My Impact – the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

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Appreciating Caboolture’s natural environment and conserving beautiful Moreton Bay are intrinsic to learning at St Columban’s College, Queensland.

Teacher and Environmental Committee Co-ordinator, Chris Jones, explains, “It is important to educate responsible stewardship and create responsible citizens for the future. Students must be encouraged to develop ethos within and empower with action.”

Think global, act local

After learning about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the Environmental Committee at St Columban’s decided to clean up their local waterways for Enviroweek.St-Columbains

First stop was a street drain running alongside the school that feeds into Moreton Bay.

After seeing what goes into the waterway that can be stopped, students took up the responsibility of looking after the area and educating others in the school community about the results of littering. Enviroweek saw the beginning of their drain adoption initiative which included:

  • A drain waste audit
  • Cleaning up the drain to prevent waste from reaching the Moreton Bay
  • Presenting information to 1000 students at a whole school assembly
  • Introducing a waste system throughout the school, separating recyclables, compostables and land fill

In one clean up students collected 84 straws, 41 consumer items, 716 items of plastic packaging (519 were chocolate wrappers), 11 fishing items, 65 plastic lids and wrap, 25 foam cups, 1 glass bottle, 1 light globe, 1 dead cow, 1 umbrella, 2 aluminium cans, 12 pieces of aluminium foil.

 

Greening the school grounds

Trees were needed to create a native habitat in the school grounds, so the Environment Committee linked into a local council program offering free native seedlings to families. In addition, they put a out a call to families who were not using plants to donate to the school.

Amazingly, 90 St Columban’s families generously gave up their trees, and students planted their native habitat.

Ongoing commitment

Members of the EnvironmentSt-Columbians-2 Committee now participate in a clean up of the Duncan Street Drain once a term. Each time they complete a waste audit and graph the results to compare the amount of litter to inspire others. They have seen a great reduction of rubbish.

Chris explained, “Cool Australia’s waste audit is an invaluable resource. It is a very powerful tool that allows us to see our impact and analyse the data. We are also part of the Moreton Bay Councils ResourcEd School Waste Minimisation Program which has been of invaluable assistance, guidance and support with College waste resource management goals.”

Use this waste audit lesson plan in your classroom to help with numeracy skills and incorporate real world learning.

A sign detailing the impact of litter in our waterways has been erected near the drain to be viewed by school and community members. The introduction of the colour coded waste system has seen an increase of recycling by students and teachers. Both of these initiatives have been enabled by funding from the Keep Queensland Beautiful campaign.

All new students entering St Columban’s watch a presentation about the importance of sustainability during their induction and are offered the opportunity to join the Environmental Committee as a part of the school’s co-curricular program.

Sustainability for the future

St Columban’s will be joining Enviroweek in 2015. St-Columbians

Ongoing education of students and staff is set to raise awareness further. The long term goal of the Environment Committee is to divert all litter from landfill into recycling, reuse or composting.

Students continue to weed and care for the forrest area they planted. They plan to develop more garden areas in the school grounds and create greener spaces for all to enjoy.

Embed waste action into your Maths lessons with the 2-hour online PD course Use Secondary Maths to Measure Waste.

By: Susan Tate