Sustainability has become something of a buzz word in recent times, and is gradually entering our schools via the new Australian curriculum, which identifies it as one of three cross-curriculum priorities.
So what does it mean to be sustainable and why do we need to live sustainably?
I promise to make this quick. Sustainability refers to endurance, keeping something going. Sustainability is future-orientated, focusing on protecting environments and creating a more ecologically and socially just world through informed action. It is necessary in order for humans to ensure that planet Earth and all of its resources, can continue to provide a home for humans and for all other species (animals and plants) forever.
Educating children on sustainability develops the skills, values and world views necessary to secure our future for generations to come. This why teachers and other educators are required to give students the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of sustainabilty across all learning areas.
That’s all well and good but how do we start to practically apply the principles of sustainability in our schools?
1. Reuse, Reduce and Recycle
Ensure recycle bins are in place and adequately distributed to encourage students to recycle where possible. Explore other ways that the children can reuse at school rather than sending waste to the rubbish heap. Hold a “Nude Food” lunch box day where students only bring in lunch that can either be broken down easily such as apples and bananas or food packaging that can be recycled. Set up a Science experiment to measure how long packaging takes to break down.
2. Water-wise school projects
Take the 140 litre challenge – can you students use only 140l in the space of 40 hours in their homes? Put up posters in the toilets encouraging half flushes. Get a rainwater tank and use this for watering and cleaning.
3. Create a green house or vegetable garden
Get the kids involved in planting, maintaining, harvesting and watering. This can also encourage healthy eating habits.
4. Start a worm farm
Your students will love getting involved in this one! Pick up a worm bin and start your worm farm to show the students how food waste can be turned into valuable compost to help gardens grow.
5. Planting of local native plants around your school
Planting native plants have a three-fold advantage: they are great for the environment, create shade and because they are native, they don’t require too much water.
Create posters to remind students to switch off lights, switch off electrical sockets when not in use and turn off taps. This could even turn into a school competition. Making your own paper is another way to reduce waste – don’t forget to recycle it!
7. Nature Play
Encourage your students to get outside into nature. Consider using natural resources for students to explore texture, colour, temperature, water and more. Natural resources can be collected, examined, used for art, musical expression, mini projects and much more.
There are plenty more resources available to help you plan a lesson or brainstorm ideas to help your school support sustainability. As sustainability is now part of the Australian curriculum, the Department of Education website can provide a good starting point for activities, incursions and excursions. The Department of Education in WA has a great program that schools can sign up to. Find out more here.
In the meantime, you can download some great free activity sheets below, or have a look at our books featuring sustainability.
Free Sustainability Activity Sheets:
Sustainability Teaching Resources