Local Hero - Darryl Spargo
By Neville Passmore
In 36 years at Pinjarra Senior High School former geography teacher Darryl Spargo can look back on many successes. None fill him with as much pleasure as the work he has put in with successive classes of young people who were the least suited to our school system. With low literacy and numeracy skills these youngsters tended to drop behind in regular classes and find school a negative experience.
About 15 years ago Darryl noted the growth of horticulture and farming operations were on the rise in the Peel area but these were not being matched with educational courses to supply necessary skills.
One of the early enterprises Darryl started at the school was the growing of trees for farm planting. Not only did the students plant the seeds and grow the plants but also planted these sturdy young seedlings on farms around the area.
It was on one of these tree planting exercises that Darryl first met up with Andy Gulliver of C-Wise at Nambeelup. The working partnership developed quickly and now the school, through Daryl have a significant role in managing the 400 hectare property on which the C-Wise business together with one of WA's largest piggeries, is located. Essentially the students manage the sheep, cattle and llama stock with a purpose of keeping the vegetation from overgrowing and creating a fire hazard.
The farm is an outdoor classroom for one day of every week for the students in Darryl's group. There are many skills, all intensely practical and involving hands on activities that can be learned in such a working environment. Darryl has coined the acronym FLEEC to describe the Flexible Learning Education and Engagement Centre.
The students get involved with fencing, shearing sheep, cattle marking, weed identification and control, organic vegetable growing, bird identification, photography, cooking, driving, machinery operation, tree planting and care as well as wetland rehabilitation.
Daryl together with support staff and the FLEEC students help C-Wise by planning all farm activities, providing labour for the many environmental rehabilitation programs as well as animal husbandry on the site. Plant trials are run at the school shadehouse.
The gardens around the C-Wise office and entry to the farm are managed, as are firebreaks. A fencing program is run to ensure stock are confined in planned locations. Perhaps the best contribution, however, is the opportunity for students to work on a real farm with real work consequences and gain a relevant qualification. Because of the continuity of the programme students can see the progress of their work, on a week by week basis and year by year.
For its part C-Wise provides power and water on site at no cost, farm machinery, work experience opportunities, high visibility safety clothing, access to infrastructure in the form of shearing shed, yards, machinery such as tractors, utes and quad bikes. Profits from the cattle enterprise help fund the FLEEC program.
Students can come away with a Certificate 11 in Rural Operations after two years involvement with the FLEEC program. Over the years Darryl has shown enormous aptitude for gathering and enhancing resources for FLEEC at low, or no cost. While the school does not have a formal agricultural division I saw many envious glances from Ag teachers on a recent tour of the facilities that Daryl had managed to get running on that "smell of the oily rag". It would be safe to say that nothing is wasted at the school that can't be used in the business of training and educating his special students.
There are many young people for whom Darryl's program has unlocked potentials that were in many instances not recognised. His educational legacy is alive and working both in the students themselves but also for their grateful parents.
Teacher Darryl Spargo
Hands on teaching style
Building fences at the C-Wise farm
Learning how to catch, cook and eat Blue Manna crabs