Cool minds foresee a greener future

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CBD schools are finding innovative ways to explore schoolyard biodiversity despite limited green spaces on campus.

The location of Mercedes College, Western Australia in the heart of the City of Perth is making students more motivated to keep Australia cool.  Enviroweek teacher, Margaret Ryan explained, “A vertical garden is perfect for us – it doesn’t take up a lot of space!”

Mercedes-College-1webThe environment is always at the forefront of students’ minds at Mercedes College, as Mrs Ryan explained, “We have environmental stewards in each home room. They are responsible for spreading the word and encourage people to make a positive impact. They tell me ‘Some teacher left the lights on’. But it’s all friendly and encouraging- they’re just trying to raise awareness”.

Mercedes College places high value on service to the community, setting a minimum number of service hours that students complete to go on an excursion and to graduate at the end of Year 12.

“We embrace ‘Habits of Mind’, a method of thinking developed by Art Costa. Students write reflectionsMercedes-College-3web after each service activity about why it was useful for the people or cause they helped. Students are prompted to think ‘what injustices exist in the community?’ and, ‘what do I have the power to change?’ It instils new knowledge and deeper understanding” said Mrs Ryan. “Many students go on to work as volunteers overseas when they finish school.”
This year the Enviroweek team ‘Making Mercedes Greener’ visited Perth City Farm to learn seed propagation. Mrs Ryan said these visits to Perth City Farm are always a big hit. “Students love it because they see things in action. They go home and say ‘I want a veggie farm and chickens, and I want to make some compost!’”

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Students will also be learning how to compost and tend to a chicken farm.  The College kitchen and the Café use the herbs grown in their vertical garden to cook in home economics classes.

Mercedes-College-2webIn addition to the Green Thumb Enviroweek Challenge, Mercedes students will also be tackling the Sparky and Waste Warrior challenges. “We’re doing ‘switch off Friday’, to limit our power use throughout the school and on Wednesday we’ll have a no-plastic/foil day for lunches. The Canteen will also join in on Wednesday, only selling food that can be served in reusable containers.”

Even the staff are getting involved with service as part of Enviroweek, sharing their skills and time to do the Trader challenge. “Staff will be going to a primary school to tidy up their vegetable garden, while others are helping charity second-hand clothing shops, and some are even sewing carry bags for hospital patients to discreetly carry medications in. It’s about creating connections in the community, as well as different groups within the college”.

BY: LUCY WALLINGTON