In this edition of ‘What Inspires Me’ we feature Frances Hewitson, Class teacher and Sustainability Coordinator at ResourceSmart School, Crib Point Primary School. CERES educator Emmanuelle recently visited the school and was inspired by all that Frances does at Crib Point Primary School.
1. How did you first get started with environmental education?
I have always been interested for as long as I can remember in the idea and philosophy of reusing what you can, re-purposing, not being wasteful and caring for the environment. I grew up in South Australia, north of Adelaide, where the weather is hot and water is at a premium. I also grew up in an era where things were made to last and where items were relatively expensive to buy, so you had less. I have to say though, I am also adept at not throwing things out….just in case, much to the consternation of those around me!
The seeds for my school environmental education journey were sown when I came for my interview at the school. I noticed how much litter there was in the yard and thought ‘if I work here I have to do something about this’…. and I did. I began a competition with the support of the teachers; the school yard (including the out of bounds areas) was divided and each grade was responsible for an area. (My grade had the out of bounds area). On Friday afternoon, the school captains went around and judged each area by counting the papers. The winning grade received a rubbish bin of lollies (not banned in those days). After three years the competition could no longer run as the yard was too clean!! Things have just continued to grow and develop over the years.
2. What have been the biggest highlights of your journey so far?
I have not really ever thought about this until a couple of years ago, when I was asked to speak/present at a conference held at the Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group in Melbourne. As I prepared the presentation of our school’s journey in sustainability, I was quite thrilled to be reminded of things that have happened over the years. I love the fact that our students started a game of hide and seek with the yard duty teacher (called ‘Teacher Spy’) where the consequences for being spied by the teacher was picking up paper – at their suggestion. (Again, picking up the papers no longer happens as the yard is too clean). When I took photos of our awards, I was amazed to see so many hanging on the walls; Mayoral Awards, Clean Up Australia Awards and the beginning of 5Stars to name a few. I am also pleased when visitors to our school comment on how clean our environment is and how well looked after the gardens are. This is not all due to me, but also to many other members of our whole school community: students, staff and parents alike.
3. How do you engage with people that are not buying into the sustainability message?
I have been fortunate in having a very supportive staff to work with. Having said that, I work in a small school and initially many staff were concerned about the extra workload being a sustainable school might mean. When we commenced, there was a lot of extra work, I tried to make sure the other teachers were impacted as little as possible, as we all have many extra responsibilities. Now however, we have many sustainable practices built into our curriculum, into extra-curricular activities like Gardening Club, Hands on Learning, and into our senior school leadership. In addition, the ‘caring for our environment’ attitude and philosophy that has developed in our students over the years, is fantastic and has become second-nature. For instance, I once asked the office staff why there were some buckets and tongs outside the office door and their reply was, ‘because the Year 1 and Year 2 students like to come and borrow them so they can pick up litter and put it in the bin’. No-one has told them to, it is not a punishment, and the students just like to do it. It’s just how our school functions.
4. Can you share a school sustainability project or story that you’ve heard about that stood out for you?
I have two, one past and one present. The R.E.D. Group project is a stand out for me. We were lucky to be in on the ground floor of this initiative a few years ago where our ‘soft plastics’ (now called ‘crushable plastic’) were collected from the school and sent to REPLAS who recycle this resource into furniture and bollards among other things. What an exciting venture. Our students made posters and letters to the community, educated the students and organised the in-house collection, which continues to this day.
The second exciting project we are commencing this year, is our involvement with Terracycle, through their Oral Brigade. What a fantastic world-wide initiative, recycling the non-recyclables, and a great example of what can be done if you care enough. All the businesses who have come on board with this are to be congratulated on doing something about global waste.
5. What is your favourite environmental education resource for schools?
There are so many worthwhile resources and I use them, as they pertain to what we are doing at any one time. There are also many great places to visit. I think the resources that have a sound philosophy and are not pushing a political agenda, and that provide quality educational materials to suit your class’ needs, are the ones to engage with and for your students to use. Working with students to help them be discerning about the information in any resource is also very important. In fact anything can be a resource, we are only limited by our imagination.
6. If you could be a sustainability superhero, what name would you choose and what powers would you have to make the world more sustainable into the future?
‘The Quiet Achiever’ who continues to work on the little things and changes people’s minds over the little things including the minds of those who make the decisions.
I would have the power to make people understand the need for looking long term, not just to the next political scoring point or to the next dollar or award. I would also have the power to stop and rewind hurtful political or environmental decisions that are based on money, business or political agendas, instead of macro and micro environmental issues, to regain a balance. I would stop people making selfish decisions that result in disaster for the environment.
Thank you Frances for sharing your story.
For more information, visit Crib Point Primary School’s blog page.