CERES Education Interview with Michelle Sanders
Program Manager, Kids Teaching Kids
1. How did you first get started with environmental education?
I have always had a love of the natural environment and as a child growing up in rural Gippsland then moving to the beautiful Mornington Peninsula, my interest and intrigue started early in life. I have fond memories of building rafts to row across the dam, going yabbying and hanging out at the beach. Studying zoology and marine biology at university, I developed a greater understanding of the scientific concepts and theories surrounding the environment, ecology and sustainability.
If someone had of told me 10 years ago that I would be working in environmental education, I would not have believed them. It was not until I got my first ‘real job’ at Scienceworks that I developed a passion for education. Working in the education and public programs department I really had to step out of my comfort zone to give science presentations but quickly discovered that I loved the thrill of seeing people make links between scientific concepts and everyday phenomena. I also really enjoyed the experimentation that came with developing new and exciting program and working in a supportive team environment. Creating programs I always managed to bring topics back to my love of the natural environment, for example, in a physics light show I snuck in fact and demonstrations about anglerfish and glow worms, and scorpion and minerals that fluoresce under ultraviolet light.
2. What have been the biggest highlights of your journey so far?
From here I was excited to begin work at Kids Teaching Kids which has allowed me greater exposure to environmental education. I enjoy working with teachers, students and other like-minded individuals through the every growing environmental education networks. I am especially inspired by the conservation work schools carryout and always enjoy hearing students’ perspectives and ideas for a more sustainable future. I am constantly blown away by the workshops students create for KTK.
In recent times I think it would have to be the vibe at a Kids Teaching Kids conference dinners. Everyone lets their hair down and celebrates the group’s environment and sustainability achievements. There is such a positive feeling in the room, a sense of comradery, a belief that we are all working together towards a brighter future.
3. What has been the biggest obstacle? How did you/are you overcoming it?
I sometimes feel maintaining and improving behaviours that benefit the natural environment can be difficult. Too often we see one or two champions flying the flag in a school or organisation, and once they leave or burnout, sustainability practices are forgotten about. This is a tough one that I am constantly faced with but I think taking small steps and negotiating manageable changes that people can feel good about is a positive starting point.
4. What future plans or goals are you excited about?
Right now I am excited by the increasing number of people commuting to work on their bicycles. I am excited to be seeing new and safer bike paths around Melbourne and the suburbs.
I am also completing a Master of Teaching and looking forward to utilising new skills and weekends free of study.
5. What advice would you offer to someone wanting to begin a sustainability program at their school or organisation?
Start small! This might sound a bit disheartening but I think quality over quantity is important. Jumping head first into a new project can be motivating but I also believe solid research and foundations are important. Cutting the project into smaller more manageable tasks allows for small but satisfying achievements along the way.
CERES Education would like to thank Michelle for sharing her story.
Target Kids Teaching Kids Week runs from Sept 8-12, 2014. Registrations have closed, but visit this listing of KTK registered events you can attend.
Find out how Kids Teaching Kids is helping schools with Sustainability – http://dev.sustainability.ceres.org.au/groups/kids-teaching-kids/
For more information visit the Kids Teaching Kids website