Sustainability is an explicit, fully integrated area of the Gisborne Montessori School’s curriculum. It is taught in context; within real life, meaningful experiences via daily practises in all levels: through practical life activities, classroom and whole school responsibilities, as well as development and implementation of the curriculum into individual and whole class lessons. In 2004, when the school’s master plan was completed, the Macedon area had been in drought for the previous six years, the town water reservoir was at 7.7% capacity and the town was on modified Stage 4 Water Restrictions. With this backdrop, the school’s water objective was, and still is, total water self reliance. This will be achieved by effective water management strategies.
The school commissioned a 95,000 litre concrete water tank with dual plumbing to the school building: one line for town water, the other line for tank water. The water tank is filled from storm water from the school’s roof. It is the school’s intention to cut over to 100% water self-reliance in the near future. During the settling in period, so much water was caught off the school roof, the tank overflowed. The overflow area has been a great nursery for tadpoles which were studied in the classroom.
Water for drinking in the classroom is available in jugs to reduce the waste when taps are turned on repeatedly. Students are also encouraged to take their water bottle at lunch time to reduce the use of the drinking fountain. The students are vigilant with dripping taps! Spoon drains channel storm water away from buildings and into the wetlands area. The wetlands area (scheduled for development in 2007) will provide habitat for local wildlife and be a valuable learning resource. Surface run-off water is to be caught in swales planned throughout the campus to allow for deep-soaking of the soil sub-surface.
The school did not connect to the town’s sewage system. Instead a waste water treatment plant (A&A Worm Farm) processes all black and grey water as well as any organic matter. The treated water is processed on site and used to nourish native vegetation windbreaks (via sub-surface reticulation lines). The water tank has Country Fire Authority (CFA) fittings and is located near the road for faster tanker truck access. The CFA will also be able to access the school’s wetlands as an additional water resource.
‘Half flush’ facility has been installed on all toilets. The school has commenced its extensive plantings of drought tolerant native plants. All garden beds are heavily mulched to further reduce water consumption. The ultimate aim for the school is to provide a learning landscape that develops a passion for preserving the environment: helping people of all ages understand why, know what can be done, how to do it and have certainty around their ability to make a difference.