CERES Education Interview with Marcus Mulcahy
Year 5/6 Teacher, Carrum Primary School (5Star ResourceSmart School)
Co-Coordinator of the Big Green Schools Conference with St Louis de Montfort’s School
1. How did you first get started with environmental education?
It probably started in 2008 when I arrived at Carrum PS. They had a farm with chooks, ducks and a goat named Cuddles. They’d won the Victorian Schools’ Garden Award in 2007 and it was obvious they were very proud of their environmental credentials. It was an all-in thing for the school with everyone playing a role to manage the environment program. Every student from Prep to Grade 6 spent time looking after the animals, recycling waste, etc; school families looked after the farm on the weekend and during the holidays; and the teachers actively walked the talk. It was easy to get caught up in the exciting vibe.
2. What have been the biggest highlights of your journey so far?
It’s been a fantastic ride! Launching the Big Green Festival in 2008 was great fun. It’s a community environment sharing event we hold biennially at Carrum Primary School, showcasing all sorts of dynamic environmental things happening at Carrum PS. We’ve even had some great musicians play at the event – Stephen Cummings, Lisa Miller, Rebecca Barnard, Jordie Lane, Broderick Smith, Matt Walker. Launching the Big Green Schools Conference in 2012 complemented our big community push. In March 2012, students and teachers from schools in the City of Kingston, attended the first Big Green Schools Conference at Carrum PS. It’s now an annual environment which we co-coordinate with St Louis de Montfort’s School. It’s a gathering that challenges students and teachers to look outside the boundary of their school and connect with their local community – there’s lots of fantastic things to do! This year we kicked off the ‘Friends of Carrum Foreshore’ and ‘Friends of Carrum Station’ groups. Both of these groups connect our Carrum PS students, parents and local residents to help revegetate and clean up our local area – it’s great fun.
The biggest thrill has been watching our students experience it all. They love it! It’s great being a school kid nowadays!
3. What has been the biggest obstacle? How did you / are you overcoming it?
The trickiest thing and also the most exciting thing is energising your community. School families, local people, local community groups, local schools, the local council – each group requires a unique message to get them on board. The Big Green Schools Conference has been a great vehicle to link up enthusiastic local schools, students and teachers. They’ve been great! The two day focus of the event means that we all have a chance to get to know each and work on community projects with an even broaden range of local dynamic people.
4. What future plans or goals are you excited about?
Schools need to develop close connections with their local community groups but also need to start looking further afield. It’s the key to achieving great environmental action. The emergence of Radio Carrum (radiocarrum.org) since 2012 has been a bonus for us at Carrum PS. It’s become a hub for our local community groups, local people and the students/teachers at Carrum PS to present their findings, passions and obsessions on internet radio. Even better, you can listen to Radio Carrum anywhere in the world! A geographic analysis confirmed that our audience is not only local but far and wide.
Australia: 55% (highest in Victoria, NSW, Queensland)
USA: 29% (highest in California, Washington, Virginia, New Jersey, Ohio, Missouri)
Canada: 5% (highest in Quebec)
Other: 11% (highest in UK, Ireland, Germany, France, Japan, Spain, China)
The possibilities of Radio Carrum are huge! In 2013, we worked in partnership with our sister schools in Germany and Canada on environment projects. We’re keen to broaden the scope of these projects to connect our local community groups with their local community. Think about it: environmental activists sharing ideas, solutions, strategies on a global scale. Great for the students, great for the schools, great for the communities. We’re excited!
5. What advice would you offer to someone wanting to begin a sustainability program at their school or organisation?
Think big! The opportunities truly are endless!