A Sense of Community
Understanding the importance of being good citizens of local and global communities is as vital today than it ever has been. We live in a world where our students regularly hear about global sustainability issues, ones which often feel to be on such a grand unsolvable scale, that they can be left feeling anxious about their future.
At St Catherine’s, we find ourselves feeling optimistic as we watch on and participate, with these negative viewpoints being countered by an ever-increasing understanding by the students, that their place, role and influence in different communities can play a small but crucial role in shaping the future in meaningful ways.
We see first-hand that when given the right educational tools and resources, school age children can become superb advocates for change in our community. As Sue Elliott, Senior Lecturer from the University of New England, describes “practising sustainability empowers children to construct knowledge, explore values and develop an appreciation of the environment and its relationship to their worlds. Which, in turn, lays the foundations for an environmentally responsible adulthood.”
At St Catherine’s, one way in which students gain ‘the right educational tools’ is through the Barbreck Environment Committee. This committee is a high performing, engaged and passionate group of girls who promote sustainability practices to the betterment of Barbreck, St Catherine’s and the wider world. The students engage in many robust conversations and actively try to solve issues of concern, valuing the opportunity to deal with environmental issues within and beyond our School.
The Committee is a source of great excitement for our members from Years 4 to 6 and they complete many activities and projects throughout the year. These include promoting nude food lunches, eliminating waste and educating their peers during assemblies about sustainability. The activities are all student driven and foster collaboration, initiative, creativity and deep thinking. An attitude that falls in line with Johann Goethe’s timeless maxim, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.”
In 2018, St Catherine’s submitted a grant application to The City of Stonnington and was very excited to be selected as one of five schools to participate in the Tomorrow’s Leaders for Sustainability program. This program was designed to help students understand the world around them, live more sustainably, build leadership skills and apply these to a meaningful sustainability project.
An expert mentor from the Port Phillip EcoCentre joined our committee meetings each week during Terms 2 and 3 and guided our students to become sustainability leaders. One result of this was the students becoming proficient energy auditors in the Junior School, looking at ways to reduce waste and energy usage in our new purpose-built energy efficient Barbreck. These findings are now guiding our 2019 program where we are increasing our focus on reducing waste while also drawing on Dr Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots program.
Another source of community pride for the girls is our new vegetable garden. The growing of herbs and vegetables cause great excitement and it is common for our younger students to gather around our garden watering, weeding and making keen observations while gaining a deeper understanding of the life cycles of plants and the interconnectedness of humans, animals and plants.
Though every generation has its own challenges, our most pressing one seems to be the need for a greater understanding of the crucial connection between nature and community, and the very real benefits that flow from empowering this understanding. It is wonderful to see our students working hard together to acquire the skills and attitudes necessary to care and be actively concerned for the world around us. In the spirit of what is being learned daily, we encourage our students to share with their families the joys and benefits of this attitude, and of course, the delicious herbs and vegetables that come from the garden.