CERES Education Interview with Emma Canning
Environment & Sustainability Leader,
St. Peter’s Primary School (5Star ResourceSmart School)
1. How did you first become interested in environmental issues?
I first became interested in Education for Sustainability while undertaking my Bachelor of Education at university. Education for Sustainability was offered as an elective subject which I was keen to sign up for. I did not recall having the opportunity to learn about the environment or my impact during my own schooling, so the notion of being able to incorporate environmental education in my own teaching appealed to me.
I went on to gain employment within a primary school and found many exciting and authentic opportunities to embed sustainability into the curriculum. Finding an area that I felt was an opportunity to engage students in an authentic manner for real change, while supporting their academic achievements prompted me to go on to apply for, and successfully gain the position of Environment and Sustainability Leader within the school.
2. What have been the biggest highlights of your journey so far?
I have enjoyed watching a culture change within the community from the ground up where students are empowered to take action for real change. Having the opportunity to network with many amazing educators and like minded people and have an impact on future generations has also been an inspiring and exciting experience.
Being part of the ResourceSmart program has also been fantastic. I felt very honoured to receive a nomination as the ResourceSmart Teacher of the Year in 2015, although not successful in receiving the award, being recognised was a highlight for me. As Director of School Community at St Peter’s, the school receiving a further nomination in the category of Community Leadership Primary School of the Year and being the overall winners was an outstanding achievement for our whole community. Late last year St Peter’s was also certified as a 5Star ResourceSmart School. Having worked with the school since it began its work with ResourceSmart, gaining this level of certification after so many people had put in so much effort was awesome.
3. What has been the biggest obstacle? How did you / are you overcoming it?
Beginning the journey towards environmental change at St Peter’s was tricky as it was not something that was widespread on embedded at St Peter’s. We received great support from our CERES facilitator to begin our work as a ResourceSmart school. Getting everyone onboard did take time and effort, however once students and staff saw the importance of the need for greater environmental action and change through education and real life connections, it became much easier. It was still tricky to ensure that parents and the wider community were onboard as they were not here in the school with us experiencing our journey. Through ongoing communication and the influence of our passionate children, this barrier too began to be broken down.
4. What future plans or goals are you excited about?
Continuing to work with students to build their passion relating to creating positive change for the environment.
Working with and in the wider community to share the St Peter’s journey and inspiring others to feel empowered in relation their own actions.
5. What advice would you offer to someone wanting to begin a sustainability program at their school or organisation?
- Start small. Small steps will become stepping stones to get others on board and set the scene for the direction in which the school or organisation wishes to head.
- Be persistent, it takes time to see change.
- Collaborate and draw energy from like minded people. Create a team of students, staff and parents who can support you in bringing about change.
- Become a ResourceSmart School. By joining the ResourceSmart program, I felt that we were able to gain a clear direction for a way to move forward within our school.
Thank you Emma for sharing your story.