The world needs creative, innovative and courageous young people who can connect, collaborate and act. We know that youth may only be 20% of the population but they are 100% of the future. The time is now to let them share their dreams and design the future they want to see.
Young Australians are entering another year of learning what it takes to stay resilient. At Action4Agriculture we are giving teachers the tools through our action learning programs The Archibull Prize and Kreative Koalas to support young people come together to find their GPS*
“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” – Henry Ford
See how St Paul’s Primary School in the Hunter followed their GPS
Hill Top Public School, in the NSW Southern Highlands, has found participation in the Kreative Koalas program to be the catalyst towards a revolution in how education is reported to parents of students; and in doing so is normalising the topic of sustainability in homes and communities.
The Australian Curriculum currently incorporates three cross-curriculum priorities to support relevant, contemporary and engaging education for students. These priorities are:
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Culture
Asia and Australia’s Engagement with Asia
Education for Sustainability
“Education for sustainability develops the knowledge, skills, values and world-views necessary for people to act in ways that contribute to more sustainable patterns of living. It enables individuals and communities to reflect on ways of interpreting and engaging with the world. Sustainability education is futures-oriented, focusing on protecting environments and creating a more ecologically and socially just world through informed action. Actions that support more sustainable patterns of living require consideration of environmental, social, cultural and economic systems and their interdependence.” Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA)
While the priorities are designed to complement standard curriculum such as Maths and English, they are not stand-alone learning areas, and as such are not required to be reported on. Hill Top Public School is about to change that. Principal Mark Gardiner explains why:
“We are committed to sustainability education as all humans have a vested interest in sustainability. So much of what we want to do with sustainability crosses all curriculum areas and we’re trying to change the way we do business by reporting that to parents. It’s a pretty simple thing to do and it also embeds sustainability in the minds of the parents and in the community. My conversations with our parents tell me that most parents do understand environmental issues and sustainability are important; and this puts it in the forefront of their mind. It’s a bit of a bold new venture that we’re undertaking, and Kreative Koalas has been the seed that’s started this idea.”
Fifteen students from Years 5 and 6 are directly involved with the school’s Kreative Koala project, which has been generously supported by the St Vincent de Paul Society, with a focus on Sustainable Development Goals 7 (affordable and clean energy) and 13 (climate action). Lead teachers for the project are Suzanne Capps and Sharon Doust.
Together students and teachers have connected with a range of community and business initiatives to enhance their Kreative Koala experience. They have learned about carbon sequestration and its impact on sustainability from Climate Friendly, formed a relationship with the local Indigenous community to develop an understanding of ancient fire-practice habits and native food gardens, engaged with the arts and science departments at Bowral High School, and are involved with a sustainability project with Wingecarribee Council, which Suzanne sees as a critical component.
“Project Sustainable Us is a storytelling collaborative from Wingecarribee Shire Council and Artiste Films . They’re making a series of short documentaries based on sustainability in the community, and we have four student leaders working on individual movies. Xavier is doing a presentation on climate change in our community, Oliver is doing the science of climate change, Amelia is looking at what climate change means for her generation and Mikayla is looking at the politics of climate change,” Suzanne says.
Sharon is the dedicated sustainability teacher at Hill Top and is helping students develop and execute three action plans for:
sustainable practices for the school and the garden
The sustainability team is enlisting the local Indigenous community and theHill Top Community Association to develop the kitchen garden, the school’s P&C and Cecilia Kemp from Wingecarribee Shire Council to discuss energy action, and the school’s literacy program will build up knowledge of communications to promote climate change through appropriate channels.
“We see this action plan as a long-term project and the Koala has been our springboard to diversify learning in meaningful ways,” says Suzanne Capps, Assistant Principal
While all schools involved in Kreative Koalas experience similar learning and engagement with the project it is Hill Top Public School’s commitment to report on their sustainability findings that gives them a point of difference and illustrates the power of Kreative Koalas to make real-world change.
“Prioritising sustainability is recognition that as teachers, parents and a community we all work to ensure our children and students have bright futures. Our students live in an era of many challenges to the complex environmental systems that provide support for all life on our planet. Reporting on sustainability gives teachers the opportunity to embed sustainable practices in their everyday teaching. What becomes the norm at school, becomes the norm at home and becomes the norm for students throughout their lifetime.”
In 2019 the school and community of Hill Top were impacted by devastating bushfires. With support from St Vincent de Paul, and their renewed focus on the school garden, energy issues and climate action, students will heal and re-grow and take the community along with them on their sustainability journey whilst helping to create informed global citizens.
One of the keys to being a successful changemaker is the capacity to identify the best role models for your audience. Who will be the most effective messenger?
