5 Star School

Billanook College’s vision is to be the ‘sole of sustainability’ by reducing their ecological footprint. The eco-footprint concept has been adopted by Billanook’s student leaders as the symbol for the schools sustainability program. In 2003 Billanook College joined the Sustainable Schools Initiative to help them achieve their sustainability vision.

For Billanook College the benefits of being involved in the Sustainable Schools Initiative are that the program enabled the school to have a framework, focus and accountability measures. All of these aspects have enabled them to work more purposefully.
The College have had Environment Captains working on projects in the School for 15 years but there was no sustained program. With the guidance and support offered under the Sustainable Schools Program this has changed.
Billanook College have achieved a 5 star status in two years by bringing together and effectively co-ordinating a lot of individual efforts.
The School believes that the benefits of becoming a 5 Star School are:
• Confirmation and affirmation that they are making a difference
• Recognition of their achievements
• Encouragement and inspiration to the student leaders as well as the School community to keep the program going
• Invitations to share their experiences at conferences, thus raising the profile of the College, getting their message out and offering the student leaders further opportunities for development
Environmental education has been incorporated into a range of individual learning areas to date. It is the schools intention to extend this area into a more fully integrated approach after completing a curriculum audit. A scope and sequence is planned for 2007.
At the Primary level of the school, environment and sustainability units will be incorporated at every level in 2007, with a scope and sequence having been completed in 2006.
In 2006 Primary children learnt about water conservation, living and non-living elements, visited the Botanical Gardens, planted bulbs at home and considered such questions as:
• How do we look after ourselves and the planet?
• How can our family help the planet?
• As community members how can we help the community we live in to be sustainable?
They also studied the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle).
At the Secondary level, the Year 7 Mathematics students studied volume area and graphing. They were set a problem in a real life context – how can we save water? The students gathered the rainfall statistics for Mooroolbark where the School is located and calculated the average annual rainfall. They also calculated the total roof area of the School and with this data were able to determine the amount of rainwater on average which could be harvested annually.
All this information was presented as a report, including graphs and calculations, which they each presented to their classmates. The class then came to the Board room to present their findings and recommendations to the Deputy Principal. The information was also used by Easy Being Green in the schools water audit, thus having real application.
The Year 7 Technology students built nesting boxes to assist native species to breed and in Year 8 Science in a unit called “Bright Sparks” they studied photovoltaic cells and solar powered boats which are linked with the Victorian Model Solar Vehicle Challenge.
Outdoor and Environmental Studies at Years 11 and 12 considered the human impact on natural environments and the Outdoor Education program from Years 7-11 built respect, awareness and the need for preservation of the natural environment and the means by which we can live in harmony with it.
The Legal Studies subject at Year 12 examined the High Court decisions on the Franklin Dam, the Lemon Thyme forest and Queensland rainforest cases.
Food Technology considered packaging and the environment, food production, including hydroponics and the effect on the environment of producing enough food for the planet.
A school musical for Primary students adapted by the Performing Arts and classroom teachers called “Survive-All” shared the environmental concerns of the various life forms of the Earth and looked at future solutions which are sustainable so that the diversity of the natural world is maintained.The most rewarding projects that Billanook College have undertaken on their journey to become a 5 star school have been:

