Switched on Schools

Being the change you wish to see in the world.
Mahatma Gandhil.

Two schools across the country are showing leadership in environmental ansd sustainable change. Agents of societal change, students from Freemantle Senior High School and Melbourne Girls College are partnering with local community, influencing policy makers and through change leadership, are intrinsically motivated to make a difference. Pedagogical transformation to an otherwise outdated and uninspiring curriculum has led these students to deeper learning and more ambitious expectations about their own future.

In 2012, Freemantle SHS became the first Carbon Neutral High School in Australia by reducing their fossil fuel use, implementing renewable energy projects and capturing carbon emissions through tree planting and using a ‘whole-school’ approach and with the help of community partnerships, Freemantle SCS, cut their carbon emissions by over 15% in the first three years of the Carbon Neutral Project.

Watch their video: Champion, audit, partner, action, repeat 

With the aim of making their school carbon neutral

Melbourne Girls’ College is an award winning sustainable school, proudly partnering with the City of Yarra with the ambition to be Carbon Neutral by 2020. MGC is the 2015 recipient of the Zayed Future Energy Prize, receiving funding to put plans into action and now boasts an interactive PV solar array, pedal and ergo generators, a microhydroturbine and solar powered seal fountain with a strategy to reduce energy use to achieve their goal.

I had the pleasure of visiting Melbourne Girls’ College during a student led sustainability conference late last year. The passion, co-learning and collaborative culture among students from a number of schools involved in the conference was inspiring.

The MGC students also held an action to celebrate their school’s pledge and send a message to decision makers to follow their lead and power all schools and Australia with 100% renewable energy !

Huge congratulations to the MGC environment team, students, staff and parents for leading the way and adopting the pledge !

Victorian schools are encouraged to adopt renewable energy practices with the help of Sustainability Victoria, but so far none have achieved carbon neutral status.

The Victorian Department of Education and Training said two-thirds of schools’ total energy use was consumed outside of school hours. It also estimated that as much as 40 per cent of all energy use in schools is not essential.


What is most impressive is that both schools have leadership teams that enable student led deep learning.  The students experience the CNP at South Fremantle SHS in all learning areas. It is embedded deeply in the school curriculum, for example in sustainability themes in Science, Marine and Ocean, and Earth and Environment studies. It is embedded in qualifications such as our students’ achievements and hands on experience in conservation through endorsed community programs such as the Rio Tinto Earth Assist Program. It is equally embedded in community service; since 2008 South FreemantleSCS students have propagated and planted over 29,000 trees in the school grounds, in the Wheatbelt and in bush-fire affected Toodyay via our ‘Seed to Tree’ project.

Tree planting in the wheatbelt

Tree planting in the wheatbelt

By involving students in deep learning they become active in caring for our planet’s future, applying their learning in meaningful ways inside the school and outside in the community. South Fremantle SHS is one of only two schools in WA nominated to participate in STELR, a national initiative that encourages students’ participation in Maths and Sciences with a particular focus on renewable energy. Twenty one students attended the 2013 Australian Youth Climate Coalition Event – ‘Start the Switch’ workshops, mentoring and training in sustainability leadership.

It makes me so proud to know that young people are doing great things to make positive change in their schools and communities. These are the global citizens of tomorrow, TODAY.

It’s Real

More people are on the same page and acknowledge climate change is real. Climate change is not some mythical creature flying over rainbows.

It’s real.

Education is going to be part of climate action so that every person on the planet is aware of what climate change is and what needs to be done to achieve quality air, water and land across the planet.

Taking climate action: Global Goal 13:

What is Global Goal 13?

“Climate action” sounds like a vague term. But it basically means doing your part to keep the planet clean and healthy. Ok, still not clear?

Channel your inner hippy for a moment… Continue reading

The A in STEAM and climate change. 

We are hearing much about STEM but I’m advocating for the rightful inclusion of the Arts and a place for STEAM.

I am wanting to hear from schools where leadership and educators have supported their learners to respond artistically to the issues surrounding climate change.  This may be in the form of the visual arts, music, theatre, dance, literature and or cinema.

Hoping to be proven wrong, it is my feeling that educators do not highlight climate change in the curriculum.  It’s not a hot topic (pardon the pun).  Traditionally slotted into the curriculum under Science and Geography, many educators are insufficiently informed, too fearful of tackling what they see as a controversial topic or both.  The links to many issues of global significance can be traced to the warming of the planet.

In the sphere beyond the classroom I’ve come across a group called CLIMARTE and a theatre troupe called ClimActs.

CLIMARTE’S mission is to harness the creative power of the arts to inform, engage and inspire action on climate change.  Climarte will present their ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2017 festival which will run from 19 April to 14 May 2017. 

ClimActs is an Australian theatre troupe playing a role of peaceful protest to support demands for social justice and human rights.  Using striking spectacle as well as satire to communicate and educate on the urgency of climate change, each act has been carefully created to address an aspect of the climate debate. For instance, the Climate Guardians represent selfless and fearless care and guardianship, the Coal Diggers epitomise the recklessness and insatiable greed of vested interests.

