Actsmart Schools for sustainability

It’s smart thinking to have schools sign up to sustainability. It saves money and supports the environment. Jenny Dibley, Manager of the Schools Unit at ACT Environment, Planning and Sustainable Development explains how the Actsmart Schools program helps schools become more sustainable.

 

All ACT schools are registered with Actsmart Schools (formerly known as AuSSI). The program has an accreditation scheme to recognise and reward schools for their efforts.

Students leading the way

As more schools gain accreditation in the program’s five focus areas (energy, waste, water, school grounds/biodiversity, curriculum), it is overwhelmingly evident that schools with an active student team are more likely to gain accreditation. In response, an education officer has been engaged to help schools establish student teams.

The focus of Actsmart Schools has shifted from relying on teachers to drive the program to students playing a greater role. Students are developing the knowledge, skills and understanding to lead sustainability in their school by attending workshops for teachers, business and office managers. Each workshop has a session where students are withdrawn to discuss the challenges and issues they face in getting the whole school actively engaged.

Touring successful schools

A recent Actsmart Schools Eco Bus Tour attracted 120 students from various ACT schools. The students visited schools that demonstrate excellence in sustainability education.

Resources available

Actsmart Schools has developed several new resources this year including extra interactive waste displays for schools to borrow and a waste and recycling card game (published and distributed to all ACT primary schools).

Resources have also been developed to support student teams working on the program. For example, a student energy kit is available. It contains quizzes to use at school assemblies, a PowerMate for measuring electricity use, posters, stickers and consumption monitoring sheets as well as capes and masks so that members of the student team can be become sustainability superheros! The role of the team is to engage the whole school in reducing consumption — and make it fun!

In addition, the program offers schools the free services of a Waste and Energy Education Officer and a Horticulturist.

Training for teachers

Actsmart Schools provides accredited professional learning for ACT teachers. An Environment Centre/Area Teachers’ Network supports teachers who oversee the program so they feel less isolated in their role. The network meets quarterly and is invaluable and productive, generating resources, ideas and curriculum materials.

Actsmart Schools continues to work collaboratively with ACT Education to assist 10 schools to move towards carbon neutrality.

Case Study: Maribyrnong Power Rangers

At Maribyrnong Primary, student team members, donning their capes and masks, are known as ‘Power Rangers’. They monitor power and water use and suggest ways the school can improve. They also create awareness across the school about the impact of energy use.

The Actsmart Schools program has led to weekly waste-free lunches and recycling stations in each unit. Vegetable gardens, worm farms, compost bins and a frog pond have been established, rainwater tanks installed and bird boxes created by students now adorn the playground.

 This article appeared in ParentACTion, Term 1, 2017.