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Sustainability was not a priority in the busy lives of students and teachers at Wavell State High School so teacher, Ruby Peinke decided participating in Enviroweek was the perfect time to revitalise the school’s environmental programs.
“The school community generally seemed a little apathetic when it came to environmental awareness. It was clear that people knew what needed to be done, but required some motivation to act.”
“There was no real practical understanding of our effect on our environment as a group. I wanted the students to be aware of their footprint and how their actions have a positive or negative impact.
“The aim for Enviroweek was to awaken ‘enviro-consciousness.’”
A week of celebration
With the help of some key students and teachers, Ruby planned a week full of celebration and fun. Activities were mostly at lunchtime and focused on the importance of recycling. Enviroweek offered an excellent opportunity for the introduction of recycling bins into the school. The week of action included the following:
- Getting everyone on board – students used clips and videos from the Cool Australia website to present enviro messages to the whole school at assembly. Some clips used were: Digital Library – Waste : Litter fact sheet: Litter infographic: Waste curriculum
- A Pledge Tree was set up in the library for students to add their pledge for helping our environment . Enviroweek stickers were distributed to remind pledgees of the action they promised to take.
- Worm farm workshops, demonstrating how to maintain a healthy worm population, were presented by science staff to develop students’ understanding and appreciation of the composting process.
- A presentation from a local indigenous elder detailing aspects of the area and history of the land was given to enhance people’s connectedness with nature.
- Mass native tree planting day was held – nearly 40 students, teachers, parents and community members planted 70 trees in a one hour lunch time! “An amazing feat achieved thanks to the horticulture students preparing the land and by digging holes for the trees.”
- A newspaper basketball competition was held , introducing the new 340 litre recycling bins as goals.
- A tower building competition, using boxes from the canteen, encouraged creative repurposing of materials and promoted the new recycling bins. The fun part for the students was building a three metre tower and then dismantling the boxes for recycling.
- To wrap it all up and reflect on their achievements, ‘Green Heart’ students hosted a closing assembly. This included sharing photos from events held throughout the week on their Enviroweek profile page and the surprise arrival of the Vice Principal from inside a large wheelie bin!
Brisbane City Council supported the week by donating a worm farm and pencils made from recycled paper (given out as incentives) and helped set up the yellow top wheelie bins. We formed a partnership with the council through meeting with the education officer. It has been great to build this relationship as we can call anytime and run ideas by them or ask for help.”
Cool Australia’s Jason Kimberly visited the school during Enviroweek and joined the celebrations. “He was excited to tour the bush tucker garden and taste his first native mulberry. He also rose to the basketball challenge, scoring goals with recyclable materials.”
Ruby explained, “Since the introduction of the recycling program there is very little that has to go into landfill! I have been surprised by the small amount of waste there is now in general rubbish bins.”
Ruby hopes to save the school money by using the free council rubbish pick up, rather than paying for waste disposal. In a school the size of Wavell, this could amount to thousands of dollars per year. She would like to double the amount of recycling bins by the end of the year and further reduce the waste going to landfill.
Ruby’s passion for our environment is contagious. She has been delighted to see a shift in attitude throughout the school. “There is less litter and students are more willing to clear up the rubbish that is there. Due to a great deal of interest, the introduction, of a gardening club as an elective has offered more opportunity for students to explore sustainable practices.”
Ruby has found that more are coming on board, offering ideas and support for sustainability projects. “The actions are grass roots, starting from the bottom up. People are getting involved because they want to, not because it is a directive from management. It is the students and teachers making the suggestions, planning and collaborating.”
“It’s not for a monetary reward, it’s intrinsic. People want to help, they want to make a difference but often don’t know how! This is why we identify so closely with Cool Australia. We appreciate the ethos of taking action because it is important; it is the right thing to do.”
The focus for the next stage was “reuse” as well as “recycle”. Daily activities planned throughout the week, celebrated the school’s achievements. The library offered an opportunity for making enviro pledges; a plastic bag and bottle up cycling workshop was held; students made plant cuttings and senior students with their teacher created a recycle rap: “It’s cool to recycle at school – so DO IT!”.
The week culminated with a car boot sale, open to all members of the public. Not only was this encouraging sustainable practices by giving unwanted items a ‘second life’ but it was a festive occasion, bringing community members together. “It was an inaugural event with 10 cars and roughly eighty people in attendance. The team made approximately $300 and individual stall holder takings varied between $30 and $100. Sellers and shoppers were keen to know when this sale would be held again.”
After a successful first run Ruby intends to have more car boot sales in the future, focusing on promotion and advertising to make them ‘bigger and better’.
Funds raised went towards assisting students from the ‘World Challenge’ group traveling to a developing country and participate in building projects.
By Susan Tate