On Wednesday Anabel Herr, Jo O’Malley and I were invited to Parliament House to receive a special award. Our school is the 50th school in Victoria to become a 5 Star ResourceSmart School! The presentation of this award can be attributed to the excellent work undertaken by staff; to our children who have the desire to make a real difference to their world; to the the commitment of our community; and to key staff who have had a significant role to play as Sustainability Coordinators over the years, including Amanda Loder and Laura Keays.
There has however been two incredible people, Anabel Herr and Jo O’Malley, who have been our champions and who have wholeheartedly embraced and driven sustainability at SKPS. Their pursuit in creating, supporting and guiding our school in becoming a 5 Star ResourceSmart School has been admirable. I would like to congratulate and express my sincerest gratitude to Anabel and Jo for their tireless work in this vitally important area.
In 2012, St Kilda Primary School joined the community of 1300 Victorian schools in the ResourceSmart Schools program, making a real commitment to sustainability. Since then, our children, teachers and staff have achieved amazing results, saving over $100,000 on energy and waste bills and 475 tonnes of greenhouse gases.
As the 50th school to achieve 5-star certification in the program, we were presented with the 5-star certificate by the Hon Lily D’Ambrosio Minister for Environment and Climate Change at an event celebrating the milestone and all the 5-Star schools. Sustainability Victoria, along with the ResourceSmart Schools Delivery Partners from across Victoria, congratulated all schools on their achievements so far in the program.
The impact goes beyond cost and emissions savings for the school. I have included part of my speech which outlines numerous activities and approaches we have taken as a community to make a difference to our school, homes and our world.
“Only if we understand, will we care. Only if we care, will we help.
Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.
Wise words from Jane Goodall and they certainly sum up our philosophy at St Kilda Primary School.
Our story began with small ambitions and the need to try and reduce the amount of rubbish in the yard, to huge actions such as our Waste Free Fetes. We knew that for us to succeed we needed to make sure that sustainability wasn’t a program, a torch that only one person held, but that it had to be something that we lived and breathed. It had to be more than just Nude Food, recycling bins and Green Groups. This was not a simple nor easy journey.
Our school community values its diversity and the many talents and skills that it contains. So, we started small, with easy wins that everyone could contribute to, we used the passion and drive of our community to make things happen.
We started with the children and one Prep child in particular spearheaded our recycling effort. On Friday afternoons, everyone was on alert as he moved through the buildings meticulously checking each bin and awarding points. He still does it to this day and this year he has started working with an apprentice to ensure the recycling inspection continues after he leaves for high school in 2019.
Next, we looked at lights and energy, another low hanging fruit. Switching off lights when you left a room was a simple action. Children were involved as monitors to keep us all in check until it became a habit and we just did it.
As a Leadership Team and School Council we also knew we had to make a commitment to our children’s future and so we chose to invest in a sustainability coordinator, someone who was able to focus completely and ensure we moved relentlessly towards our goal. We installed energy saving lights, solar panels, more efficient heating and cooling, fixed faulty windows, leaky taps, planted trees, used recycled paper and used technology to reduce our paper use. We hoped that these actions would show our community that we were determined to make a difference.
We soon realised that it was the children who had incredible power to make changes in their community. We also understood that for learning to happen we needed to provide authentic learning experiences. Our older children had explored sustainable housing and, for a number of years had learnt about carbon footprints, sustainable materials, orientating houses to gain the most from the sun. Seeing our children talk so confidently about housing design was incredible. One boy, who had come to our school in Year 6 and had a learning disability, created an amazing house boat and proudly shared his knowledge of sustainable design with each and every visitor. So we decided to build on this success.
We realised that it wasn’t just the older children who could be empowered to be global citizens but that even the youngest children could learn from seeing that they could make a difference. They were inspired by the children in Paraguay who, with help from talented men and women in their community, created musical instruments from the rubbish they found in the tip where they lived. Our children upcycled a whole range of items from home and made them into instruments and they performed with pride in front of kinder children and our wider community.
This group then went on to connect with our local community and our local penguin population. When they found out that these penguins were under threat from plastic floating in the sea they decided to make and sell t-shirt bags. The money raised went to Earthcare and the t-shirt bags reduced the need for plastic bags. The children also created artwork that was displayed at the ‘Creatures of the Bay’ exhibition at Gasworks Park to spread their message further.
Last year, our Year 4 children took part in Active Pathways to encouraged our community to travel more sustainably. They worked with Bicycle Victoria to work out where all our families live, and to identify paths that could be used to travel to school. The children realised that they needed to learn how to ride bikes and they explored how to maintain their bikes thanks to Dr Cranky.
Our grandest action, as mentioned earlier, that involved our whole community has been our Waste Free Fetes. Our parents led the way and it was truly an exciting adventure, which involved wash vans, recycling machines, visits to op shops for cutlery and so much more. In 2017, our children actively supported our community to dispose of their waste thoughtfully, and if you could have seen our little ones dressed as stingrays and sharks wanting to know when our Rides Coordinator was going to pick up the rubbish he was dropping as he put the ride bands on, you would have smiled. By 6pm, after 4000 people had visited our school, the grounds looked pristine and our bins were practically empty.
This year, as we begin to focus more on STEAM, our children are investigating upcycling materials, solving problems that they identify in the school and most excitingly our year 5 children are inspired by the UN’s sustainable development goals and are going to set our own SKPS Sustainable Development goals that we will aim to achieve in future years.
We have been most fortunate to receive funding to enable redevelopment of our school and we are inspired by our children to create a learning environment that will embody all our values. The children will have an important role to play in the design of this building, which will allow them to continue on their journey as active citizens who understand, care and know that they can make a difference to their world.”