Stefanie Cook is an upper-primary school teacher from the Snowy Mountains, who has led the rollout of a series of recycling initiatives for students and teachers at St Patricks Catholic School.
An avid recycler, Stefanie, who has been recycling at home for as long as she can remember, recently turned her attention to how she could encourage the staff and students at St Patricks to reuse and recycle waste.
“For a while I just sorted through all the bins at school by myself, however I soon realised my vision of St Patricks becoming a recycling haven wasn’t feasible unless I had the support of the staff and students,” said Stefanie.
With the help of her recycling reinforcements, the Snowy Monaro Regional Council and Bournda Environmental Education Centre, Stefanie embarked on her mission to turn the staff and students at St Patricks into recycling warriors.
“The ‘recycling right’ program runs for 45 minutes and is designed to educate both staff and students about what things go in what bins, how to compost and some tips for minimising waste in the first place.
“The success of the program has really been contingent on getting other teachers on board with recycling in their own classrooms as the kids will generally follow the lead of their teacher.
“We have found that the kids are pretty cluey and switched on when it comes to recycling and it is actually the teachers that ask the most questions.
“There has been a massive shift in the attitude and behaviours of teachers and the school in its entirety, and the program, which was initially trialled for Years 5 and 6 only, is now being rolled out across the whole school.
“We have two bins on each campus (K-6 and 7-12) which we sort through each week and we also recycle things that can’t go into the recycling bins such as stationary, whiteboard markers and pencils through a company called TerraCycle.
“Lots of teachers are also finding innovative new ways to reuse waste in their own classrooms, such as using recyclable materials in art projects.
While Stefanie concedes there is a still a long way to go until St Patricks becomes the ‘zero-waste’ school she dreams of, she has observed a huge change in the way in which the whole school community thinks about recycling.
“Kids are talking about it more and more, teachers are starting discussions with their classes, we’ve really got the ball rolling and it’s fantastic to see,” said Stefanie.