In this edition of ‘What Inspires Me’ we feature John Hughes, Sustainability Coordinator at Oak Park Primary School. John shares his highlights so far, and an exciting new project at Oak Park PS which pays respects to the Wurundjeri people as the traditional custodians of the land, while diverting waste to landfill.
1. How did you first get started with environmental education?
I had an interest for years in the ‘green’ side of life and was trying to encourage everyone at school to get on board. After five years of bugging the Principal to let me do this as a specialist role within the school, he finally agreed and we’ve now been doing this since 2016. When I think about it though, I have always been someone who loves wildlife, feels at peace in a forest and makes sure not to litter, so I guess the origins of my current role began back when I was a kid.
2. What have been the biggest highlights of your journey so far?
Student interest has been high, and we’ve been able to get involved with so many worthwhile projects such as Birds In Schools, Frog Census, National Tree Day and being well supported by ResourceSmart Schools, in particular Kelsey Smith and Laura Nix – they’ve been brilliant! So many highlights – getting our first RSS Star, planting our orchard, establishing a chicken coop, seeing the students take such good care of our turtles, lizards and chickens – plenty more to come too I hope!
3. How do you engage with people that are not buying into the sustainability message?
I try not to hassle them too much. I think that tends to drive people in the opposite direction. I like to go about what I do and make sure that everything I do I explain the reasons for, so people can see the logic behind the actions. With the students it would be easy to fall into the doom and gloom message but I prefer to look at solutions rather than dwell too much on the negatives. When people think they can actually do something I think it motivates them more to take an interest and take action.
4. Can you share a sustainability/environmental project or story that you’ve heard about that stood out for you?
Every time I go to a network event or something similar I hear some amazing stories and there are so many that I would like to take on. At the moment I’m really excited about a project we are doing here at Oak Park Primary. The Visual Arts teacher and I collaborated on a design for a school mural to be made out of bottle caps that would otherwise have been landfill. We have come up with a design that pays respects to the Wurundjeri people as the traditional custodians of the land, and combining art and sustainability. The kids are super excited and we are too, so I guess at the moment that’s one that I’m really enthusiastic about.
5. What is your favourite environmental education resource for schools?
That’s a great question because there is so much out there but I haven’t found one particular resource that satisfies all our needs. Resource Smart Schools is great in terms of setting yourself up as an ongoing sustainable operation. Cool Australia has been very handy for the special events from Clean Up Australia Day to National Recycling Week and everything in between. Other than that I have a list of bookmarks kilometres long – there is a lot of good stuff around, you just have to be willing to have a good look around to find it.
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?
Anyone who knows Carl Pilkington from ‘An Idiot Abroad’ may be familiar with him being asked what superpower he would have, and he answered that he would be ‘BULLSH*T MAN’; any time anyone was speaking rubbish he would fly in and say “That’s bullsh*t!” and set the truth to its course. I would love that superpower as an environmental weapon because a lot of what we hear from the powers that be is exactly that substance and perhaps if we could stop that we could make some serious progress towards improving things. If that wasn’t possible, I’d love to have the superpower of common sense and the ability to spread that around, as much of sustainability is simply common sense, but the “common” part of that is unfortunately not as common as it should be. I’d love to just fly around and issue common sense to people so they could do the right thing and set us on a better path.
Thank you John for sharing your story!
Learn more about sustainability at Oak Park Primary School by visiting their website.
Teachers from ResourceSmart Schools in the Northern metro region will also have the opportunity to visit and get a tour of Oak Park PS as they will be hosting our Term 2 Progress Workshop in May.