Colbo Primary School living the green dream

By Vanessa Wiltshire

WHAT can a small rural school do to help save the environment?

Quite a lot, it would seem.

Earlier this month Colbinabbin Primary School discovered that they are one of three finalists in the ResourceSmart School of the Year Awards.

The ResourceSmart Schools Awards are Victoria’s largest sustainability awards program and recognise schools across the state who are leading the way in minimising waste, saving energy and water, increasing biodiversity and tackling climate change. About 1,300 schools have participated in the program.

The awards shine a spotlight on the incredible work that Victorian schools are doing to make a positive impact on the environment and shape the state of the future.

The principal of Colbinabbin Primary School, Robyn MacLean, said: ‘With an average student population of only 30 children, we never thought that we would be recognised as a four-star ResourceSmart school. Now we are knocking on the door of our fifth star, the result of some fantastic accomplishments over the past few years.”

Ms MacLean said that sustainability has been delivered in and through a range of curriculum areas, including literacy, humanities, science and numeracy.

“In 2019 a weekly 90-minute session has been timetabled for the school’s ‘Green Team’, to increase sustainability knowledge through a range of activities, many with the local community,’’ she said.

“In 2018 students built solar-powered boats during STEM time, with a local competition at the Colbinabbin swimming pool. The project saw children in grades 3/4/5/6 work in teams of three to design and build a competitive solar-powered boat.

“The Solar Buddy activity involved developing solar-powered lights that are sent to communities that rely on fuels such as diesel, kerosene and wood for light.”

Ms MacLean added that Colbinabbin Primary School’s sustainability message has been warmly received by the community. ‘‘Our 2019 Market Day was recognised as a two-star certified Waste Wise event by the Shire of Campaspe,’’ she said.

‘‘The school’s Green Team implemented a range of initiatives to reduce the use of plastic and waste at the event.

“We banned plastic straws and sourced from Goulburn Valley Water, promoting Colbinabbin’s clean tap water and reducing the need to sell bottled water.

“Reusable cups were provided, and, through a range of media promotions, the public were encouraged to bring a refillable bottle. The public were also asked to bring their reusable hot drink cup (keep cup) for use at the coffee van, which also had keep cups available for purchase.

“Food was served on biodegradable bamboo plates and real cutlery was used instead of plastic. A waste station was created where food scraps and composting materials were collected.

‘‘Bins were clearly marked so very little cross contamination of landfill and recycling occurred. Stallholders were asked to support our Waste Wise initiative.

No stallholders used single use plastic bags either. The Colbinabbin Boomerang Bag group conducted an activity where children (or adults) could decorate a Boomerang Bag and then use it for their shopping, too.’’

In recent weeks, Ms McLean said that the school had embarked on a new initiative, with the support of the Shire of Campaspe.

“We will be a collection point for soft plastics so these can be recycled and then the material will be used to make park benches,” she said.

“Our planet’s survival is in the hands of the young people of our communities. With students presenting at ResourceSmart Sustainability Student Summit in Bendigo this week, Colbinabbin and district can be assured their young people are eager to work towards a greener and more sustainable future.”

The state government’s ResourceSmart Schools program is offered by Sustainability Victoria and has engaged more than 1,300 schools across the state to collectively save over $24 million and avoid creating more than 60,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases.

Winners will be announced at the ResourceSmart School Awards ceremony at the MCG in Melbourne on June 13.