Australia: Sharing Environmental Education with US

The National Energy Education Development Project (NEED) has a motto – “kids teaching kids.” In June, this motto was changed to “kids teaching teachers.” John Atkins, principal of Botany Bay Environmental School in Sydney, Australia visited the United States in an effort to learn more about sustainability and “green” education in the US. Chris Graillent from the California Department of Energy was instrumental in connecting Mr. Atkins to contacts in the “states.” Evergreen 6, a PG&E Solar School in Paradise California, was just one of several stops he made. As part of Paradise Intermediate School, Evergreen 6 has about 90 sixth graders that have learned several ways to reduce their impacts on the environment and to share those ways with others.

As they did for several classes of third graders, E6 students shared their knowledge about a number of topics with Mr. Atkins:

  • Facts about our sun
  • Sunscreen facts and rules for application
  • Solar cooking
  • The role solar cooking could play in many parts of the world that have energy shortages
  • Rain water harvesting
  • Composting with worms (vermicomposting)
  • Composting by pile (thermocomposting)
  • Solar energy today and tomorrow
  • Hydrogen Fuel Cell cars (model)
  • Alternative transportation (Hybrids, electrics)
  • Various grants received (PG&E Solar Installation, PG&E “Bright Ideas,” Paradise Community Foundation Recycling/Composting grant, California Schools Garden grant)
  • Parts of a solar system
  • Solar orientation
  • Fresnel lens
  • Net metering

Mr. Atkins was an outstanding “student” and was very generous in his questions and interest. Evergreen 6 students were lucky enough to spend a few hours talking about and questioning how things are different (and the same) in Australia. Then they were treated to a slide show on the Botany Bay Environmental School and some of their outings.

Students were surprised to find out that one rule, at this school in Australia, is that you may not participate in outside recess without a hat – it is compulsory. In the United States, hats have actually been banned from many schools for a number of reasons. However, when you think about what hats and sunscreen can prevent, it seems obvious to require hats outside.

If being able to spend the morning with this fantastic teacher from Oz wasn’t enough, Mr. Atkins presented the school with a boomerang, and personal lessons on how to throw one. After that, he was into his hybrid rental and off to another school visit.

The students and staff of Evergreen really felt fortunate for the visit. We felt validated that what we are doing is unique and worthwhile. We also learned so much from our virtual field trip to Australia. Now if we can just figure out how to take a trip down there….

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