It's nice to know that bang in the middle of Perth, surrounded by constant development and noise, Herdsman Lake hasn't changed much in decades. Located six kilometres from the city, the Lake is actually a regional park of almost 370 hectares. Herdsman has a variety of facilities dotted around it including cycle paths, playgrounds, parklands and the Wildlife Centre.
Recently my daughter's pre-primary class visited the Wildlife Centre for an excursion, and as soon as I stepped through the doors I saw that the centre hadn't changed much since I used to visit as a schoolgirl. This isn't a bad thing, because kids respond to old-school exhibits: the stuffed cat, the enormous (fake) redback spider, the glass tanks of live frogs. There are things to touch, and feel and find, pictures and words.
They ran up the stairs and stood at the viewing window, as excited about the dead fly in the window as they were about the magnificent birds flying above the lake. Nothing is too small or too mundane when you are six.
I watched as the boys, normally rough and excitable, stood perfectly still with shells pressed to their ears. 'I can hear the ocean,' said one. 'I can hear my swimming pool,' said another.
The Wildlife Centre is open to the general public as well as being an educational centre for schools. If you visit with your kids, you may not be lucky enough to hear a talk by the most awesome Roger Harris, Centre Manager and Wildlife Warrior, but you will still be able to explore the centre, and walk out along the boardwalk, right into the heart of the swamp.
The morning we visited, our kids were treated to a morning of fishing for minibeasts and swamp safari talks. Mr Harris, with a huge spider on his hat, taught the kids about indigenous medicine, traditional uses for plants, and all about animal and bird poo. Plant-eater poo versus meat-eater poo. So much poo.
Having daughters, I was lucky not much of this newly acquired knowledge was repeated later on at home, but I feel confident that some other mums may not have been as fortunate. But Mr Harris, with a booming and friendly authority grabbed the kids' attention and managed to make learning about poo and sap and bush medicine as fascinating as Ben10 and Dora. And so much more interesting for the adults.
The Wildlife Centre is managed by the Gould League, which is Australia's leading environmental educator. As a kid I remember collecting Gould League badges, and now my children are enjoying learning about this incredible ecosystem, right in the middle of the city.
The WA Gould League website is full of information for schools and students, but if you wanted to head down with your own kids, there is no reason why you couldn't use their online resources to make your visit more educational and enjoyable.
Or you could just turn up and enjoy the serenity.
After walking out along the wooden boardwalk, over the swamp, through the paperbark grove, the kids had learned about all plants that make you poop, and plants that stop you from pooping. Plants that make you fart and plants that you can use to wipe your bottom. The kids loved it.
As the bus pulled up, the teacher told the class to say thankyou.
"Thankyou Mr Harrisonnnnnnnn," they sang.
"Thanks kids, I'll tell him when I see him," replied Mr Harris.