Above: Carranballac College students L-R: Lucy Canny, Julie Trinh, Dillen Mitchell-Kitton, Ali Khan and Nahum Felate playing sport on the new green areas.
The two prep to year nine campuses of Carranballac College were built in the rapidly growing suburb of Point Cook, west of Melbourne, in very dry conditions during the early 2000s – the last few years of the millennium drought.
Grassed playing spaces were not allowed to be watered under water restrictions at the time, and it was impossible to provide a green grass surface that would allow the students much scope for learning, play and enjoyment.
In 2008 the then College Director Peter Kearney gave me the task of making Carranballac a more sustainable organisation, with a major focus on greening the school playground surfaces.
In 2010, with assistance from a Victorian Government Vision for Werribee Plains Grant, we investigated if the local wetlands could supply the college with water. Our partner in the project, City West Water, advised us that the local wetlands could not supply the amount of water required in a normal summer let alone in ongoing dry times.
City West Water advised that recycled water would be the best solution. Recycled water in the Wyndham area is provided from Melbourne Water’s Western Treatment Plant. Receiving more than 50 per cent of Melbourne’s sewage, the plant recycles that sewage and re-distributes recycled water for farming, community and environmental purposes. The plant is famous for its conservation ponds and the habitat they provide for migratory birds from the northern hemisphere.
The supply pipes at the time could bring the recycled water to our Jamieson Way campus. A State Government Living Victoria Grant enabled the pipeline to be extended to the Boardwalk campus in late 2015, and also to supply recycled water
to an adjacent City of Wyndham reserve.
During the long process of investigation, securing funds and construction, a number of sustainable and environmental initiatives were introduced to the college. A student led Environmental Leaders team was formed, both campuses participated in the Schools Water Efficiency Program and recycling of paper, card, soft plastics, rigid plastics, batteries, compact discs, printer cartridges and containers all began.
Vegetable gardens, chicken programs, guinea pigs in classrooms programs, nude food lunches, and walk to school programs have all been introduced. Energy efficiency initiatives and practices were embraced along with tree planting at our local wetlands and participation in National Tree Day events and Clean up Australia Day.
"Vegetable gardens, chicken programs, guinea pigs in classrooms programs, nude food lunches, and walk to school programs have all been introduced."
With advice from experienced Waterwatch practitioners from the Werribee River Association and Melbourne Water, students undertook water quality testing of the wetlands, did local wetland bird observations, visited the Western Treatment Plant and studied migratory
bird species and their flight pathways along the East Asian flyway. The students also began their own long journey through the Kids Teaching Kids (KTK) program.
The KTK program has taken place at Carranballac College every September since 2010. All classes take part in at least one KTK environmental science activity, with students doing all the teaching, including science workshops, drama, song, theatre, debate and a range of other activities.
Each year during KTK week, the college hosts the Western Metropolitan KTK conference and invites other schools to take part, sending their own KTK teams or classes of students to the college.
The college selects a team of student environmental leaders to take part in the Melbourne Water KTK conference over two days, now being held at Melbourne University and Collingwood Children’s Farm.
Student Olivia Margeta was involved in the KTK program for three years and attended the KTK Conference in Mandurah in 2014. Olivia said the program helped her to build knowledge and understanding of how to help or prevent environmental problems.
“I learnt so many interesting facts throughout as well, that was one of the many perks of being part of KTK. It was more intriguing to watch, learn and listen from other kids instead of adults because if we can learn so many interesting things at our age so should you!” Olivia said.
"The students also began their own long journey through the Kids Teaching Kids program."
In 2014 KTK student studies of the sharp-tailed sandpiper, a migratory bird that can be seen at the Western Treatment Plant, was responsible for an exchange visit between Carranballac College and Jamsin College in Seoul, South Korea.
The water project has given life to many initiatives at the college. A project that started with recycled water has had wide reaching effects for staff, student and community health and morale, and for the local environment.
Parent and college council member Rebecca Fountain said that it was exciting to see the school using recycled water for irrigation purposes.
“The use of recycled water provides drought proof recreation facilities for the students all year round whilst saving precious drinking water and as an added bonus improves the amenity of the school. I particularly love that the students learn about the importance and value of water and that provides great economic benefits for the school as well as environmental benefits,” Rebecca said.
John Forrester is a staff member at Carranballac College. For further information email firstname.lastname@example.org