The sustainables’ a group of 14 students at Port Fairy Consolidated School are environmental heroes. This volunteer group of students has developed ‘Earth Credits’ an innovative environmental sustainability system aimed to promote the wise use of the earth’s natural resources.
Earth Credit System overview
The student’s first earth credit system is based on building an awareness of the way students and schools use energy. The energy saving system involves allocating an amount of earth credits to each grade at the start of the week. The students determined the earth credit energy currency (i.e. earth credits are gained and lost in accordance with responsible use of the energy).
Ownership of the program is shared across the school monitors are assigned in each grade to track the classes use of power. Spot checks are performed by ‘earth credit specialist students’ to give bonus earth credit points to wise users and to encourage others to be more proactive offering positive solutions to their energy wasting ways.
At the end of each week earth credit points are collated, tallied and presented at assembly each week to actively demonstrate the energy efficiency program in use across the school. Certificates are presented for outstanding achievements and classes that loose all their credits are required to plant a nominated amount of trees to recapture the carbon they used unwisely.
Setting targets and reaching further
The program is responsible for reducing the schools energy usage by 10% in the first term based on comparisons of previous quarterly energy bills. The students have set strong earth credit targets to achieve a 50% reduction of power use by forth term 2010. Their philosophy is to aim high and keep trying until you reach the goal, after all that’s what targets are all about.
The school has been successful to secure a partnership project with local government and LETA-SA. The project is focused on renewable energy education and includes a small wind turbine and solar panels.The students feel that it is important for our school to make sure they are environmentally responsible with the renewable energies and see an opportunity to teach others to create daily changes in energy use.
Creating a renewable shift
The students wish to reach wider into the community by encouraging the school community switch to green power, so that 50% of the schools household’s are contributing to renewable energy sources by end of 2010. That’s about one quarter of a small country town (the students imagine what it would be like to be a totally green powered town).
Sharing the earth credit system
In its first year the program has been undertaken by 210 staff and students at Port Fairy Consolidated School. The core ‘sustainables’ leadership team is comprised of 14 students. These students wish their program to become a regional, state-wide and national program! To achieve this students are looking to expand the earth credit system across to other schools to create more earth credit systems.
Their first target is to reach 5 schools in the region by the end of 2010. The student’s endeavour to run an environmental mini-conference in 2010 using a ‘kids teaching kids’ model to demonstrate how student designed, monitored and evaluated systems can make positive environmental changes.
The student want to develop an easy to use education package for the earth credit system, complete with Velcro monitoring boards, certificates and evaluation milestones for other schools to use state-wide and nationally. The students want to be leaders in environmental education and hope that other schools will use, refine and improve the earth credits system in their school right across Australia.
Trees 2 B CO2 Free Challenge
The students are also implementing a carbon capture tree growing challenge. This requires students to sow, grow and plant 91 seedlings to be carbon free each year. The calculations are based on the ABC science website identifying that the average Australian creates 24.5 tonne of CO2 per year; an average tree takes in 270kg of CO2 per year, if we plant 91 trees each year our carbon dioxide emissions are reduced to zero. The students are undertaking the challenge this year to in partnership with their earth credits energy saving program. They are ensuring that they demonstrate positive action in carbon capture and emission reductions.
Communicating the sustainability message:
At a curriculum level the school is currently developing inquiry units on sustainability. The education resource will highlight the schools proactive steps in sustainability, including:
Waste Not: A practical guide to reduce the amount of waste generated schools, helping schools to get proactive, start today and let the students lead the way.
Renewable energies: Positive ways to reducing our ecological footprint on the earth by making earth friendly choices, using alternative technologies and discovering our local and global ecosystems and earth processes.
Living biodiversity: Uncover the importance of local natural ecosystems. To enhance and revitalise these communities by seed collection from local indigenous plants, propagation of plants for replanting into the coastal community, restore the natural community.
Sustainable gardens: Discover the joy of a vegetable garden. How this contributes to a healthy earth and small carbon footprint, by planting, seed collecting, propagating and growing food for a local harvest.
The inquiry sustainability curriculum resource is consistent with current curriculum VELS guidelines and can be introduced at any school. These resources and earth credit system will be available on the schools website sharing the message with an expansive global community. The school is a humble living resource that others can visit and experience as a creative sustainable school. The earth credit system is set to become a student led environmental lighthouse project for our community.
Dreaming enviromental dreams
They believe that they can change the way students use energy, recycle and make wise earth conscious choices, and what a better place to start than at school. I hope they are successful and achieve their dreams, to work with such an innovative and exciting group is a rare opportunity. They are truly innovative and inspirational; they are proactive leaders in their environmental future and are our environmental heroes.
Tracey Gray, Environmental Studies Teacher, Port Fairy Consolidated School.