Winters Flat Primary School in Castlemaine is a leader among Victorian schools for sustainability practice. This focus on sustainability and the environment informs life in the classroom, in their playground and gardens, and spreads to the families and wider community.
In 2015 Winters Flat achieved Five Star Certification and won the ResouceSmart School and Teacher of the Year. The certification was renewed recently, as the original certification was valid for just five years, and much dedicated work from the Principal, Suzanne Kinnersly, the staff and the students went into documenting the many ways in which Winters Flat PS is sustainable, including …
- Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program – Children grow vegetables, then on a rotating basis classes from Grades 2 to 6 prepare delicious meals for their own lunch in a purpose built kitchen. They learn about the cycle of life, where food comes from, how to cook nutritious food, how to make and use compost. Nothing is wasted.
- The Chook Palace – Chickens provide eggs and are cared for in a fox-proof enclosure.
- Nude Food – Students are encouraged to bring healthy lunches to school in lunchboxes, without packaging.
- Other School Projects include a bush tucker garden, a birdscape tree planting, heritage Valonia oak tree propagation, and sweet Bursaria trees for Eltham Copper Butterflies.
- There are over 30 solar panels installed on the roof which covers over half of the school’s power needs, these installations were installed with financial support from the Victorian Dept of Education.
- War on Waste – Currently the school students are campaigning to prevent plastic fruit stickers from polluting the environment. These stickers do not break down and are a nuisance in the compost so this campaign is to encourage producers to look for new ways to sell fruit to eliminate the need for these stickers.
The School employs Terry Willis as their gardener and sustainability specialist. During our visit Terry showed us the Valonia Oak tree’s acorns with their unusual seed structure, which were used in the leather tanning process at Castlemaine in the 19th century. These trees were imported from Smyrna in Turkey by George Cunnack, who had a tannery on the site of the School. These oaks are very rare in Australia, hence their heritage status and link with local goldfields history.
On our visit to the School we were shown around by three keen students, Zahyra (a school captain) and Amelia (with her chicken and baby chick she had brought to school that day), both Grade 6 students, and Athene, Grade 3. The students were enthusiastic, articulate and passionate about the ways in which their school is helping the environment, giving us hope for the future. Principal Suzanne Kinnersley and gardener Terry Willis also keenly shared the School’s ethos and ways to achieve realistic goals.
– Frances Gall & Simon Veitch