Part of the Action4Agriculture experience for teachers participating in The Archibull Prize and Kreative Koalas – design a bright future competition is access to experts who share with our teachers the psychology of change management. Our Changeologist Les Robinson reminds schools about the importance of choosing the right messenger in his brilliant 60 minute workshops on The Art of Change. Our experience also tells us schools who support each other make things happen faster
Zane Osborn is the assistant principal at Hamilton Public School in Newcastle where UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) have informed learning for the past three years. With a school garden already a community focal point for SDGs Zane approached Kris Beazley at the Centre of Excellence and joined their No Bees No Future project. Kris in turn suggested Hamilton Public School participate in Action4Agriculture’s Kreative Koalas, which it commenced in 2021.
As part of the Kreative Koalas project Hamilton Public conducted surveys with students and families and came to three conclusions:
Most people in the community would like to contribute to positive climate action,
Very few people knew about the SDGs,
People want simple ideas they can action right now in their home and community to help the environment
“We talked about how the simple things we do in our garden (that have a positive impact on the climate) can be an example to other people in the community and can inspire them to do the same; things such as preserving biodiversity, eliminating chemicals, encouraging and preserving pollinators. We wanted to do some peer to peer teaching and educate our community of families and other nearby schools.” Zane says.
This peer-to-peer messaging took the form of a series of impressive videos broadcasted on YouTube.
“With a Sustainable School Grant and lots of passionate students and teachers we were able to drive the creation of Blue Gate Garden TV. Students created episodes all based around “lessons” on how people can make a positive impact on the climate,” Zane says.
Students and staff at Hamilton Public School have successfully taken complex eco-literacy concepts and created a common language for all.
Not to be outdone Kris Beazley was also working on eco-literacy with her Year 7 AgSTEM students at the Centre of Excellence, by creating resources for primary students.
“Our Year 7 AgSTEM student team consists of nine students who are undertaking a unique learning model. In their curriculum they focus all their learning through four lenses – Sustainability, Agriculture, STEM and Aboriginal Knowledges. This year our student team have engaged in a number of projects aimed at educating themselves and others about issues related to the environment and climate action. In this capacity they have worked with primary school aged children, teenagers and adults from varying generations. This translational approach has been a theme throughout their work this year,” Kris says.
Tapping into the school’s wealth of agricultural connectors the students were able to commence their research with a Hackathon with Cotton Australia and Australian Wool Innovation, which influenced their project for The Archibull Prize.
“As part of their Archie the students developed teaching resources for primary school students about sustainable fibre production in Australia and end of life options for Australian cotton and wool. In completing their project they have written educational books, learning resources and games for primary aged students. They also presented a workshop for primary students across NSW as part of an Ag Week conference, promoting sustainable end of life options for cotton,” Kris says.
Working with agricultural connectors and participating in programs such as Kreative Koalas and The Archibull Prize has enabled students across primary and secondary schools to engage peer-to-peer messaging. The result has been an increase in eco-literacy within communities, celebrated by Blue Gate Garden TV and a suite of new shared educational resources. And in a spectacular polish to these achievements both Hamilton Public School and the Centre of Excellence have been recognised as finalists in the NSW Banksia Awards Minister’s Young Climate Champion category
“The Minister’s Young Climate Champion Award recognises young innovators aged under 18 years who bring bold ideas for a safe and thriving climate future that align with any of the UN SDGs. Young and passionate minds who have taken outstanding actions that benefit the sustainability of their communities and help address climate change will be showcased in this award, which is a celebration of young people with drive, commitment and a passion for sustainability and the environment.”
Using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as the lens one Kreative Koalas school inspired another to put the program “front and centre” of all its learning – and created a rival to Gardening Australia in the process
“When you dig up a piece of soil like this all you think is brown dirt”, says a student from Hamilton Public School (HPS). With a shovel in his hand for a video camera, this pupil and his peers who have created “Blue Gate Garden TV”, part of their entry for this first-time Kreative Koalas school, could be the next Costa Georgiadis.
The brainchild of the Newcastle school and filmed in their community garden, the seven-episode series aims to educate and inform parents, neighbours and others across Australia about the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It’s one of the many initiatives of HPS, led by assistant principal Zane Osborn and inspired by award-winning Medowie Christian School, who shared their Kreative Koala’s storytelling success tips. With the SDGs already embedded in their curriculum for the past two years, HPS applied for a Sustainable Schools Grant at the end of 2020. At the same time, they began looking at adapting the Centre of Excellence in Agricultural Education (CoE) No Bees No Future program to students learnings
“Kris Beazley from CoE who delivers the No Bees No Future program said to us ‘you’re doing Kreative Koalas without knowing about it. You need to get on their website and register your interest in the program”
“We were already on the way to producing Blue Gate Garden TV, and Kreative Koalas was the final piece of the puzzle that provided the pathway to pursue it.” says Zane.
