SFSF - Schools For a Sustainable Future
Joseph Natoli, SFSF Project Director, surrounded by happy, enthusiastic children
synergy vol 1 issue 2

Synergy Issue 2, Oct 1999

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Making a difference in Secondary Schools
For students, teachers and parents.
Being environmentally active in Secondary Schools is a real challenge.

In theory of course our schools should be preparing students with a broad education that will equip them with the skills and resources to tackle a lifetime of issues.

Norwood Secondary College students in their greenhouse

On a more pragmatic note schools seem to focus on obtaining a high TER score to gain place in university or "vocational skills" for that elusive job.

Of course developing other skills in sport or artistic achievement are also encouraged.

Yet curiously few schools focus on community issues that students may address either individually or collectively.

One argument is that these are "political" issues and schools are for learning not politics.

And yet…. When students travel through their science degree they will learn that our current actions are systematically destroying the world they will inherit.

A cursory study of our newspapers will uncover issues of environmental extinction and climate change on a daily basis.

And the significant action taken to address these issues? Very very little.

It's as if our leaders just won't believe we really have a problem and attempt to ignore the problems until something outrageous happens - when of course it is too late for effective action.

Norwood Secondary College


So what can secondary students
(or teachers and parents )
do in the face of this situation?


1) Form an environment group that can bring together the students who want to be part of hands on environmental activity in your school.

This gives you a base to start from.

2) Take some practical local environmental action. The ones schools tend to like the most are recycling paper, cans etc and being part of helping to clean up the school.

I can't think of a school that is happy with how "tidy" the school grounds are. Having the courage to start these activities will make a difference to your school.

Display from Footscray City College at SFSF Presentation Day

3) Ask your school to recognise environmental activity in the same ways it promotes sport and other achievements. This can mean offering teacher support, having a budget, giving you a space in newsletters, having awards. It should be a significant part of the schools educational role.

Oakleigh South Primary School display

4) Learn about the issues of sustainability. See if you can create an opportunity in your studies to do a project on salinity in Australian soils, climate change and its consequences or other environmental issues.

Glendal P.S students

5) Take what you learn to the community. What does your local MP know of environmental issues? How aware is your local Rotary Club ? One of the strongest impressions you can make is developing an interesting, articulate and clearly written story to these people and asking for their feedback.

Send them a copy, make an appointment to see them and then see what their reactions are. (This would make a great Issues project for VCE…) And don't forget to include your story in the school newsletter for your parents.

6) See if you can encourage your school to actively develop environmental projects on the school grounds or in your local community.

Projects that restore the natural habitat, reduce energy or water consumption, help students learn at first hand about the environment should receive careful thought from progressive Principals and School Councils.

You might even find that the Rotary club you went to visit will be interested in offering practical support for your efforts.

Lakewood Reserve at Knox Park


7) Join the SFSF network. We can promote your activities on our website at Presentation Days and through Synergy.

The SFSF billboard (below) is also a powerful way of promoting the commitment your school has to a sustainable future. It's also a great way of recognising the support you gain from those Rotarians you have convinced to support your project!)

8) Make contacts with other school environment groups. It is always heartening to have support from likeminded groups. You get fresh ideas and can create a stronger, united voice in the community.

One such group is being organised by Peter Cook from Boronia Heights Sec. College. Ph (03) 9762-4044.

The Victorian Association of Environmental Education (VAEE) is another resource which can help you make contacts and set up your group. Ph (03) 9428-9812.

Ecoecycle Waste Wise program and Monash Council's Waste Education programs at 1998 SFSF Presentation Day.


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Schools For a Sustainable Future

1 Curdies St.
E. Bentleigh Vic. 3165
Joe Natoli
Ph: (03) 9579-7224     Fax: (03) 9579-6153      Mobile: 0411-568-523


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