Mary’s Mount Primary School (MMPS) is a single stream Catholic Primary school leading the way in its sustainable practices from Kindy upwards and Little Green Steps WA had the privilege of exploring the school and celebrating its successes at Mother’s Day Assembly in 2021 with passionate Sustainability Lead, Belinda Henderson.
The School Green Team take action and share sustainable news to all ages in the community and through Belinda’s direction these sustainable actions become embedded throughout the year.
It was hard to know where to begin as Mary’s Mount is so very active across the Sustainable School’s Framework of Ecological Footprint and Social Handprint and as we walked around, the evidence of this school’s sustainable community involvement was everywhere.
Caring about the wider community during Harmony Week and learning from Traditional Owners; conserving water both in play and collection processes; actively moving around the school and using renewable energies and enjoying nature spaces to care for country, to explore biodiversity and to grow, harvest and recycle food waste are just a few observable actions on this day.
In the library, a large ‘jelly fish bloom’ is on display made from old milk cartons, plastic bags and discarded curtain fabric - MMPS was one of many schools around WA taking part in the Fremantle Market’s School competition in 2019 for raising awareness of plastic damage to ocean biodiversity.
To begin the reducing waste process, a waste audit is done at the end of each year by the Year 4 students as both a measure for guiding the school’s sustainable direction and a criterion for selecting future Green Team members, which in turn provides those selected with the agency and motivation to become active behaviour change makers.
Interestingly, Belinda reflects ‘when we began the audits 5 years ago, we had 420 plastic packaging waste items in our bins destined for landfill but in the 2020 audit we had reduced this to just 20 items. A good indicator they are on the right track.
Early Years Actions
We begin our tour of the many observable actions in the Kindy/Pre-primary spaces. The water tank off the Kindy roof sustains the sensory garden patches while the Kindy worm farm and compost bin are squarely located in the middle of the outdoor play area to encourage active engagement and immersion in the early year’s curriculum. A giant scarecrow made from recycled items as a STEM project, overlooks the outdoor play space and the whole school system of visually labelling their waste processes using the Waste sorted monster icon posters, invites Kindy kids to begin the reducing waste journey.
The closed loop system of earth cycling really begins in the Kindy space with children harvesting their own grown foods, using them in class and selling them to community at early years’ market days. The kids are very active in this process and use their play time to look for bugs to make sure their crops aren’t being eaten and use their own compost and worm wizz from their worm farm as fertiliser.
Meanwhile inside the Pre-Primary room, student-centred learning is taking place at a table set up to explore how waste gets sorted at a Materials Recovery Facility. The focus is very much on diversion and the fun involved through role play with trucks and bins (with correct colour coded lids) is far from contrived.
From here, we move into the Loquat Grove to explore where the Pre-Primary children (and up) get to enjoy ‘their Bush School’ experience one day a week, beginning in the learning circle under a giant ‘100-year-old’ Oak Tree – the origin of which is another exciting chapter in the story of Mary’s Mount. The Kindy children enjoy a run and play in this area most mornings to start their day with a positive experience in nature, giving them free choice hands on learning and unstructured social interactions.
The Loquat Grove
In 2017, the Loquat Grove was opened by parenting expert, Maggie Dent but the lead up to this moment relied on extensive community partnering: collaboration with experts to research, develop and source Six Seasons knowledge and garden design; the acquisition of resources from community over this time and hands-on creation through multiple busy bees lead by two dedicated parents Kate and Fay. They rallied together continuous hands-on help from the parent community for this area to come to completion. Stage 2 is underway this year.
Loose Parts and Nature play opportunities are abundant in this Grove – with recycled log climbs and crossings, tyre obstacles, creative recycle art and music installations. Children at play in the Grove apparently do not seem to deter from its role as a habitat space for local Quenda.
The “busy work” of the Grove takes place in the vegetable garden made up of six raised garden beds (created with a grant); a small green house (donated by Bunnings) to plant from seed and the bush tucker garden (also created with a grant). All the children are kept busy with weeding, watering, planting, harvesting, and conditioning the soil in this space.
The circular economics of life is being sustainably practiced on the day of our visit. In the Loquat grove’s Microbe City, Belinda demonstrates how the students make and sell worm tea for $2 just in time for market day before school assembly.
It is a whole school effort, the milk bottles are collected by early years’ families, the labels were created through a competition run in the Year 4 class and the Green Team do the making and selling of worm tea. The worm castings are harvested from two converted worm fridge farms then soaked in insulated water dispensers, one sourced off ‘Buy Nothing’ and the other, a donation from Bunnings.
A Waste Wise Schools Grant made their Microbe City possible with the start-up funds to purchase compost bins, worms, metal organic food collection buckets, watering cans, wheelie trolleys and gardening equipment for the students. Later Mary’s Mount purchased a garden muncher with the second grant that now enables them to process and recycle all their FOGO (food organics, garden organics) within school, diverting it all away from landfill.
Well done Mary’s Mount crew, Little Green Steps is keen to share to the early year’s community all the sustainable things you do.