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St Andrew’s (Eco) School for Girls: Our road to Diamond status

| March 24, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Rowan Wepener and Caterina Cannone

St Andrew’s School for Girls in Senderwood, Johannesburg, in Gauteng, has been part of the WESSA Eco- Schools Programme since 2004.1

In this article, we would like to share our projects with other schools that may be wondering how to ‘go green’. St Andrew’s achieved International Eco-School recognition when we were awarded our Platinum status as an Eco-School following the submission of our 2011 and 2012 portfolios. This year will see St Andrew’s achieve the ‘Diamond Decade’ award, in recognition of our 10 years of involvement and dedication.

About Eco-Schools

Eco-Schools is an international programme that operates in over 51 countries worldwide, and in 1 500 schools. The programme is about improving environmental management at the school, as well as the development of environmental interaction with the broader community. Eco-Schools South Africa set specific criteria that schools need to meet within at least five years. Progress in the areas of curriculum, action and community is reviewed annually, and successful schools are awarded a flag or certificate to mark their school’s Eco-School status.

The curriculum component raises awareness of and supports action in environmental and sustainable developmental issues through lesson plans and activities linked to the curriculum learning areas.

The action component encourages learners to take an active role in running their school for the benefit of the environment. It teaches learners to take responsibility for issues that relate to their immediate surroundings.

Learning beyond the classroom is encouraged through the community component and develops responsible attitudes and commitment, both at home and in the wider community.

Conscious of the code

St Andrew’s School for Girls operates within the Eco-Schools code, which states:

We shall ensure that relevant environmental day/weeks are celebrated in our school:
Both the senior and junior schools aim to select one day and week per term to focus on an environmental issue. During this time, various learning opportunities take place and these link to the relevant eco themes. Environmental days are also highlighted termly in the school’s printed calendar.

Our school grounds will be used as a teaching tool in relevant subjects:
Our teachers aim to use our beautiful and extensive school grounds as often as possible to aid their teaching. Our learners are given the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate their surroundings. Learners share the responsibility of caring for special gardens, such as our butterfly garden.

We shall endeavour to provide opportunities for guest speakers to address the students on relevant health and safety issues:
We aim to include at least one guest speaker per term to address our learners in special cultural assemblies or talks. Relevant health and safety issues are addressed within the life orientation programme.

We shall focus on developing environmental knowledge and awareness through the curriculum:
Whole school and phase planning sessions incorporate the Eco-Schools focus areas (or themes) chosen for the year. Our teachers display eco-day calendars in their classrooms and highlight the relevant themes within their curriculum where possible. Successful lessons are shared with other staff members.

Annually, the following five themes are followed to meet the stipulated criteria for Eco-Schools membership:

  • Nature and biodiversity
  • Healthy living
  • Resource use
  • Local and global issues
  • Community and heritage.

We maintain a portfolio that includes details of lessons and weekly planning schedules, as well as photographs or evidence from environmental events, activities and themes.

Here is a brief synopsis of St Andrew’s School for Girls’ Eco- Schools portfolio:

1. Nature and biodiversity

  • Organic vegetable garden – this spring 2014 initiative gave learners an opportunity to become involved with the management of the school’s vegetable garden. The produce is incorporated into our kitchen’s daily menus for the boarding house.
  • The bird garden is an area reserved for bird boxes and feeding stations. We also have ground nesting birds on the property, and their nests are demarcated and protected during the breeding season.
  • The butterfly garden is filled with indigenous plants and a butterfly water station.
  • The owl release programme is managed in conjunction with the Eco-Solutions urban owl release project.2 Together, we have successfully rehabilitated and released three pairs of barn owls and one pair of spotted eagle owls into the school grounds and surrounding areas.
  • Our portfolio has also included tours and outings to animal sanctuaries and reserves, participation in the Big Five3 competition and our award-winning gardens.

2. Healthy living

  • Healthy food is provided at the tuckshop, as well as Bottle2Build water and juice bottles,4 which are also dispensed at sporting activities. The used bottles can be put into frames and used to build new classrooms in underprivileged schools.
  • First aid courses are provided for all staff members. Our school also takes part in CANSA5 events, holds regular sports lessons and events, places sunscreen dispensers around the school, and encourages our students and staff to join in Families South Africa (FAMSA)6 bullying and cyber-bullying workshops and talks.

3. Resource use

  • We work with waste management company Enviroserv,7 and ensure that there are sufficient extra recycling stations ‘manned’ by volunteers from our dedicated group of learner volunteers at all large school functions.
  • In August 2010, we became a centre for the recycling of e-waste. All members of the St Andrew’s community are encouraged to drop off their e-waste here to be recycled.
  • The school kitchens and eating areas recycle wet food waste using the Bokashi8 system. This treated waste is then added to our compost heaps and the compost is used in our award-winning school gardens.
  • Sponsorship from Ocean Fresh Seafoods9 enabled us to install JoJo tanks10 to collect rainwater for use wherever the campus needs it.
  • We actively celebrate International Recycling Day,11 and stress the importance of recycling on a daily basis, such as through the introduction of reusable covers for books for grades 4–7, participating in the ‘Collect-ACan’ 12 competition and e-mailing notices and newsletters to parents instead of printing them on paper.

4. Local and global issues

  • Regular local river clean-up events are organised by our environmental task team of Grade 12 learners, and involve volunteers from other grades.
  • We participate in Earth Hour,13 and keep our community abreast of environmental current affairs via special events boards, subscriptions to newspapers and the TV in our media centre, which screens news broadcasts during the school day.
  • We participate in the Stop Hunger Now14 programme in the senior school, and hold regular photographic competitions to highlight ecological issues.
  • In 2014, our special focus was water and food security.

5. Community and heritage

  • Every winter, we organise a hike and trail run, known as the Linksfield Ridge Eco-Hike and Clean Up, to raise awareness and funds for our outreach programme, Umbambiswano. The event also allows us to do a clean-up of our surrounding area.

At the end of October 2014, it was with great pride and joy that we were able to submit a photo book story of our 10-year journey with the Eco-Schools family. We hope that our story will provide other schools with ideas to kickstart or re-energise green journeys.

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Category: Autumn 2015

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