IEU Environment Conference:

Think Connect Act

The fifth biennial IEUA NSW/ACT Branch Environment Conference: ‘think, act, connect’ aimed to provide practitioners with inspirational ideas to take back to their schools and centres, and feedback suggests it was successful in its aim.

Conference Convenor Gloria Taylor explained how the conference arose from her conviction that teachers could keep the green message alive even while the world’s politicians floundered.

“We work hard to make sure this conference is relevant to all who attend, with highly practical ideas,” Gloria said.

The conference was registered for four hours accreditation with NESA.

Public School Parent of the Year 2015 and member of the Gamilaroi people, John Blair, set the tone for the day with the Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners. He emphasised the connectivity between life and the land.Keynote speaker Kirsty Costa provided a well targeted overview of sustainability, with pointers to a thousand useful resources on the Cool Australia website for everyone in early childhood, primary and secondary teaching.

Participants then split off into smaller groups for a number of workshop sessions.

After lunch participants were wowed by the ever energetic TV gardener Costa Georgiadis, who spoke of the need for teachers to tell an authentic story, and was generous with his time despite having a plane to catch. The recipients of the IEU Environment Grants then held workshops full of practical tips about how to run projects and apply for grants.

Journey’s start

Maryanne Dwyer from Loreto Normanhurst said her school is just beginning its sustainability journey. Bottled water had recently been banned and the café would only provide coffee to those with ‘keep cups’.

‘We’re setting up a kitchen garden and really excited to get some ideas and inspiration,” Maryanne said.

“It’s really great to be exposed to people with so much passion.”

Connect to nature

Natalie Hendricks is the librarian at Monte Sant’Angelo Mercy College in North Sydney, and also runs the College’s Indigenous program.

“Days like today remind us how important it is to be connected to nature and how it grounds us,” Natalie said.

Project Mercy Action Group has a green team and Natalie would be taking back some tips for them, especially how to attract native bees to the garden.

Free resources

Margaret O’Donnell works in the Kirinari High Support unit at Xavier College Llandilo and said she had picked up some “fabulous ideas” from the conference.

“I loved the TerraCyle workshop as everything is free. It can be a struggle to get resources so that was really useful.”

Digitally green

Sustainability is a challenge for Kym Dixon from Southern Suburbs Mobile Preschool but she said she had picked up some “amazing ideas” about how to engage others in projects and how to recycle containers to encourage children to grow plants at home, recording their growth digitally.

IEU Environment Committee member and Bishop Druitt College Coffs Harbour teacher Brett Bennett has an extra incentive to learn about sustainability.

The grounds of Bishop Druitt College are home to the endangered giant barred frog.

A creek running though the school that provides habitat to the frog is threatened by the Pacific Highway bypass, which will go right over it.

Brett said the students will be part of a campaign to make sure the frog’s habitat is safeguarded. A photo of the frog on the Department of Environment’s website was actually taken at the school. See