CERES Education Interview with Hannah Lewis
Assistant Principal, Western Port Secondary College
August 2013

1. How did you first get started with environmental education?

We were one of the first schools in the state that worked with Eric Bottomley and CERES, supported by Mornington Peninsula Shire to seek accreditation as a 5 star school in the Zero Waste program.

2. What have been the biggest highlights of your journey so far?

We were the first state secondary school in Victoria to receive 5 star accreditation as a Zero Waste school in 2008 and were Resource Smart School of the Year in 2008. We also won Energy, Biodiversity and Water Smart School of the Year as part of the ResourceSmart School awards. We established an Outdoor Classroom where students can have experiential learning opportunities. This space includes a wetland, frog bog, bird hide, vegetable and herb gardens, orchard and indigenous plantings. We also won Renew Magazine’s ‘Contented Chook award!

3. What has been the biggest obstacle? How did you/are you overcoming it?

Getting staff on board was a challenge and motivating behaviour change around energy use. We thought people would embrace, for example, the concept of an Outdoor Classroom but many staff aren’t confident about taking classes outside to work. We lead by example and recruited people with an interest in Environmental issues and initiatives. We encouraged people to participate in related Professional Development and have had great success with getting our Science Domain people on board. Two key Science staff have revamped the year 9 curriculum with a focus on sustainability.
We celebrate our achievements as much as possible and promote what we have done in the newsletter and on our website. Students involvement has been a key factor in moving us forward. We have also been strategic in getting experts in to work with staff and students to assist us on our journey. Lastly we have spread the word, speaking at conferences, inviting schools to visit us to share our journey and look at what we have accomplished and we have applied for awards and grants as much as possible.

4. What future plans or goals are you excited about?

We are currently seeking re-accreditation, with a focus on student leadership and mentoring of other schools. We have re-ignited our passion and commitment and are working strategically on a range of projects within and beyond our school community.
We have had great success with a new year 9 program, the focus of which has been the environment for a whole term. We have a dynamic and enthusiastic new student Environment Team who are working on a range of projects. They have raised the bar and have participated in an Environmental Forum at Bentleigh SC and at a seminar organised by RMIT. We are trying to address waste issues at our college and the ideas are well and truly bubbling along. Our project of the moment is an outdoor community spiral meditation garden/path with native plantings to increase habitat for birds and insects.

5. What advice would you offer to someone wanting to begin a sustainability program at their school or organisation?

Never give up. Believe in what you are doing. Encourage, lead and support people who are interested in working with you. Be strategic. Start simple and build on little steps. Find out who your local experts are and use them to assist you and give advice along the way. Get small seed grants to kick you off. Be creative and dream. Celebrate success’ however small. Don’t let the cynics get you down and share and celebrate your stories and ideas and success’. Finally document what you do. Record, film and photograph so that you have the evidence to assist with grant applications and accreditation.

CERES Education would like to thank Hannah for sharing her story. You can read more about Western Port Secondary College’s sustainability programs at:

By Western Port Secondary College|2017-11-06T18:02:53+10:00August 15th, 2013|0 Comments