Written by Jason Kimberely.
After a trip to Antarctica in 2005, I returned home to write a book about my adventures in the great white land.
While researching, I discovered that fishermen were netting krill (the basis of the food chain) by the boat load in The Southern Ocean. The krill were to be used as an additive in pellets, to feed cattle, that were grazing on cleared Amazonian rainforest, to grow burgers for Americans, who, one could argue, don’t need another burger.
I was horrified. I was on a mission to make a real difference.
Almost ten years on, more than 43 per cent of Australian schools are using Cool Australia’s online lesson plans, worksheets and digital library to educate our next generations. Cool Australia is shifting the culture of education by providing educators with support and resources to teach students to think differently and learn for life. Our curriculum resources are free to access for all Australian educators and nurture student talent, creativity and passion through real world and project-based learning.
In 2007 we discovered there are 2.7 million kids sitting in classrooms around Australia and we thought, ‘Well, what are these kids learning? What are they being taught in terms of sustainability?’
We did further research and found out that there was a lot of doom and gloom and a sense that everything’s buggered, and I thought to myself, if I were a kid at school that’s not what I’d be interested in learning about.
We really emphasise the positive stories, positive change and the positive things that are going on. Even though education can be a fairly serious business, we understood very early on that when you entertain, you educate.
We make things interesting and fun—rather than overwhelming students with heaps of information, we break things down into bits of readily absorbed, useful information whether that’s about water, waste, energy, biodiversity, climate change, consumption and mindfulness.
Last year, more than 28,000 educators, downloaded more than 125,000 of Cool Australia’s award-winning resources reaching more than 700,000 students. By preparing these lessons for educators we saved them more than $14.2 million in time alone in the last year.
Most of the activities use an integrated approach with a point of action that helps kids go out and take the next step—whether that’s management of the school grounds or things they do at home or money saving ideas for their school, all those different types of things. There’s always some sort of sense ‘where to next’ so that students can build success and give them confidence to tackle other challenges.
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The road to sustainability.
John Billington from Bendigo Bank saw the merit of what we’re doing four years ago and he really understood what kids are expecting of their banks not just now but in the next 5-15 years. Already, kids want to know if investments are ethical and whether those investments consider environmental, social and sustainability issues.
Bendigo Bank is an early adopter of this thinking and as our Coolest Partner we’ve been helping each other improve our offerings—we’re able to educate each other and that’s a great part of our partnership.
We’re also the school-based curriculum partner for a lot of national events like Clean up Australia Day, Earth Hour, National Tree Day and Recycling Week. We work with those organisations to create the curriculum material and link it back to those events.
So rather than having the kids just drop a tree in the ground for Tree Day and then walk away thinking, ‘Well that was fun, we got out of school for a half a day,’ Cool Australia offer curriculum aligned activities beforehand so the kids can learn what a tree does, what is habitat and why that’s important. That way, when they come to plant the tree, they’ve got the knowledge and follow up activities that add richness and greater depth of understanding around the event.
Investing in our life support system is incredibly important. When I go to speak with kids at school, there are silver linings everywhere. Kids tell me firsthand how they’re inspired to take action. This makes it all worthwhile. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing—it’s the least financially rewarding but most satisfying job I’ve ever had!
What can you do?
Direct your kid’s school to www.coolaustralia.org
It’s free to access, save educators time, is engaging for kids and teaches them real world understandings. What’s not to love?
Enviroweek – A year of action. A week of celebration. Runs from August 31st – September 5th.
How do you teach your kids about the environment?