Department of Education

Sustainable Schools WA

Sustainable Schools WA

Coolbinia Primary


Ecological Footprint Action Learning Areas

All students were provided with opportunities to contribute to the different aspects of the 10 Tonne Plan e.g. students from K-7 participated in gardening sessions, recycled food scraps and brought in aluminium cans, mobile phones and batteries for recycling.

However, as children moved through the various year levels they had the opportunity to focus closely on particular aspects of the Ecological Footprint at different stages of their schooling to provide in-depth learning experiences.

The scope and sequence for education for sustainability links directly with the Australian Curriculum ‘Science’:

  • Biodiversity: K-Yr3 (ACSSU002; ACSSU017; ACSSU211; ACSSU044, ACSHE013, ACSHE021)
  • Water: Yr 2 (ACSSU032, ACSHE022)
  • Purchasing and Waste: Yr 4 (ACSSU075, ACSHE062)
  • Air and Transport: Yr 5 (ACSSU077, ACSHE082, ACSHE217)
  • Energy: Yr 6 (ACSSU219, ACSHE099, ACSHE100, ACSHE220)

Year 3 students, for example, engaged with a Turtle Watch program ( that addressed the biology of turtles, as well as implementing turtle conservation actions.
Year 4 classes managed activities related to recycling, composting, litter prevention and worm farming, and engaged in lessons targeting waste management knowledge with associated skills.

Year 5 students were responsible for the various aspects of being a ‘water wise' school, such as planting endemic species, watering hanging baskets using rainwater from tanks and participating in incursions/excursions conducted by the Water Corporation. It is important that sustainable practices are embedded into the content of the curriculum taught and not seen as an add-on. The above examples illustrate how this is achieved for the Science content.

The scope and sequence for education for sustainability similarly links directly with other Australian Curriculum Learning Areas and in particular Geography (draft), History, English and Civics and Citizenship (draft).

Social Handprint Action Learning Areas

Strong links were developed between the ecological footprint and social handprint. For example, the money raised from recycling aluminium cans and mobile phones was utilised, through our partnership with the Solar Sister organisation, to purchase solar lanterns to replace polluting kerosene lanterns. By this means the community demonstrated global citizenship.

The following diagram shows how this worked:

A Global Perspective

A Global Perspective
(A larger copy of this diagram is also available)

Other partnerships resulted in students planting hundreds of trees in bushland, selling indigenous wrist bands and community displays of turtle conservation posters. These and other activities connected to Coolbinia Primary’s overarching vision (10 Tonne Plan) have clear connections to all 3 cross curriculum priorities: sustainability; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, and Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia.

In summary, the school implemented programs within a whole systems thinking framework to ensure all students, by the time they left the school, had gained an overall understanding of sustainability. Students were provided with in-depth exposure to all ‘action learning areas’ of the ecological footprint and social handprint, and had many opportunities to demonstrate appropriate actions and behaviours.

Upside Down Thermometer: Measuring progress

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) added to the atmosphere have been shown to cause the heat captured by the Earth to increase. Scientists developed a formula relating a certain weight of these gases to the temperature of the planet. The Upside Down Thermometer shows us how much we, as a school, have turned down the thermostat on the globe from what it would have been if we had not done those things. See the following Upside Down Thermometer diagram.

The left hand scale shows how many tonnes of GHGs our school has kept out of the atmosphere through planting trees, using solar energy, being ‘waste wise’, coming to school in a ‘travelsmart’ way, raising funds to benefit the environment and people, as well as many other actions. The right hand scale shows the impact of this on the temperature of the Earth in femtocelsius (1 /quadrillionth of a degree Celsius). It may only be small, but Climate Change is caused by everyone polluting a little bit at a time, and we will need to solve it the same way.

Each can on the Upside Down Thermometer represents 1 tonne of GHGs. Cans were removed as we moved towards attaining our 10 tonne goal. Students and community members were acknowledged for their actions through distribution of boyas.

Students & their Upside Down Thermometer

Students & their Upside Down Thermometer


Key results were:

  • The ‘10 Tonne Plan’ GHG goal for 2011 was achieved and confirmed by Maia Maia Emissions Reduction Currency System (environmental accountant). See:
  • All stakeholders contributed to the success of the initiative which promoted whole school, whole systems thinking sustainability outcomes.
    See the video clip at
  • The school community supported the adoption of a new GHG goal, a ’50 Tonne Plan’ for 2012.
Coolbinia Primary

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