St Monica’s College (SMC), Epping, with a student population close to 1900 in 2009, is the largest of the co-ed Catholic secondary schools in Victoria. The College, meaning teachers and students alike, has a very multi national demographic profile. The great majority of students come from blue colour backgrounds. Anecdotal evidence indicates that environmental issues are not of particular interest or prominence within the families of the College community. The task of education is in raising awareness about the state of the environment in such as way as to make it personally relevant. At SMC our purpose is to try to engender a school culture that is more receptive to the behavioural change that is required to live more sustainably.

St Monica’s has for several years expressed its environmental ethos through the agency of a staff and student group known as ‘Envirofriends’. With students from all year levels, this special interest group has been quite active and has won recognition with a number of awards – such as the Catholic Education Office’s Most Sustainable Secondary School Award in 2007, the City of Whittlesea Most Sustainable School Award 2007, the Sustainable Cities Keep Australia Beautiful Young Leaders Award 2007 and others. The Envirofriends Groups’ activities currently include supervising a chook shed, vegetable garden, indigenous tree propagation and habitat restoration with Junior Landcare, maintenance of a worm farm, can recycling, making of enviro films, presentation at Firestarter Conferences, managing ‘Switch Off’ campaigns and EPA calendar competitions to name but some.
However, SMC is simply too large for any small group to have an enduring influence. While Envirofriends has successfully raised the profile of education for sustainability, implementing an holistic program, such as AuSSi, is the logical and very necessary next step. Core Module We have begun our Core Module by conducting a Curriculum Audit to identify Units of Study relating to Sustainability. Our plan is to relate our practices within other modules around these Units and others we shall introduce. The next stage within our Core Module was to conduct a Resources Usage Audit across paper bins, recycling bins, electricity, gas, teachers’ travel and car engine size etc. We also registered for the School Environment Tracking System (SETS) Cara Horner made the initial presentation to a whole school staff group on August 11th. Her address was preceded by an address from the College Principal outlining SMC’s commitment to education for sustainability. This was followed by a 9 minute film that the Envirofriends Group had made as a light summary of the key environmental initiatives currently being undertaken at SMC. Following Cara’s presentation 26 teachers (13 from each campus) offered to participate in developing sustainable education and practice at SMC. Eric Bottlomley made the Visioning presentation on December 12th 2008. For this presentation the 170 teaching staff were loosely seated within their two campus groupings. Following Eric’s presentation teachers were invited to join a Professional Learning Team (PLT) to consider the ‘traffic light’ survey conducted during this PD with the view to aligning this with policy and recommendations to SMC leadership through existing committee structures. A PLT group meets 8 times over a semester allowing for sufficient structured time to properly discuss and shape the AuSSi direction at SMC. At the start of 2009 SMC should be positioned to undertake two modules. It will remain the decision of the PLT teams as to which Modules should be taken up but already much is in place across four areas. For the purposes of this article an outline of the preparations within the areas of Biodiversity and Energy has been presented along with a brief reference to leadership.
We have a Junior Landcare program with Strath Creek Landcare Group and with their assistance each year we plant indigenous trees on our rural property. To date about 1000 trees have been planted providing habitat restoration for six endangered bird species along the King Parrot Creek. Our wetland will provide habitat for birds indigenous to the Darebin Creek. We have received funding from the VTU Credit Union for materials with which to make nesting boxes. Our wetland project has received support from Melbourne Water with whom we formed a relationship via their sponsorship of the Firestarter Youth River Conferences. They provided $10,000 for an engineering company, Ecodynamics, to design the wetland. Melbourne Water has offered a further $20,000 for landscaping and planting within the College property adjacent to the Darebin Creek under its Stream Frontage Management Program. SMC is to provide an in-kind contribution in the form of student and parent labour. This will be linked to our VCAL classes, our Envirofriends group and the Pastoral programs of Year 7 that teach about Sustainable Living. Biodiversity will be enhanced by propagation of wetland, riverine, forest plants as well as organic herbs and vegetables. The appropriate seeds and seedlings have already been sourced from the Melbourne Wildlife Sanctuary of Latrobe University and Bunnings (also a sponsor). Hundreds of students will be provided will seeds, plastic egg boxes and asked to grow their plants at home until large enough to transfer into tubes and eventually into locations around the College and the rural campus.
An audit of bills has made SMC staff aware that the College uses $150,000 worth of electricity and gas per annum. Historically, there have been few efforts to reduce this except for some initiatives of the Envirofriends Group such as Earth Hour, the year level “Switch Off’ fans, lights and air conditioners at recess and lunch competition and black balloon displays in the libraries on World Environment Day. However, under the Victorian Government Solar in Schools Grant and the National Solar Schools Program SMC is eligible for grants of $15,000 and $100,000 respectively. Five companies have tendered various methods for expending this money. The Sites and Development Committee resolved that the bulk of the funds would go towards having a 5KW solar panel system atop the science buildings on each campus. While the solar panels will not reduce the electricity bill s as effectively as installing lights of greater efficiency it was thought that their educational opportunity was high. Data about the electricity being generated by the panels could be accessed wirelessly by students at any time. At the time of writing the remaining $15000 of the grants will either be dispensed on a 1 KW voltaic system at the College rural property or in the replacement of light fittings on the main campuses. A wind generator quote was considered but rejected due to the low generating capacity and high servicing costs of such a generator. Aside from the infrastructure that will provide an alternative means of electrical production, SMC is also looking to reduce wastage by developing the policies and practices of switching off appliances at the mains – particularly the 800 computers and monitors in regular use. This will be combined with the implementation of a green purchasing policy. It is assumes that the PLT will drive policy as much for energy as for biodiversity, water etc. Obviously, the goals established in the SEMP and then the Sets program will be used to sustain the effort to reduce energy consumption.
SMC is well positioned to take a leadership role in Education for Sustainability within the Catholic Education sector of Melbourne. SMC has local links with other schools through a Teachers Environmental Network. The College has presented at the two initial conferences organised by the CEO for this area. The initiatives of the College had received regular media attention, been featured in education articles and have been the recipient of a number of awards as well as many grants. Many Catholic schools have requested information or site visits. Should SMC progress quickly through the Modules it could become the first Catholic Secondary College in the Melbourne Archdiocese to achieve a 5 star Resource School rating.
By St. Monica’s College|2017-11-06T17:22:24+10:00April 29th, 2013|0 Comments