A Vegemite sandwich might be insignificant to most, but for the children at Trevallyn Primary School and the Northern Children's Network, it's the gateway to a whole new world of "lost skills."
Northern Tasmania is the home to a unique pilot program that is created from the ground up and is about teaching children sustainability while cultivating meaningful cultural and social communities.
It's called the "sustainable skills cafes" concept and it was launched in the United Kingdom by education researcher Dianne Boyd.
Professor Boyd said she developed the idea for the cafes - an inviting space where anyone in the community could be involved - after two poignant moments in her life.
The first, was the death of her mother and experiencing a "separate type of grief" when she found that the items her mother had coveted, such as her button tin, were long gone in the clean up of the house.
"It was a different type of grief, to find that those things that we associated with her we didn't have," she said.
The second was when she was working with a group of young children during her studies in the UK.
"I asked them [the Kindy kids] why they thought we, as a society, had a culture of throwing things away, why do they think that we don't mend things....and the kids had no idea what I meant when I said "mend'," she said.
Lost skills, like sewing, cooking, mending and darning, which by extension creates sustainability for the environment, are skills that we no longer value as a society, Professor Boyd said.
So, the idea for the skills cafes was born. It was a chance to ensure elderly people, or other adults, "felt relevant again" and takes them into the community locations to teach children the skills.
"It was important for us, to get the elderly people out [of the aged care homes]. Because what happens so often with these programs you find you take the children in, but the elderly don't get a chance to come out into the community," Professor Boyd said.
She said an unexpected consequence of one of her cafes was when two volunteers met each other.
"They found out they had been living together, next door to each other, in the aged care home, but they'd never met. Now they open their doors and meet each other for tea," Professor Boyd said.
University of Tasmania PhD candidate Sherridan Emery learned about the concept while she was at an education conference in Europe, where she met with Professor Boyd and decided to bring the cafes to Tasmania.
Professor Boyd and Ms Emery said they wanted to make sure the "cafes" were created organically and were culturally relevant to each community they were in.
As part of her involvement with the Northern Early Years Group, Ms Sherridan organised a research project around the cafes and created a network of people willing to hold them.
Professor Boyd was in Tasmania last week to see how the "skills cafes" were emerging in Tasmania and participated in some at Trevallyn Primary School on Wednesday and at Northern Children's Network on Friday.
At Trevallyn Primary School, the pupils involved were learning how to reuse old copies of The Examiner, by turning them into handmade paper.
Professor Boyd said the cafes were organically grown through communities and were about being a non-threatening way to pass on culturally relevant skills.
"We had Liverpool Football Club pick it up [the concept] and so we were doing things for them around football, like making pom poms and creating football banners from scraps of old cloth," she said.
While the idea had originated around emotional and social community connection, Professor Boyd said she found a lot of the "lost skills" that were being taught at the cafes were environmentally sustainable ones.
She said that added an extra layer to the cafes and had provided another avenue for people to be involved.
"From the Liverpool FC cafes we heard from parents that when Christmas time came around, the kids who were involved were asking for knitting and embroidery sets because of what they'd learned."
And it's not just kids who can learn a thing or two at the cafes.
UTAS lecturer Kim Beasy, who is also collaborating on the research project, said she'd seen the growth of some of the adults who had been to the skills cafes.
"All of us are picking up something - music plays a role at the Northern Children Network cafe and even I have been picking up the guitar, and I don't play music," she said.
Dr Beasy said working with educators and former educators for the cafes had helped her to understand how to connect with young people.
"I'm listening all the time to how they talk to the children and try to improve my language," she said.
The cafes have been running in Launceston over the past six months and are looking to expand.
Anyone can be involved in the skills cafes. If you think you have a skill to offer or would like to volunteer contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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