Gardening guru and guest, Angus Stewart of ABC TV’s “Gardening Australia”, certainly had the attention of students when he admitted, “Manure happens every day – let’s make the most of it.” In fact, much of his presentation was about utilising waste – from kitchen scraps to manure to “worm wee” – in the garden. Stewart’s laidback style, with the occasional dad joke thrown in for good measure, was an excellent beginning to St Joseph’s Environmental Expo.
As principal Paul Greaves impressed on the students, “Let’s not have any normal classes…. there are matters we need to address!” Those matters involved a series of demonstrations and presentations focusing on everything from wildlife rescue and land care to weed eradication, appreciating biodiversity and learning firsthand what ‘firies’ do.
A highlight for most students – including visitors from St Patrick’s Primary, Lochinvar – was the ‘live’ demonstration by staff from the Australian Reptile Park, including Priscilla, the diamond python and Rosie, the roaming alligator. Hunter Wildlife Rescue’s John Penman was accompanied by Lacey, a bat which had been injured and cannot fly but which is a regular visitor to schools and other groups.
Event organiser and Science Co-ordinator Paulina Phillips said, “The day is largely motivated by my own passion for our environment. I think it is possibly the singular most important message we can impress on young people. I am hoping students will realise that St Joseph’s is willing to go to great lengths to stress the importance of caring for the environment. The issue is so much wider than just planting trees and turning lights off. I want them to recognise that the whole range of social justice issues runs parallel to every environmental debate.”
Year 9 student Ben Stanwell feels strongly about environmental issues, and said during the enviroday, “We’re putting so much effort into such an old, non-renewable and wasteful process which is mining coal and then shipping it away. In the Hunter we’re very affected by coal. A lot of people believe we have no economy without it. There are so many cleaner alternatives…. the mining industry could move towards less polluting materials. I think today we will see a shift in people’s outlook, a massive change in students' seeing things that will benefit the environment.”
School leaders Chloe Parker and Josephene Everett were enthusiastic about the day, with Chloe saying, “Composting, shorter showers – little things can add up and have a positive impact.”
In the words of Pope Francis, “…young people have a new ecological sensitivity and a generous spirit, and some of them are making admirable efforts to protect the environment. At the same time, they have grown up in a milieu of extreme consumerism and affluence which makes it difficult to develop other habits. We are faced with an educational challenge.” (n209)
St Joseph’s Lochinvar is meeting the challenge!