Photo: Year 10 student Olivia Edwards with a wallaroo joey on the school oval. (ABC News: Anna Henderson)
Related Story: Life, death and the bonds of family: This is what it's like to be a kid living through drought
It's 8am and the children on the school bus range in age from five four through to 17.Most of them were up before dawn, helping with feeding of animals and farm chores.
Year 10 student Olivia Edwards says it is so dry on her property her family has to take health precautions to avoid breathing in the dust.
"We wear dust masks in the cattle yard because it just turns it into powder," she said.
"After a big day in the yards I feel it in my lungs and throat and then all in your nose.
"We've noticed our horses starting to get a little bit crook, like they're breathing difficult, because of the dust."
The children are all on their way to school in the small town of Manilla, near Tamworth in New South Wales.
Soon it will be school sports day. Only the carnival will not be held on the school oval like it normally is.
It has also turned to dirt and it is not safe to play sport there.
Manilla Central School principal Michael Windred said the children would have to go elsewhere for the event.
"We've had to organise three buses to bus our students elsewhere, we're heading 60, 70 kilometres up the road to Gunnedah and we'll conduct our carnival there," he said.
"The fact we can't even use our school oval for a sporting event, it's pretty sad isn't it?
"This is the hub of our community."
On the school bus on the way into town, four-year-old Jasper is champing at the bit to talk about his family property.
"I live on a huge farm with cows, calves, sheep, lambs, horses. Even a little pony called Pixie," he said.
But he knows things are bad, and he uses the biggest numbers he can think of to express that.
"We haven't seen rain for 150 weeks," he said.
"When it was green I was only a little baby."
Photo: Jasper Lendon says it hasn't been green around where he lives since he was a little baby. (ABC News: Anna Henderson)
Trying to keep happy around the kidsLucy Gallagher is waving her kids off further down the road.
"My kids, we're trying to keep happy around them, fairly uplifted, we don't want them to be suffering because of this miserable old situation," she said.
"Certainly I shouldn't have promised them that we'd go away for a weekend in the school holidays because that never eventuated, it was just too difficult to get away."
But it is impossible to shield them from the hardship. Mrs Gallagher said her daughter Molly was reduced to tears this week.
"She had a poddy calf and it died which was awful," she said.
"We think it didn't get any colostrum from its mother because it seemed to be going well.
"When you live on a farm you get used to life and death and the kids have got a pretty good grip of that."
Now it is her turn to be emotional and she reiterates the efforts she and her husband are making to shield their children from the psychological stress of drought.
"We are making a big effort to keep them as happy as we can," she said.
Eleven-year-old Isabella Hargraves is sitting nearby.
She said most of her spare time at home was spent helping to feed animals.
"There's no water, there's not really much feed, we have to buy feed in," she said.
Seventeen-year-old Steve Howlett is doing Year 12.
Like all these kids he spends a lot of his spare time helping out on the farm.
But he has no interest in pursuing farming as a career.
"I'd like to do building because it's a bit stressful with farm work," he said.
"Especially when we get droughts it's a bit stressful because you've got to look after all the cattle and you're worried about them and their safety and and health."
He said the most noticeable thing to go for him since the drought struck is his spare time.
Little things bring joy to the studentsWhile it is shocking to hear these stories of dust masks and duties from dawn until dusk, the kids express it all with matter of fact good humour.
They do not come across as sad or depressed. It is just life for them and they are a bit bemused by all the questions.
There are little things that bring joy to the students.
Dian Allen is a student support worker and she has a wallaroo joey she rescued off the side of the road in a handmade pouch.
The tiny animal she has named Boomer hops around and snuggles in to students and teachers for warmth and protection.
"They love him. It cheers them up, they're pretty good with animals," she said.
Video: Manilla Central School student support worker, Dian Allen rescued Boomer from the side of the road. (ABC News)
Mr Windred said the drought conditions were affecting the ability of his students to focus and spend time doing their school work.
"There's the emotional drain on our students, it's the lack of sleep, it's the constant worry, it's got to have a bearing on their studying," he said.
Mr Windred said his final-year students deserved some special consideration of their circumstances.
"They should be able to be studying at least three to four hours every night and eight to nine hours every Saturday and Sunday — they can't at the moment, they're out trying to get their property going," he said.
"They're up early, they're feeding the cattle, they're feeding the sheep, tending to the stock. They are exhausted yes, so it'd have to have an effect."
For Jasper, high school, let alone year 12, is a long way away.
He is looking forward to what he is going to do when it does rain - jumping in puddles.
"Do you know how much I want it to rain?" he said.
And out come the big numbers again, this time it is a wish list measured in millimetres.
"Sixty a hundred," he said with a big grin on his face.