Launching inquisitive minds

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Environmental entrepreneurship, setting up active recycling systems and saving a threatened local species are all self-directed student projects at Balaklava Primary School.

“It’s incredibly inspiring to see young people become switched-on to their learning and responsible custodians of our environment,” said Balaklava teacher and sustainability co-ordinator, Vivienne Churchett.

Vivienne is passionate about protecting our environment. “It is my goal to inspire students to understand the very real power of their choices and actions and how this works for or against the planet,” she explains.

Reality check inspires change

Balaklava 5Students at Balaklava Primary School saw the need to attack waste problems in the school. Vivienne’s Year 4/5 class launched into Enviroweek by completing a waste audit on the contents of their class bins.

They weighed and sorted the rubbish and calculated the amount of waste going into landfill each year and were astounded by the results! Food scraps were not being recycled or composted correctly and something needed to be done about it! Enviroweek was the perfect opportunity for students to:

  • Reorganise and set up each classroom with the correct bins for recycling and composting.
  • Create reminder posters to recycle and compost correctly.
  • Organise a roster for monitors to collect compostables and recycling from classrooms twice a week.
  • Place posters around the school, raising awareness about the impact of litter upon the environment.

Business minds

Balaklava 2jpgWhile sorting the rubbish students found a large number of cans, plastic and glass bottles that could be cashed in. They collected the recyclables, stored them in a larger bin and took them to the recycling depot at the end of term.

The $80 raised was spent on much-needed bins for compost and worm farms. This was such a success that the students formulated a plan to do this regularly and have been raising between $50-$80 per term! All the money raised goes into sustainability projects.

Hot Tip – Vivienne purchases regular plastic rubbish bins, and uses them overturned, with a hole cut in the bottom for composting. This has made it easy for students to recycle scraps and it’s cost effective for the school. Balaklava now has six compost bins and two worm farms to cater for its food composting.

Budding entrepreneurs integrate Literacy, Numeracy, Science and Arts

Balaklava 3jpgVivienne’s Year 4/5 students use the nutrient rich castings and liquid fertiliser from the worm farms on their edible garden beds. They discovered that the worms were producing far more ‘tea’ than they need, prompting a new plan from the enterprising students. They voted to sell the ‘liquid gold’ to the school community.

“The students did the market research and came up with the name ‘Wormy Squirmy’ and a price of $2 for two litres. As a class activity it’s fantastic. It integrates Literacy, Numeracy, Science and the Arts. The students are very enthusiastic because they are in charge, they make the decisions.”

It is the students who care for the worm farm, bottle and ferment the ‘Wormy Squirmy’, market the product, collect money and tally the profits.

Research results in action

Projects like this set the students off on self-directed learning in other ways. Students also decided to research the effects of pollution and people on wild life. Each student reported on an animal and the information was presented to the class during Enviroweek.

Balaklava 4jpgMs.Churchett’s classes have been breeding Mitchell’s Hopping Mice since 2013. These native rodents were abundant in South Australia and Western Australia but these small mammals are losing their habitat due to development, environmental factors and feral predators. The class has been successful at breeding the mice and sent many home to be cared for by families and to Balaklava High School.

Future projects

“Students are understanding that waste breaks down. This year we are focusing on what goes on after we recycle the rubbish. They will explore the processes that waste goes through to be reused and recycled. We hope to extend the range of materials that we recycle to include plastic bags and papers this year,” explained Vivienne.

Balaklava Primary School is also planning to branch out by installing a bush tucker garden in conjunction with students from neighbouring Balaklava High School. This will include a Kaurna trail or garden and draw on the knowledge of the local Kaurna people.

It is through negotiated learning experiences that Vivienne’s students develop an understanding of their place in the community. It is inspiring to see these young people become passionate and responsible custodians of our environment.

By: Susan Tate