• Sustainability Committee
The establishment of a Sustainability Committee comprising student leaders and interested Staff. The Deputy Principal chairs the meetings and works closely with the Captains thus ensuring whole School support. The Business Manager and Property Manager are also on the committee so there is an integrated approach at every level of the School. Teacher mentors also work with the Captains to support implementation of their ideas.
The Sustainability Committee sets policy, co-ordinates projects, monitors progress in relation to the Four Year Plan, accesses funding, ensures a whole P-12 School approach and facilitates community partnerships. The committee meets twice a term.
• Student Leadership
For over ten years the College has recognised the importance of environmental issues through the school leadership model with an Environmental Portfolio, which is one of five. The others are Arts, Social Justice & Welfare, Sport and International Relations. Four Captains at Year 12 are elected each year in each of the portfolios, representing the four Houses in the School. They work as a team within their portfolio. Two Middle School Environment Captains were also appointed but worked independently in the Middle School.
In 2004, the Environment Captains were looking for a way to make a significant change with a lasting impact. Thus the Sustainability Committee was formed.
In 2005 student representation on the committee included the 4 Senior Captains and 2 Middle School Environment Captains. Primary School also introduced an Environment Captain and a committee of students.
In 2006 the student leadership model was expanded to include two representatives from each year level who are recognised as ELFs (Environmental Leaders of the Future). These students are mentored by the Captains and work with them on the program and projects. The Senior Captains meet once a week with their teacher mentor and the Captains and ELFs meet once a fortnight. Once a Term Captains and ELFs across the School meet to share information, projects and ideas.
At the College Open House in 2005 the students had a display of ideas on sustainability. In 2006 this grew to encompass all Captains and ELFs hosting a large display of sustainable ideas for the home and the achievements that have been made in the College.
A badge has been designed to recognise the official status of the ELFs. This leadership group has been offered personal development through attendance at conferences such as the Sustainable Living Festival, meeting with Jane Goodall at Healesville Sanctuary, hearing David Suzuki speak and presenting at the Sustainability Visioning Day at the Melbourne Zoo.
• Measuring the College’s ecological footprint
The students environment leaders calculated the College’s ecological footprint by surveying the student body from P-12 and the Staff. They calculated Billanook was below the national average at 5 hectares per student, but that they still have a long way to go.
The survey was also sent home to families to calculate their own ecological footprint in comparison to the national average and the global target of 1.8 hectares per person. The survey itself was an excellent educative tool to raise awareness. The results once calculated were presented at an assembly conducted by the Environment Captains who explained the implications and translated the results in a meaningful way for the student body.
The school are now working in partnership with the EPA to facilitate the collection of data for the College community to calculate the footprint electronically, rather than wasting a lot of paper in a survey. This will be a pilot study, which hopefully will then be available to other schools in the future.
• A Recycling Program
o A recycling program has been implemented from P-12. Fourteen dual stations for waste and recycling have been established with purpose built bins purchased and student leaders working with the Facilities Manager on their placement in the School grounds. The recycling collection was negotiated with the Shire of Yarra Ranges and a roster of students to the pick up point each week
o Paper recycling has been introduced in every classroom to ensure both sides are used with scrap paper boxes.
o Paper recycling with VISY has been implemented across the School
o The College has adopted a purchase policy of buying recycled paper
o The fortnightly newsletter has been reduced from 16 pages to 4 pages with additional information provided on-line
o Families have been encouraged to receive their newsletter on-line rather than in hard copy
o The Marketing department designed the new College prospectus sympathetically using 100% recycled paper
o Cork and printer cartridge recycling is established across the School
o A rubbish free lunch day each week has been implemented in the Primary School
o All photocopier toners are recycled
• A Vegetable Garden
A vegie garden has been established by the Primary School in a reclaimed horticulture area and negotiations have been made with the canteen to use the vegetables. This area is hydrated by a water tank achieved through a Mitre 10 grant.
• Energy Audit 
The energy audit identified behavioural change as a key factor in reducing and raising awareness through compelling presentations on global warming and the impact of the school’s energy usage. A “switch off” campaign across the School has been implemented with signs on doors, light switches and liaison with the Manager of Information Technology to introduce computer shutdowns at the end of the day. The delamping program has been implemented with replacement to triphosphorescent globes and a reduction in the number of lamps. 30% have been replaced across the school thus far.
• Solar Boat Challenge
Students learn about alternative energy sources through the Solar Boat Challenge, an event Billanook has hosted for a number of years. Local Primary Schools enter the competition to see whose solar powered boat will be the fastest. This is managed by the Environment Captains.
• Sustainable Living Challenge
The University of NSW in partnership with the United Nations awarded Billanook College an Outstanding Achievement Award for their whole school project on sustainability.
• Helping Save Water
In the Primary and Middle Schools ice-cream containers have been placed under all drinking taps to collect waste water. This is then used on the garden beds to water plants.
The College has a policy of planting only indigenous plants. This means that the school grounds and garden beds require less watering than traditional European gardens. They have also been replanting along the creek bed so as to help maintain the health of the creek. Over the last two years they have planted over 300 new plants each year on the College grounds. This work is undertaken by the students, Staff and parents across the school.
• Land for Wildlife
Receiving accreditation from Land for Wildlife in recognition of the schools care and custodianship of their bush setting.
Billanook College still have many things on the agenda for the future of sustainability in the school. They would like to:
• Increase the volume of rainwater tanks at their Viticulture Centre to make hydration of the vineyard and the adjacent oval fully sustainable.
• Work in partnership with Melbourne Water to revegetate their retarding basin which Billanook caretakes.
• Continue revegetating their creek.
• Develop a propagation program in conjunction with Candlebark, a local community nursery.
• Implement a new auditorium which has been designed with environmental heating and cooling. Sustainability was as essential part of the brief for the building of the new auditorium which is planned for 2008/2009.
• Remove non-indigenous species from their bush site.
• Host a Youth Forum on Sustainability in partnership with the Shire of Yarra Ranges.
• Install dual flush toilets across the whole site – a replacement program is currently in place and 12 have been installed to date.
• Implement a stormwater harvesting project to potentially make the whole site self-sufficient in regards to water.
Since Billanook College began the process of becoming a 5 star school they have made the following sustainability improvements:
• Electricity 10.2% reduction in usage
• Gas 12.9% reduction in usage
• Water In their first year they made a 12% reduction but in the last twelve months they have seen an increase in water usage in response to the drought conditions for the vineyard, necessitating the rainwater project. A major leak was also found.
With the amount of effort that Billanook College have put into their sustainability projects, it is no wonder that they have achieved 5 star status and are now one of the leading sustainable schools in Victoria.
By Billanook College|2017-11-06T17:13:44+10:00April 24th, 2013|0 Comments