2013 Beth Stubbs Memorial Rain Dance Project

OMEP Australia’s team in Victoria is leading the development of an innovative Rain Dance project  in the award-winning Australian garden at Melbourne’s Royal Botannical Gardens.

The dynamic early childhood learning and development experience has a strong environmental theme and pays tribute to the memory of outstanding OMEP Australian member Beth Stubbs.

Inspiration for the major national project came from the book Rain Dance, by Cathy Applegate, and a copy was presented to the education team at the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne at a function on 21August  2013.  The book is currently out of print but a copy was sourced from overseas and gifted to the RBG by the Victorian Chapter of OMEP Australia.

The book is an important element within the program which is designed to encourage children to think about water, its source and the impact of a scarcity of rain on the landscape and people’s livelihoods.  In the story, a family anticipate the sale of their farm and a move away from what they know… but the rains come just in time!

OMEP Victoria representative Shayne Collins presents the book to the RBG Education team.

OMEP Victoria representative Shayne Collins presents the book to the RBG Education team.

The experience is set against the background of the Red Sand Garden, which symbolises the red heartland of Australia, and takes the place of a “lake” traditionally found  in most botanic gardens.

The program aims to deliver some outcomes from both the Victorian Early Years Learning and Development Framework and  the Early Years Learning Framework for Australia; provide a fun and enjoyable experience for early childhood groups at RBG Cranbourne; explore the concept that water is central to life and is a precious resource; introduce the concept of the water cycle; use water as an inspiration for rhythm and movement and a medium to express ideas, thoughts and feelings and meet  the RBG Melbourne objectives for Early Years engagement.

Groups will experience story telling with the Rain Dance story, guided exploration and shared discussion of water use, now and into the future.

The next part is “storm rhythm” where children will gain inspiration from nature and the experience of being in a rainstorm through music and movement

The “Raindrop Dance” section will take the children on a journey through the water cycle, dancing along to the Arid Garden and observing the flow of water with watering cans.

The “Rainbow Chip” segment explores colours we see in the natural world, with the children observing clear examples all around them in the gardens.

Water painting in the “Weird and Wonderful Garden” will help children to understand the concept of evaporation and see examples of how plants store water in many different ways

The program finishes with the children potting up their own drought resistant plant to take home, in addition to some time spent exploring the “Rockpool Waterway”.

Rockpool Waterway

Rockpool Waterway

OMEP AUSTRALIA can feel very proud of our investment so far in this program.

During NAIDOC Day at Cranbourne in July 2013, children challenged to find the musical instruments hidden in the Gardens.  They discovered the sonic trees and spent some time exploring the sounds they could make and hear.  They then insisted that their parents needed to come and play with the trees as well.  The garden’s staff commented favourably on the children’s engagement with the sonic trees as they explored and discovered the secrets of the gardens .

  The Victorian Chapter funded two trees in support of the RBG Cranbourne project. National also indicated in 2012 that individual chapters should support the project.  In Victoria there was a very strong feeling that this project was the right one and offered very fitting opportunities to ensure the work of both Beth Stubbs and Nancy Bastow did not go unrecognised and that the sonic trees added significantly to what National chose to fund from the original submission.


Shayne, Mick and Nic taken explore the sonic trees which were installed in early 2013.

Shayne, Mick and Nic taken explore the sonic trees which were installed in early 2013.

Shayne Collins

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