A blue-tongued lizard for 25 years of Donvale ELC

In 2021, we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Carey Donvale Early Learning Centre (ELC). We mark this milestone with a stunning art installation in the form of a five-metre mosaic blue-tongued lizard. Several of these beautiful reptiles call Carey Donvale home, so we choose this symbol for our birthday present.

Consisting of hundreds of custom-made tiles, based on the scales of the lizard and representing the river rocks from the nearby creek, this project involved contributions from across the whole school community. All students have left their mark on this permanent installation through the many art workshops we held, and our School Leadership Team and all the Donvale staff also enjoyed making their contributions to this ambitious 25th anniversary commemorative project.

The artwork was designed to reflect our unique bushland environment at Carey Donvale, and is in keeping with our tradition of creating large-scale community art projects. The finished installation aims to capture the culture of the Wurundjeri people and rests peacefully amidst the colours and patterns of the surrounding bush.

In preparation for this redevelopment of the ELC play space, the children studied our beautiful natural environment, looking closely at real river rocks, noting their shape, form, colour, line and texture. They created their own river rocks using observational drawing, which were then combined to create a ‘Hanging River Rock’ which hangs proudly in the ELC space in the form of a glistening, shimmering river rock mobile.

In addition, the ELC children made their own river rocks from clay and painted them to represent the flowing water. Some children applied sgraffito to their rocks – a technique of scratching back the glaze to reveal the underlying surface, adding linework to their designs.

Our Year 6 students collaboratively worked to design the overall look of our blue-tongued lizard. They were mindful of the environment it would inhabit and reflected on artwork created in consultation with our Wurundjeri elders. They drew on the traditional Victorian symbology of our First Nations people to guide their line and pattern work.

Our Prep students enjoyed collaborating with their Year 6 buddies to create their own 3D ceramic fish. These glazed fish will adorn the dry riverbed that connects the ELC garden to the Prep playground. In doing so, the students are leaving a lasting mark in our Carey landscape and achieving an overall sense of unity. 

Our Year 1 and 2 students discovered the creatures that inhabit our local waterways. They researched and closely observed these unique creatures to create detailed designs in their art journal. These 2D ideas were transformed into 3D form using clay. Their finished river creatures were glazed and fired before being placed throughout our riverbeds. 

The excitement of watching the lizard take shape gripped the ELC in the first few weeks of Term 3. It literally emerged from the earth as Phil Stray, our landscaping architect, worked with his team to realise the dream that had been in the making since last year. Kylie Crampton, Jeanette Jennings and the ELC staff have been instrumental in realising this magnificent community art project and we are grateful for their passion and guidance.

Steve Wilson
Head of Junior School Donvale

Originally published in the Spring 2021 Torch magazine.