In the early 90’s, Kennington Catholic Parish, Bendigo was expanding at a rapid rate. There was a need for a new primary school to provide for the large population growth south/east of Bendigo. A site was selected at Strathfieldsaye, east of Bendigo and St Francis of the Fields Primary School opened it’s doors with an enrolment of 109 children, in Feb. 1994. It currently has over 300 children enrolled from Prep to Grade 6.
– water saving awareness
– energy reduction in school, transport and in the home
– community and cultural sustainability
– appreciation of the natural environment, especially the flora and fauna that live in and around the two creeks that border the school.
• A water tank was purchased to catch water off the roof of one set of portables and the small shed. This water is used in the hothouse for propagating plants.
• A computerised timer was purchased for the hothouse watering system to save water.
• Most of the property now has new cattle troughs with under ground pipes to cut down on leakage due to pipe damage from the cattle.
• Children have made signs to place in each classroom asking students to turn off lights and computers as they leave.
• Solar light and heat is used as often as possible.
• A walk/bike track was made around the entire school along the creek’s edge.
• Litter free lunch days have been held.
• The school continues to recycle cardboard and paper and feed food scraps to the chooks therefore cutting down on waste going to land fill.
• Gas usage has been decreased by over 3749 MJ.
• Savings of $3541 per year on water bills.
• 22 extra bales of paper are recycled each year.
• Waste to landfill has decreased by over 50 m3.
The children at St Francis of the Fields were involved in the study of wetlands and predominantly man made wetlands. With the worst drought on record affecting our school severely, the children were made very aware of the importance of protecting waterways and wetland reserves.
It was quite apparent when the school was first established that the Sheepwash Creek and Emu Creek beds were infested with introduced understorey plants and grasses. The indigenous plants had been eradicated through overgrazing, clearing and neglect. In 2001, the school developed a six year restoration plan of revegetating the creeks using indigenous plants.
Because of the large demand for indigenous plants that our revegetation program required, the school constructed a large hothouse ( 11m x 7m). It was then able to develop a very successful propagation program. Seed was either purchased from the local indigenous nursery or collected from local waterways. The children were involved in the task of planting this seed in trays and following the process through the stages of pricking out, growing in pots and hardening the plants off. The children have been very fortunate to be able to then take this process even further by planting them around the school property, in windbreaks, shelter reserves, bird corridors and the creek riparian zones.
Over the years, St Francis of the Fields has developed a very successful Murray Grey breeding program at the school. The cattle are bred and raised on the property and sold to local farmers or at the Bendigo Livestock exchange. The funds raised are channelled back into the farm and the school library. In 2001, the school took the initiative to fence the cattle out of the creeks. This project enabled the school to create a unique environmental walk around the entire property. The school is now able to keep the livestock off the banks of the creek therefore reducing erosion and enabling natural trees, shrubs and grasses to regenerate.
In 2005, The Sandhurst Catholic Education Office made a further commitment to Sustainability Education throughout the diocese by developing a partnership with CERES in Brunswick. This partnership has seen two new schools, St Lukes Primary in Shepparton and Frayne College ( P-9) in Wodonga begin to work towards becoming Sustainable Schools of the Future. Over the next three years more of the Sandhurst Diocese schools will be given the opportunity to become involved in the Sustainable Schools Initiative. The diocese is a very large area of the state ranging from Bendigo to Kerang to Corryong in the Upper Murray region.