Schools involved in the 2022 Kreative Koalas – Design a Bright Future challenge are well advanced on their SDG journey of discovery and are in the process of designing and delivering their Community Action Project (CAP). To empower students’ further Action4Agriculture connects them with similar sustainability programs, for alone we are smart but together we are brilliant.
Let’s meet Catholic Earthcare, which delivers the sustainability message and SDGs into Catholic schools across Australia.
The Catholic Earthcare Schools program “responds to the ‘cry of the earth’ to safeguard creation and provide a voice for victims of environmental injustice.”
In 2015 Pope Francis sent an appeal to Catholics around the world through Laudato Si’, which was a papal communication calling for environmental care, prayer and action. In 2020 he created a seven year action plan to care for our common home, with goals addressing the response to the cry of the earth, a response to the cry of the poor, ecological economics, adoption of sustainable lifestyles, ecological education, ecological spirituality and community resilience and empowerment. Earthcare Schools work within this framework, alongside programs for youth, parishes and families.
“Earthcare was an initiative from the Australian Catholic Bishops in 2000 to encourage people to care for the earth,” Earthcare Schools coordinator Gwen Michener says, “Our schools’ program was introduced two years ago and now has 251 schools (both primary and secondary) involved.”
The Earthcare Schools program has a five level certification process:
- Level 1 – affirming ecological practice
- Level 2 – ecological dialogue creating change
- Level 3 – ecological conversion and sustained change
- Level 4 – deep ecological conversion creating cultural change
- Level 5 – living an ecological vocation
“Most of our schools are at Level 1 or 2 with some at Level 3. I know there are more schools out there that are at Level 3, but they just haven’t had time [with COVID etc.] to document that,” Gwen says.
While the background and methodology may differ from Kreative Koalas, the activities and outcomes for students are familiar.
Kitchen gardens stand alongside worm farms and composting. Schools have waste free Mondays and Nude Food days and are involved with Clean up Australia Day and National Recycling Week. Environmental audits allow students to design their own action plans.
“For example we have a school whose students decided they wanted to work on biodiversity so they are making birdfeeder hotels, planting native trees and researching bees. They use iNaturalist to take photos and identify species. They participate in projects with outside organisations such as testing for water quality with Melbourne Water. They’ve been involved in the Kids Teaching Kids Environmental Conference and last term they held a sustainability expo for parents and community members. And because they are in the Dandenong Ranges they participated in the Great Australian Platypus Search using eDNA, which has given them a sense of ownership for their local environment,” Gwen says.
Earthcare Schools is a student-led national movement that harmonises with other sustainability programs across Australia and Gwen sees Kreative Koalas as an ideal fit for delivering Earthcare goals through collaboration. “We recognise work that schools have done in other sustainability programs and Kreative Koalas achieves what we are looking for. Our point of difference is having the Catholic theology embedded into our program and asking why, from a religious point of view, we should care for the environment.”
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