ResourceSmart Schools is a free program offered by Sustainability Victoria that encourages and supports Victorian schools to integrate sustainability across all aspects of their learning and campus. Now in its 15th year, the award-winning program has seen more than 1,400 schools involved and can boast some impressively green credentials.
Deakin Gals in STEM
Holli, Lexie, Lily, Layla and Reagen are five girls from Warrnambool East Primary School, otherwise known as the Deakin Gals in STEM. The girls from years five and six started a project under the ResourceSmart School program, auditing litter on local beaches which has now expanded to a local community awareness program and involvement from the local council.
“As part of the GALS project (Girls as Leaders in Stem) the students had to choose a problem that they could try and solve,” explained Kerry McCarthy, Science Specialist at Warrnambool East. “Our school does a lot of work with the local Beach Patrol, Zoos Victoria and Parks Victoria so they wanted to do something about the local beaches. When they went out to visit different locations, they were horrified by the state of the local breakwater and the lack of bins in the location so they decided that this would be their project.”
Although the project was spearheaded by just five students, the entire community has become involved in the clean-up.
“The students became leaders,” said Ms McCarthy. “They took classes of 3/4s out to clean up the area. They then had to come back to school, and sort and collect the data from the clean-up.”
The project team also met with the City Council and representatives from Fishcare suggesting the installation of more bins at the Breakwater. They created a display within the school and presented their project at Deakin University. The students are now designing a campaign to make the local community aware of the issue.
The program was set up to ensure that sustainability became an umbrella framework with links to all aspects of the curriculum. Far beyond just STEM outcomes, being involved in ResourceSmart Schools has given the students a wide range of new experiences and opportunities.
“The girls had to present their project in a number of different forums, including to the school council, at the Lighthouse Theatre to the public and on the radio, so speech writing and public speaking were areas they developed skills in,” explained Ms McCarthy. “They also spoke to a number of people about the problem, including Warrnambool City Council and the Beach Patrol 3280 in formal planned meetings. The girls wrote letters to convince others to assist them in their fight, [which] helped the girls build their written communication skills and build their general confidence in planning and pitching to a variety of audiences.”
Importantly, the project highlighted the value of collaboration and the importance of following the necessary channels and processes when trying to make changes in the community, vital lessons the students will be able to take into their high school career and beyond.
“Our Sustainability Leaders are real drivers of the work we do around sustainability so I am thinking of entering them into the awards this year,” Ms McCarthy added. The ResourceSmart Schools Awards celebrate the schools taking the lead on sustainability issues with a number of categories including Emerging School of the Year, Student Team of the Year and Curriculum Leadership School of the Year.
The ResourceSmart Schools program provides schools with access to a network of sustainability experts across the state who can share knowledge and expertise to get projects off the ground.
Any primary or secondary Victorian school can become involved in the program and schools that progress through modules, meet benchmarks and earn stars are recognised and rewarded by becoming a Leadership School.
ResourceSmart Schools was recognised as ‘world-leading’ when the program was awarded the 2015 Banksia Education for Sustainability Award which promotes achievement in raising awareness of sustainability issues. The program was also internationally recognised, receiving the gold award at the 2019 Energy Smart Community Initiative Best Practices Awards, announced at APEC Chile 2019.
“The ResourceSmart Schools program has enabled us to highlight the work we do around sustainability to the local community. It has helped us set and focus on goals, in our journey to achieve our stars. We are currently on the cusp of gaining our 3rd star and are well on our way to achieving the 4th. Kerry McCarthy.