The grant money allowed HPS to buy film equipment, and they hired permaculture gardener, sustainability educator and video artist Suzy Bates for the shooting.
To create the series’ scripts, exploring SDG goals such as Goal 2 – “zero hunger” – Zane’s students practiced informative and persuasive writing techniques. In the process, they drew upon the advice of Martha Atkins from Medowie Christian School in the NSW Hunter region. In her tips and tricks video Martha advises schools to make Kreative Koalas “front and centre” of their teaching program
“It’s a really helpful way to allow time and give you space to do this well rather than try to fit it in on top of what you’re already teaching,” Martha says.
Zane says when he saw what Martha had done he thought “this is incredible”.
“Martha certainly provided lots of inspiration based on what she did and the nuts and bolts of how to get it done,” he says.
HPS were already aligning every unit of work with a global goal and using novels such as Boy Overboard and Refugee to explore human rights issues, Zane says he didn’t envisage jumping into another program at the start of 2021.
“I didn’t have this in my scope, but once the year evolved and we started to go down this path with the bees we realised Kreative Koalas was a perfect complement ” he says.
After they held an ‘ideation design thinking day’, the HPS students came up with nearly 500 different ways of working towards fulfilling the SDG goals with a strong focus on SDG 15 – “life on land”.
“As we refined our brainstorming further, we took our inspiration for our model from Gardening Australia,” says Zane.
The school ended up dedicating a whole term to the project. After conducting all the research, storyboarding the episodes, learning how to use the film equipment and shooting, they spent about three weeks in early June filming.
In one episode of Blue Gate Garden TV, students Rafa, Luca, Ryder and Mateo demonstrate how to test the soil with a pH kit, using dye, sulphate, vinegar, bicarb soda, water and other materials. In others, three girls demonstrate how to “grow a pizza” with ingredients picked from the school’s Blue Gate Garden, and a boy pretends to be a bee escaping from a pesticide.
Blue Gate Garden TV featuring the use of pH Methods
With seven episodes done and dusted, there’s another ten of the series in the pipeline. While Year six has been the focus for Kreative Koalas, the success of the program for HPS has meant that year four and kindergarten have also done some filming for Blue Gate Garden TV. One year four class has been so inspired by the series, that they’re even hoping to create their own show!
Blue Gate Garden TV Making Wicking Beds
Making Kreative Koalas front and centre of their subjects put HPS ahead of the curve for the world-renowned schools Kreative Koalas when COVID lockdowns started. HPS’s supportive community of parents, also hungry for sustainable solutions to environmental problems, has also ensured its success.
“The things that you work hardest at are the things that you find most rewarding,” says Zane, who teaches geography, science, English, creative and performing arts, of his school’s Kreative Koalas results.
A “UN Blue Day”, an open day for the school to showcase the work they’re doing in pursuit of the SDGs, where they will launch Blue Gate Garden TV, is also planned once COVID restrictions are lifted.
“We are always looking for innovative ways to teach principles embedded in the UN goals for sustainable development, which are central to our programming at HPS.
“We also have a strong sustainability policy and several projects which promote a ‘think global, act local’ approach to issues.” says Zane.
Zane is an example of a teacher taking every opportunity to ensure their students have the best experience and are prepared for the jobs of the future, says A4A founder and national program director Lynne Strong.
“He is one of those people who plan, plan, plan, plan and he made sure that his students made the most of every non-COVID moment in term two to create Blue Gate Garden TV,” she says.
Zane, a teacher of a decade who has been at HPS for the past five years, says that his advice for other Kreative Koalas teachers is setting aside time and making the program a learning priority, as it’s already connected to so much syllabus content.
“It’s becoming the best practice model for education where students can see that the Science, English and Math they are learning are all connected to real world issues.
“It allows you to create more meaningful and more relevant learning for students.” he says.
Hamilton Public School Blue Gate TV talk Biodiversity
Having participated in Kreative Koalas for the past two years, Martha Atkins says that in 2019 Medowie Christian School realised that the program “ticks off so many outcomes in nearly every subject, so we didn’t need to do it as an added extra”.
“We could make that our whole program for the term or the whole two terms and for a whole semester our main program for science, art and English,” she says.
Like all schools in lockdown areas the pandemic situation for students’ learning is far from ideal, and schools like HPS are doing the best they can to ensure no student is left behind.
Kreative Koalas had helped to keep the students engaged in what had been an “incredibly challenging” time.” Zane says.
Hamilton Public School also followed Martha’s advice to take lots of photos of your journey
Medowie Christian School’s tips for Kreative Koalas
Shoutout to our supporting partners nurturing next gen changemakers