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Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
When I wa s invited to share some thoughts
about environmental education in our
schools, I jumped at the oppor tunity to
'push my wheelbarrow'. With the National
Curriculum being introduced in some
subjects in our schools this year, my star ting
point has to be the "Introduction" section
of every new syllabus. There are two
broad goals that clearly state what the K-10
Curriculum Fr amework will achieve.
Goal 2 states, "All young Australians become
successful lear ner s, confident and creative
individuals, and active and infor med citizens."
So ther e we have it. All those activities
(and there are too many to mention) that
teachers under take in our schools for
Environmental Educational purposes , meet
Goal 2. In fact, I would argue that herein
lies the justification for more support for
environmental education in our schools.
I quote from Kevin Treston's A modern
credo: telling the Christ story within the context
of creation. "The foundation of Christian
mor ality is love of God, self, other s and
creation." In Catholic schools the concept
of stewardship underpins our faith. St
Mary's High School Gateshead is a Josephite
school celebrating its 50th anniversary this
year. Those remarkable, intelligent, hard-
working Josephite Sister s, car ried out the
work of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop and
educated their students about the need for
stewardship. That tr adition is alive and well.
The 'Human Society and its Environment'
(HSIE) Depar tment at St Mary's has just
retur ned from its annual Redhead coastal
management excur sion. Our students were
active citizens , carrying out a rubbish audit
and learning and reflecting on our use of
plastics and the impact they have on the
oceans and marine life. We assisted the local
landcarers by planting more natives in the
coastal corridor. This is a project we have
supported for five year s because students
at our school live near, and play, at Redhead
beach. They need to be shown how, and
taught to understand why it is impor tant, to
minimise their footprint on the environment
and to give back whenever they can. "Think
Global, Act Local".
One of our mantras at St Mary's is 'Respect':
respect for each other and for our natur al
and cultural environment. Our students 'get
this'; they just need a gentle reminder ever y
now and then about why, and how, to show
respect. This includes being shown how to
respect the environment, and this par t is
easy and fun.
And so I walk around the playground with
my litter lifters, talk r ubbish at school
assemblies -- "not a single piece of r ubbish
Year 10, I am watching" -- and get my
hands dir ty on Landcare days. Sure, my
love of environment developed because of
my nor th coast country upbringing and a
truly inspirational 78 year-old Geogr aphy
teacher who abseilled down school walls
and encour aged us to go whitewater r afting
at Nymboida. In student talk, the natur al
environment is "awesome". Every time I am
at the beach, in a forest, in the Aussie bush,
teaching my students about the wonders of
cr eation, I feel great. I feel alive and well. I
feel closer to God. It is spiritual.
Environmental activities allow our students
to feel alive and well. I have seen students
delight in the fact that they were up to
their armpits in dir t whilst trying to help
me clear a sur face drain. They fight about
who is pushing the wheelbarrow and who
is using those cool, but deadly tools. "Is that
frog spawn Mrs Mur r ay? Where is the frog?
What sort is it?" So much to learn, so little
time! City dwelling students take pleasure
in growing plants, raising wor ms, caring
for chickens , tur ning the mulch and doing
outdoor stuff. For some, schools are the only
places where they can par ticipate in such
activities . Your homes can also be a place to
provide your children with outdoor learning.
My simple message is, get out into your
backyard or neighbourhood and do
something. Families can set up a simple
veggie garden at home and let the children
decide on the crop, plant it, har vest it and
eat it. Star t a worm far m to recycle your
food scr aps and have your own natural
fer tiliser on tap. Use fewer single-use plastics,
be mindful of what packaging we use to
pack our children's lunches. When we go
to the beach, follow Tim Silver wood's 'Take
3' message : take 3 pieces of r ubbish with
you when you leave the beach. How simple.
Volunteer for your local Landcare group. Sit
on your ver andah at night and watch our
mar vellous native wildlife come alive.
"The ear th is full of the goodness of the
Lord." It sure is ; we all just need regular
oppor tunities to see it. This is why
environmental studies must be par t of your
children's education. As an educator in
the 21st century, I believe it is my duty to
educate young people to be mindful, to be
occurring in schools :
Healthy canteens, litterless lunches
Earth Hour Challenges
School gardening projects
Wate r w atch
Water meters and solar panels
Retrofitting school facilities with energy
and water saving technologies
Electric Vehicle Challenge
Veggie and herb gardens
Worm farms and composting
Greenhouse : collecting native seeds and
Audits of energy, water, rubbish
Regeneration of creeks and bushland
Ecology units in Science
Aboriginal art projects
Environmental perspective in English
Science and Geography field trips.
Maryanne Murray with enviro-warriors (l-r) Olivia Lewis Curnoe, Izabelle Sproule, Sam Watson,
Jayden Teague,Taya Barnes, Georgia Williams,Yasmin Jimmieson, (crouching) Connor Negus,
respectful and to act. I hope that one or two
students will remember the message their
Geogr aphy teacher was tr ying to get across
and that I will have inspired them to be
infor med and active citizens.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful
committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed it is the only thing that ever has,"
said Margaret Mead. I took this quote from
a great DVD, Bag it. Borrow it from your
One more thing: What mea sure can you
under take -- and commit to all year -- to
improve the environment in your home and
at your school?
To learn more, visit w w w.
catholicearthcare.org.au or w ww.
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