AuSSI - Areas of activity

AuSSI is a broad framework incorporating a wide range of activities which help schools and their communities to become more sustainable. Individual schools may choose to focus on certain areas that are of most relevance and interest to their school community.

Actions and projects in each of the areas below can be incorporated into a variety of curriculum areas including science, technology, geography, English, mathematics, history and the arts.

Action areas which can be incorporated into AuSSI are:

Energy

Energy is a complex area with far reaching ramifications for society and the environment. It is particularly relevant to mitigating and adapting to climate change. Many individuals and organisations are becoming increasingly concerned about energy use and are taking steps to reduce their consumption as well as looking for alternative, cleaner forms of energy production.

When addressing energy through AuSSI, students can develop a diverse range of knowledge and skills as well as participating in direct action. Energy can be incorporated into many curriculum areas including science, mathematics, technology and the arts.

By addressing energy through AuSSI, schools can benefit in many ways. They can conduct energy audits, establish procedures to minimise energy use in lighting and heating, receive support to install solar power systems and reduce their overall energy consumption.

Waste

Almost all waste in schools and the wider community can be avoided, reduced, reused or recycled.

Many AuSSI schools implement a waste management program, addressing where waste comes from, where it goes and how individuals can make a difference. This is an area which is readily accessible and understood by students of all levels. It provides excellent opportunities for students to take creative leadership roles in a variety of ways and to make changes in their school and in their own homes.

Learning about waste and its management can be incorporated into many curriculum areas including science, geography, maths, technology, the arts and media.

By addressing waste through AuSSI, schools can improve their overall environmental impact, create a strong sense of community within the school through working towards common goals and include the wider community in making changes to their waste management practices.

Water

Water is a vital, valuable and precious resource. Although living on the driest continent on earth, where we are frequently affected by drought in many regions, Australians use vast quantities of water daily. It is critical for students of all ages to understand key issues surrounding water and to feel empowered to make changes, perhaps through looking for creative solutions.

Water can be incorporated into many curriculum areas including science, geography, maths, technology, the arts, horticulture, social studies and media.

Addressing water management through AuSSI can help schools reduce their overall water consumption, create drought-resistant gardens and consider implementing water harvesting practices.

Biodiversity

Biodiversity is all life on earth, living and growing, including plants, animals, humans and even the smallest unseen insects, fungi and germs.

The knowledge, skills, values and actions linked to this area are diverse and significant, and can easily motivate students of all ages to take an active interest in environmental sustainability. Through learning about biodiversity, and taking actions to conserve it, students gain a greater understanding of their place within nature, learn how ecosystems function and gain insight into the natural surroundings of their school and community.

Biodiversity can be incorporated into a range of curriculum areas including science, geography, the arts, history, English and mathematics.

Addressing biodiversity through AuSSI can help schools to learn more about their natural surroundings and local native species, and to take action to improve the health of the school grounds and community spaces. It can involve partnering with local Landcare groups or nurturing student-run school gardens growing vegetables, indigenous bush foods and native plants.

Climate change

Climate change is a topical contemporary issue that has resulted in heated international debate. It is certainly one of the most important environmental issues of our times and will impact greatly the lives of current students into the future. Through engaging with climate change, students can develop an understanding of the science behind it, as well as develop critical thinking and problem solving skills.

Climate change can be incorporated into a range of curriculum areas including science, geography, history, media studies and English.

Addressing climate change through AuSSI can help schools audit and improve their carbon footprint, as well as come up with creative ways to reduce their overall environmental impact.

Transport

We are all dependent on a range of transport methods and our choices in this area have a direct environmental impact. Students of all ages can be involved in learning about transport and in making informed choices, as well as taking an advocacy role within their families and community.

Transport can be incorporated into a range of curriculum areas including science, technology, mathematics, media studies and history.

Addressing transport through AuSSI can help schools design and implement whole school practices such as the walking school bus, with help from the local community.

Health and wellbeing

Improving the health and wellbeing of students, staff, families and community members can be achieved through AuSSI activities. Improving the school grounds, revegetating community public spaces, engaging in outdoor activities as part of conservation efforts, and growing vegetables in a school garden to be cooked and eaten in class are just a few examples.

AuSSI encourages the involvement of parents, friends and local businesses in school activities. This helps to develop a strong sense of community and wellbeing for all participants, which in turn contributes to local social sustainability. The action learning cycle of AuSSI helps build student confidence, leadership skills, a sense of belonging and empowerment.

Spirituality and values

Spirituality and values are interpreted and integrated into AuSSI in a variety of ways, according to the priorities and ethos of each individual school.

In secular schools, values education can be informed by AuSSI, with students developing a sense of responsibility and conscious environmental stewardship through engagement in AuSSI activities. In non-secular schools, a more specific religious context grounded in faith and specific religious teachings may be applied to this area, as in the Catholic education system.

In all schools, spirituality and values can also be explored through developing an understanding and respect for Indigenous people's ecological knowledge, which is inextricably linked to Indigenous spirituality, often referred to as 'connection to country'. This area can be incorporated into a range of curriculum areas including Indigenous studies, society and culture, religion, and values and ethics.

By addressing spirituality and values, schools can benefit by building a caring community of students and staff who are environmental champions.

Indigenous knowledge

The traditional Indigenous people of Australia have been custodians of the land for over 50 000 years and hold a wealth of traditional ecological knowledge which is being increasingly recognised globally for its importance in many ways including its sustainability ethos.

AuSSI provides opportunities for schools to connect to their local Indigenous communities and learn about bush foods and Indigenous land management practices while gaining an appreciation of Indigenous people's connection to country.

Indigenous knowledge can be incorporated into a range of curriculum areas as well as Indigenous studies, including society and culture, science, technology, music and the arts, religion, and values and ethics.

By using Indigenous knowledge, schools can maintain productive bush food gardens, grow native species and improve their knowledge of, connections with, and respect for their local Indigenous cultures.

Teaching and learning

AuSSI is based on a whole school approach to learning and the principles of education for sustainability www.aries.mq.edu.au/publications/aries/efs_brochure/ . AuSSI provides teaching staff with professional development and support to make the shift towards student leadership and ownership of projects and activities. Through engaging in AuSSI, teachers and students find opportunities to use real changes in the management of the school's environment and resources as the basis for lessons, projects and units of work in all curriculum areas.

AuSSI encourages teaching and learning in a range of settings, not limited to the classroom, and promotes critical and future thinking amongst all participants. The holistic model promoted by AuSSI results in an increased sense of community within the school, increased student motivation and empowerment due to students' sense of project ownership, and satisfaction for all involved.

Community

The AuSSI approach to education for sustainability strongly encourages the involvement of the local community in school activities. For students to become active citizens and instigators of positive change in the future, they need an understanding of how to engage with local community groups and local government as well as experience in garnering community support.

AuSSI enables this learning and development through building communication skills and providing planning tools. Schools can benefit greatly from engaging with the local community, through developing improved relationships within local government and with local businesses, and can also influence these sectors significantly in positive ways.

Sustainable purchasing

Schools are involved in purchasing a wide variety of products and services including classroom resources, food items for canteens, equipment and furniture and building maintenance supplies. Decisions associated with these purchases can have a significant environmental impact.

By addressing the school's purchasing policies and practices through AuSSI, students can be involved in the broader management of their school, feel empowered to lead and create change and find creative ways to improve their school's environmental impact. For example, schools may decide to implement environmentally friendly purchasing policies or a regular waste free lunch day.

Sustainable purchasing can be incorporated into a range of curriculum areas including mathematics, science and social studies.

Further information