Two performers dressed as cats and four primary-school aged children perform on-stage.

Stage 2 Crookwell Public School students on-stage with the creative directors of EGTC.

Primary school students in Crookwell learn about environmental issues in an educational play focusing on biodiversity and responsible pet ownership on National Threatened Species Day, September 7.

Nearly 230 young people, aged between 3 to 12 years old, from Crookwell Public School, Crookwell Early Learning Centre and St Mary’s Primary School watched the production of It’s Cats Play – A Catastrophic Story, a stage show about the ways the domestic cat negatively impacts wildlife and biodiversity.

This performance is a collaboration between the Eaton Gorge Theatre Company (EGTC)  and K2W Link. Thursday’s show was supported through Cores, Corridors and Koalas – a partnership between the Great Eastern Ranges and WWF-Australia to regenerate critical habitat for forest-dependant native animals.

“National Threatened Species Day is an important day to learn about our endangered native animals and the different ways that we can protect them,” K2W project coordinator Mary Bonet said.

“We hope that the children will start a conversation with their parents or any adult about how cats negatively impact Australian animals and the benefits of keeping cats indoors.”

Play delivers important environmental message

The show, written and performed by the creative directors at the EGTC, Juliet Scrine and Ian McColm, challenges pet owners to modify current pet ownership practices.

Using the arts to deliver this important message about environmental action is “fun, warm and non-judgemental,” Juliet said.

“The play is not anti-cat, however, it’s about responsible cat ownership, and by keeping their cats contained owners can make a huge difference to native wildlife.

“We like to get the children to laugh, so we give them something to laugh at and then we give them something to think about – kids love facts.

For the production, the directors adapted the storyline by using a threatened species common to the area. In the live performances, the young audience participated in the role of a vulnerable bird, reptile or mammal, challenging them to connect with the story-telling.

“It’s really good at creating empathy and understanding,” Juliet said.

Learning through art and literature

Following the performance at St Mary’s, Stage 3 students learned more about Australian species and culture with Wiradjuri artist Jodie Munday. The students drew and painted realistic artworks of Australian species and their habitats, which enabled them to learn more about endangered species.

To continue the children’s learning, each school was given a gift of two books published by Wet Season Books, Snuggled Away and The Perfect Hollow and a copy of Drawing Australian Gliders by Peter and Judy Smith and illustrated by Kate Smith.

Author and conservationist Elyssa Castles introduced St Mary’s students to the Pink-tailed Legless Lizard, one of Australia’s tiniest and rarest reptiles. Elyssa oversees a Saving Our Species conservation project to protect the lizard in the Googong-Burra region of NSW. She also presented the school with a collection of stories, Luna the Stay-At-Home Cat Series.