation in school partnership programs.

Visits are made up of weekly or fortnightly two-hour sessions during the term in which your partnership program is running. Programs are catered to individual school needs. To apply to participate in these programs, please submit an application addressing the following criteria:

  • Goals for the partnership. These may include desired learning outcomes and experiences.
  • What do you think your role would be to ensure the success of this partnership program? This may include a statement about communication methods, reliability, commitment and interest of your staff.
  • How do you plan to travel to the Royal Botanic Gardens? How often and how regularly can you visit? What dates/terms, starting and finishing times do you prefer?
  • Describe your group in terms of needs, abilities, interests, age range and participant numbers.
  • Demonstrated support of the program from principal, teachers, school officers and parents.

Previous Partnerships- Learning Stories

Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria's Melbourne and Cranbourne Gardens document at least one of the partnerships operating each semester. The structure we use for documenting this partnership is in a Learning Story format arrived at through collaboration within the Strategic Partnerships Program.

These Learning Stories have been written up with the assistance of the participating school teachers and students and they inform the structure of each of the partnerships. The structure of the reports helps us ensure that tangible and measurable outcomes flow from the collaborative work that is each of the partnerships we enter into.

This collection of Learning Stories represents some of the partnerships we have entered into and will hopefully provide some idea of the scope that we are prepared to address. It is not a complete collection of partnerships that have operated and it does not define the scope we are prepared to embrace. Hopefully schools considering partnerships will be inspired by these stories and those featured will feel proud of their achievements.

For enquiries please contact: