ECO: Sustainable schools

25 May 2017

Sustainability is fast becoming top of the agenda for many local schools. Across the region, everyday schools are doing some pretty amazing things to expose our kids to the importance of sustainable living and move towards a more renewable learning space. 

 

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Immanuel Lutheran College, Maroochydore 

With 20 acres of land, as well as rainforest on the doorstep, Immanuel Lutheran College is working hard to establish a culture of sustainability throughout the student population. By establishing a methodology of sustainability across the college, principal Colin Minke aims for environmental choices to become a natural way of life for all students, “We have lots of young people we can influence in a positive way, and they can then take this with them into the future.”

In collaboration with Sunshine Coast University and Sunshine Coast Council, the college is building a $1 million environmental education centre that will provide a centralised hub for sustainability. The research and information gathered from the centre will translate real world environmental issues back into the classroom. Students already participate in activities such as geo-tech tracking of vegetation and indigenous foods, gaining an understanding of the flora and fauna and becoming educated in the stewardship of protecting this land for future generations. 

Conscious of the carbon footprint of the college, Immanuel Lutheran College has also introduced a comprehensive recycling scheme to make sure as little waste as possible ends up in landfill. This recycling scheme is the result of a yearly $5,000 Environmental Project Award, sponsored by old scholar Tristan Kurz (Class of ‘98) and Coastline BMW. The award is offered to students who come up with a project that will reduce the College’s environmental footprint. This award is a massive step in environmental awareness, providing funding to put students’ incredible environmental initiatives into practice. 

 

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Unity College, Caloundra 

To face the very worrying problem of Australian bee decline, last year Unity College, Caloundra, acquired its very own bee hives and now have an active apiary. The Vocational Education and Training students united in a project that focused on saving the bees and spreading this message to a wider community. A converted shipping container was the next addition and the students are now benefiting from the sale of the sweet harvest from their hard-working bees. Not only do they bottle and sell the honey, they make surf wax and will be adding to their product lines with a range of gifts. The shop is also set up for the barista students to make and serve coffee.

The puns related to bees, honey and hives are in constant use at Unity College… Bee-autiful!

Unity College students also participated in a wetlands program recently, planting a new habitat for the frogs to thrive and be protected in the new Frog Highway at Aura. 

 

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St Andrew’s College, Sunshine Coast

Sustainability classes at St Andrew’s regularly enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of their labour when they are treated to a healthy ‘thank you’ lunch by the school canteen, the SnAAC Shack.

Students have provided the tuckshop with fresh lettuce, spring onions, herbs, eggs, radishes, carrots, beetroots, cucumber and silverbeet grown in the Sustainability Garden since last year.

The practical experience and learning revolves around the food garden and the students gain experience in how to grow food without the use of petroleum-based products and begin to understand the cycles that exist in natural systems.

Sustainability Teacher Mr Peter Dick said the subject ran for one semester and got green thumbs up.

“The students are able to provide the tuckshop with fresh produce weekly, and the herbs that go in the juices (like mint) are always available,” he said.

The SnAAC SHACK said they receive an enormous amount of produce from the garden.

“We want to reward the students for the fantastic job they do and the amazing ingredients the tuckshop gets to work with as a result,” Food Services Manager Anne-Maree Williams said.

Sustainability is just one elective offered by the Humanities department and allows students to develop the skills and knowledge needed to contribute to more sustainable patterns of living.

 

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Image courtesy: Jane Little

North Arm State School, Yandina

Set amongst the quiet rolling farmlands near Yandina, this small rural school started a kitchen program back in 2000. As the school has grown and changed, the garden has flourished to become an integral part of the school community. Very much the children’s garden, students are involved in every aspect of the paddock-to-plate process, and anything and everything edible that thrives in this climate is grown here. “When we produce the fruit and vegetables we take it over to our kitchen and cook it into a delicious and healthy meal,” explains Lucy Kate Russel, Year 5.

Working together to make the garden thrive, students learn a vast array of skills: moving soil, building new beds and paths, gathering rich worm-filled soil, trimming vines, inspecting worm farms, tumbling compost bins, harvesting produce and taking to the kitchen for preparation and a shared meal.

The garden is used in many aspects of everyday learning – some children observe and paint what they see, others write in the garden diary, some weigh and predict what will happen with veggies. Bridie Paynter (Year 5) said, “I've learnt a lot here, like different types of plants and insects. We produce lots of fruits and veggies and we even have a bug hotel that we made with leftover wood.” And Makenzee Speak (Year 4) loves to spend time in the garden: “We learn which season to plant in, we learn where to plant these seeds, some need more sunlight, rain, mulch and shade. We have SO much fun.”

 

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Nambour Christian College, Nambour

Surrounded by a 5-acre working farm with cattle, miniature horses, chickens, honey bees, and vegetable gardens, children at Nambour Christian College enjoy a hands-on approach to nutrition, through a range of child-focused gardening and farming projects. The early learners love to spend time with the animals, feeding and patting the miniature horses and learning about how to care for the animals, whilst Farmer Barry assists the children to collect eggs and show them how to harvest honey.

As the children are encouraged to enjoy spending time outdoors and looking after the natural environment, they have learnt plant names, successfully harvested edible plants, and plan and decorate the vegetable garden area,  including finding ingenious ways to keep bugs and birds from eating the vegies!

Gardens can be used to integrate science, mathematics, language, arts, history, environmental studies, nutrition and health into fun learning activities for children, as well as doubling as playgrounds with edible treats to promote healthy eating habits. For younger children, an experience with growing and eating their own food can lead to a lifetime of better nutrition, and more interest in eating fresh produce.

 

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Peachester State School

The Enviro Club at Peachester State School has been incredibly busy over the last five years, planting over 600 native trees and 185 Richmond Birdwing vines along a bush trail, which now spans 385 metres and leads to a beautiful outdoor classroom.

This year the Enviro Club is expanding its knowledge of butterfly host plants and developing a butterfly house. Three students recently attended a Planting for Wildlife workshop run by Mooloolah River Water Watch and Landcare Inc. Here they heard butterfly specialist and author, Helen Schwencke talk about observing mini beasts in the garden and identifying caterpillars and their markings on specific host plants. Children left with caterpillars and cocoons of the Varied Egg Fly butterfly to raise. 

With a lot of hard work, care and plenty of sweet potato leaves (which the students discovered the caterpillars loved), three butterflies hatched. It was a great way to spark wonder and enthusiasm and learning in children’s minds about butterflies; discovering a hatched butterfly is a breath-taking experience.

Motivated by all this new knowledge, Enviro Club students launched a special Butterfly Plant-out Day. Record numbers of students participated in lunchtime Enviro Club to plant cuttings of butterfly host plants recently donated to the school by Beerwah butterfly gardener Mrs June Wimberley. These plants were tagged by the students with images of the host butterflies and host plant identification and are now growing outside the Prep/1 room and butterfly house.

Giving children the gift of experiencing joy through observing nature is one that Peachester State School’s staff and parents nurture. The students wear a Richmond Birdwing Butterfly on the sleeve of their uniform which is something they are all proud of.

 

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Noosa Christian College, Noosa

From a very young age, children at the newly opened Noosa Christian College Kindergarten are educated on ‘all things green’ and caring for the environment.

These littlest members of the college have already had a visit from a staff member at Noosa Council who spoke to them about recycling. The children sort their rubbish and food scraps into different bins every time they eat. They share their food scraps with chickens kept on campus and with the Kindy’s worm farm, and then the waste from the worm farm is put onto edible plants growing in the garden, which is mulched to help retain water. And the Kindergarten is currently fundraising for a rotating composting bin. 

The children at Noosa Christian College love caring for their environment and the Kindergarten feels it is important to teach them early so they adopt good habits for the rest of their life.

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Written by

Angela Sutherland

After spending over 20 years on the editorial desks of some the leading magazine publishing houses of London and Sydney, Angela recently swapped the city frenzy for a Queensland sea change. With two parenting books published and many years spent writing in the lifestyle and parenting sector, she loves spending her days documenting and travelling the crazy road of family life alongside every mum and dad. When she’s not at her desk buried in magazine stories, you’ll often find her entrenched in a heated game of beach cricket, or being utterly outrun by her inventive seven-year-old and rambunctious threenager.

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