A sustainable start to school

Published: 17 January 2023
bandicoot in blanket on hay with arms of adult adjusting the blanket Learning about how to protect the Eastern Barred Bandicoot at Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School.

The start of a new school year is a great opportunity to create fresh habits that can support an eco-friendly classroom.

Teachers, parents and students at schools across Victoria have shared how they’re planning to make a difference in 2023.

Alex Scott, teacher at Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School

Penleigh and Essendon Grammar School is undertaking a wide range of projects in 2023 on our way to becoming a more sustainable member of the community.

As the pilot school for the Royal Botanic Gardens’ Raising Rarity program, we’re ready to harvest seeds from the endangered Swamp Everlasting stock we planted last year. This will help save this beautiful plant for future generations.

We’ll continue to use paper recycle bins in all our classrooms to help educate our student body about the importance of recycling if we are to reduce our ecological footprint.

We’re also very excited to introduce our new food waste bins across the secondary campus to help reduce the amount of material going to landfill. This food waste is being donated to a local free range ethical egg farmer to help him to provide produce to the local community.

To teach our students about protecting endangered animals, we’ve been learning about the work being undertaken by Parks Victoria, Conservation Volunteers Australia and the Melbourne Zoo at Woodlands Heritage Estate to protect the Eastern Barred Bandicoot. Our students travel with the ranger around the site to monitor the animals as their numbers start to return to a sustainable level. This program has been and will continue to be a valuable tool in enabling our students to learn about practical and successful conservation programs.

Zahyra, student at Winters Flat Primary School

Our school is a sustainable school and we’re doing what we can to stop this plastic problem as it’s a major environmental issue.

The school and students are determined to make a change. The students are putting up posters, meeting with environmental leaders across Victoria to share concerns and doing what else they can to stop the plastics.

As well as contacting environmental leaders, we are writing letters to major supermarkets and farmers about stickers on fruit.

Our school gardens and composts are free of these plastic pests, and we wish that every garden and compost had that privilege.

We are aware that it’s hard to avoid buying fruit with stickers on them. Showing our respect to the environment, we grow and produce our own veggies and fruit, which then get made into meals through our Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program.

At Winters Flat, we are also reusing what we can and reducing our general waste.

We have a limited number of rubbish bins at school (recycling, worm farm and soft plastics), and we’re reducing the number of rubbish bins altogether.

Our school looks forward to the reduction of single-use plastics.

Gill Davey, teacher at Epsom Primary School

painted sign that says please don't forget to flip the switch Student signs above light switches to save energy at Epsom Primary School.

In the first month of school, we’ll be taking applications for new grade 3 students to apply for our green team, The Green Magpies. We’ll also be launching our energy-saving signs across the school and nurturing the pumpkins in our brand-new triangle garden.

In 2023, one of our priorities will be to educate all our classes about the different coloured bins at school, as well as choosing bin monitors and explaining at assembly how bin judges will operate. We’ll also be launching a ‘Houses’ program with points awarded for nude food lunchboxes.

At Epsom Primary School, we’ve been on a dedicated and consistent sustainability journey for 8 years now. We’ve completed all 5 ResourceSmart Schools modules and we’re focused on reaching 5-star status, so we’re looking forward to building mentoring relationships with other schools.

Stacey Griffin, teacher at Riddells Creek Primary School

In 2023, we’re introducing STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) with a sustainable focus. This will involve a kitchen garden program for our year 3s and 4s, as well as introducing the concept of the circular economy into our curriculum.

I’m looking forward to teaching our students about the importance of design and engineering in determining the lifespan of certain products, as well as their recyclability once they reach the end of their life. We’ll also be talking about both the physical and chemical side of waste and how we can reduce our impact in this space.

We’re just at the start of our sustainability journey at Riddells Creek and it’s been so inspiring to hear about what other schools are doing to ensure our kids are armed with the knowledge and skills they need to make a difference to our future.

Elsie, student at Epsom Primary School

I am looking forward to teaching other schools how to build a student Green Team so they can become a 5-star school. It’s important that our Victorian state is very sustainable, for my babies’ future when I am a mum.

Louise Hudson, on behalf of the Wembley Waste Warriors at Wembley Primary School

In 2023, Wembley Primary School is looking forward to introducing our new Sustainability Captains, who will lead the sustainable activities within the school with the support of the wider Wembley Waste Warriors, teachers and parents.

Using our new School Environmental Management Plan as a guide, the captains will start by planning our major activities for the year. In particular, the students are working with teachers and parents to investigate and implement a whole school composting system.

We will also continue to build on the waste-free lunch program that we started last year to reduce waste in the school.

If you think your local school could be more sustainable, take a look at the ResourceSmart Schools program.

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