The Climate Guardian Angels in peaceful protest at the COP21 talks in Paris 2015


School leaders and educators, don’t forget the A in STEAM and broaden the opportunities for young people to find their voice and respond to the concerns of their generation.

Don’t forget to contact me if your school is already taking this approach.


Marilyn Snider is an Australian global education activist who promotes a dynamic, self-directed approach where learners explore real world issues and challenges whilst delving into deeper and more satisfying conceptual understandings. Creativity, critical analysis and action are hallmarks of her work. www.bethinkglobal.com.au



Action-the LOUDEST words-knitting nannas against gas       

As Knitting Nannasteachers we work towards our learners thinking through issues and forming morally just, ethically balanced views garnered from diverse perspectives.  We teach from the local aspect to the global view appropriate to the development of the learner.

I share this action-from a group of ladies who will not be silenced, who along with their shared passion of a grass roots craft (pardon the pun) are not afraid to voice their concern for the planet and the welfare of the grandchildren.

Knitting Nannas ask ALP for answers; get long yarn not worth knitting

Saturday, May 21, 2016  by Pip HinmanSydney

The Illawarra Knitting Nannas Against Gas (IKNAG) held a knit-in outside the office of the federal deputy leader of the ALP, Tanya Plibersek, in Sydney on May 16.

IKNAG’s Annie Malow contacted Plibersek with two questions asking for “yes” or “no” answers.

The first was: Do you support a ban on CSG mining in drinking water catchment? The second was: Would you move legislation for such a ban?

Plibersek was not in her office, but two of her staffers came out offering the Nannas several balls of wool — all the wrong colours.

Malow said: “We know how busy she is campaigning … but really, she left us 1.5 pages of waffle words about ‘gunnas’ and half policies. It was a long, long yarn not worth knitting.”

The Knitting Nannas annoy all politicians equally.

It is election time. We are asking all the candidates very simple questions. Pollies, if you don’t answer the question the first time, you will get to have another go. If you fail to answer thereafter, we will publicise that you refused to answer the question. Whether the electorate then takes that as being a refusal to answer or just darn plain ignorance is yet to be seen. The questions aren’t hard. The answers aren’t hard. And we, the public, aren’t stupid, and are as sick as all get out of being treated that way. If you have problems with the grammar of the above sentence, please write it down with the appropriate corrections and send it to your local MP.  Their ghasts will be flabbered

Knitting nanas against gas

The publishing of these views do not necessarily support any political party or alliance.


Climate Change and the Curriculum

I had the privilege of writing the teacher notes for Guarding Eden by Deborah Hart.  Deb is climate campaigner and brings together the stories of twelve passionate Australian activists from all walks of life. Willing to deal with fall-out served up by the government, the courts and the media, these advocates inspire us to follow their lead.

This book would be a fine addition to the Senior Secondary Curriculum.  It heightens persuasive writing, analysis, critical thinking, moral and ethical understanding, and enriches English, Earth and Environment Science, Humanities and Social Sciences.

Guarding Eden

Guarding Eden

Who is a refugee?

World Refugee week takes place from Sunday 19 June to Saturday 25 June. Many students and teachers find the terms ‘refugee’ and ‘asylum seeker’ confusing.  I encourage schools to acknowledge the week and teach their students at least these definitions:

Who is a refugee? 
Any person who owing to a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country.
Who is an asylum seeker?  A person  who has applied for protection as a refugee, but whose claims have not yet been recognised by a government. However, since recognition by a government is not required to meet the definition of a refugee, an asylum seeker may also be at the same time a refugee.
Who is a migrant? A migrant is a person who makes a conscious choice to leave their country to seek a better life elsewhere. Before they decided to leave their country, migrants can seek information about their new home, study the language and explore employment opportunities. They can plan their travel, take their belongings with them and say goodbye to the important people in their lives. They are free to return home at any time if things don’t work out as they had hoped, if they get homesick or if they wish to visit family members and friends left behind.
You can also find definitions of who is ‘climate refugee‘ and who is an internally displaced person?

Also useful-

The top 20 countries that have granted protection to refugees in the 21st century
Resources to assist teachers


If you are interested in participating in a collaborative global project researching the topic of refugees, please contact me at marilyn@bethinkglobal.com.au






TAKING ACTION and a new book on climate change


Global competence Taking action

Take Action

What skills and knowledge will it take to go from learning about the world to making a difference in the world? First, it takes seeing oneself as capable of making a difference. Globally competent students see themselves as players, not bystanders. They’re keenly able to recognize opportunities from targeted human rights advocacy to creating the next out-of-the-box, must-have business product we didn’t know we needed. Alone or with others, ethically and creatively, globally competent students can envision and weigh options for action based on evidence and insight; they can assess their potential impact, taking into account varied perspectives and potential consequences for others; and they show courage to act and reflect on their actions.

“We can choose the path of sustainable development” – open letter to world leaders – Action 2015.

Speaking of making a difference by taking action, I had the privilege of writing the teacher notes for Deborah Hart, author and herself a climate campaigner, brings together twelve passionate Australian activists from all walks of life.  Willing to deal with fall-out served up by the government, the courts and the media, these advocates inspire us to follow their lead.

Guarding Eden

Taking action in 2015

Guarding Eden