CERES Education Interview with Karen Jones
Winner of the 2013 VAEE “Award for Excellence in the Category of Local Government Sustainability Officers working with Schools and the Community”
Environmental Education Officer, Kingston City Council
1. How did you first get started with environmental education?
I think it was a combination of being a brownie/ girl guide; having a family who always went camping and bushwalking and going to a primary schools with a bush block where we had many outdoor classes. My childhood home also backed on to sandstone bush land and many hours were spent exploring and understanding my ‘backyard’.
2. What have been the biggest highlights of your journey so far?
There are so many highlights. My university studies at Charles Sturt University involved 3 years of hands on adventures including being assessed for my camping, bushwalking and bat trapping skills. Working at Jenolan Caves Reserve Trust and recording caves and fauna previously not recorded. Also working alongside eminent caves researchers from around the world who were at the cutting edge of bringing the climate change research to the general public. Working as an outdoor educator in many wilderness areas in Northern America (my favourite locations include the Boundary Waters and Torch Lake). Another highlight is being a part of the Australian Sustainable School Initiative (AuSSI) which for me started more than 12 years ago while working at Indigo Shire Council when Rutherglen Primary School was chosen to be a pilot school. Now there are over 1,000 ResourceSmart AuSSI Vic Schools in Victoria and growing.
My travels tend to include the natural wonders of our planet and highlights include the Amazon rainforest, Galapagos, a 3-month whale migration tour across the Pacific and a waterfall tour around the world visiting the famous waterfalls (Huka Falls – NZ; Angel Falls – Venezuela;, Niagara Falls – Canada/ USA; Victoria Falls – Zambia/Zimbabwe and Iguassu Falls – Brazil/ Argentina).
3. What has been the biggest obstacle? How did you/are you overcoming it?
My biggest obstacle is not enough time to do all that needs to be done. I get to work with so many schools, community groups, organisations and council staff and there is never enough hours in the day to implement all their great ideas. A problem shared is a problem halved and I focus on building partnerships, involving and empowering others. Building people’s capacity and leadership skills is part of this focus.
4. What future plans or goals are you excited about?
What am I not excited about! I love value adding to Kingston’s behaviour change program and this year we have broadened our Big Green Schools Conference to include project management skills and we are connecting the students to local community groups bringing an intergenerational focus to sustainability. I am also excited about expanding our program to include secondary schools and trialling a ‘frequent flyer’ behaviour change element into our community workshop program.
5. What advice would you offer to someone wanting to begin a sustainability program at their school or organisation?
My advice is to start small and do it well. Build your foundation and nurture your group of core supporters (behind every great leader is an equally great band of supporters). Focus on the passion, when things get tough it will be the passionate things that will be completed. Start where you are at and build from there. Align your efforts with others in the same space (e.g. other community or national efforts) to build momentum. Remember to recharge yourself. Sustainability is a journey even small steps give you momentum. Celebration and reflection are important and powerful components of your journey – do not overlook them.
CERES Education would like to thank Karen for sharing her story.
Read more about Karen in this article featured in the Bayside Leader
Find out how Kingston City Council are helping schools with Sustainability – http://dev.sustainability.ceres.org.au/groups/city-of-kingston/
Photo inset courtesy of News Corp Australia