Students with a passion for a greener, cleaner planet gathered for the inaugural Sunshine Coast Schools’ Environment Summit hosted by Matthew Flinders Anglican College on Tuesday, 23 August.
The student-led Summit was a great success, bringing together more than 40 like-minded, eco-conscious students from schools across the region to share ideas for more sustainable schools and communities to help protect the natural environment.
Attendees included staff and students from Flinders as well as from Sunshine Coast Grammar School, Burnside State High School, St Andrew's Anglican College and Coolum Beach Christian College.
The event was held on campus at Flinders and hosted by the Flinders Environment Authority (FEA), a student-led co-curricular club with a mission to achieve net-zero emissions for the College.
The FEA also strives to help Flinders achieve long-term sustainability goals on campus, such as introducing charge points for electric vehicles and a whole-College recycling program, the removal of single-use plastics in lunch boxes and the tuckshops, and to promote educational awareness on major environmental concerns.
The event supported Flinders' commitment as a Round Square school to upholding the Round Square IDEALS of Internationalism, Democracy, Environmentalism, Adventure, Leadership and Service.
Round Square schools encourage their students to develop a "spirit of Environmentalism: understanding our place in the universe, the forces that shape our surroundings and the impact we have on those surroundings."
Flinders' FEA students and Round Square Ambassadors helped to organise the Summit to learn, share insights and become more empowered as young environmentalists keen to build the knowledge, empathy and awareness to be decision-makers in the future.
Guest speakers were from the Sea Shepherd Australia and the Sunshine Coast Council as well as Old Flinderian alumni James Linfoot (Flinders Class of 2015) who is an environmental engineer student at RMIT University in Melbourne and shared his work researching mining impacts on the seafloor.
The program also involved activities, workshops and tours that highlighted exciting environmental projects the students, staff and community have been working on at Flinders over the years.
Flinders Environment Authority (FEA) Ambassadors Charlie McMahon in Year 12 and Abi Foster in Year 11 at the College, said it was great to see the next generation of environmentalists connecting with one another, actively contributing to the conversation on climate change.
Charlie said, “It was really good to meet students from different schools who are also passionate about the environment, and finding out what they are implementing, environment-wise, in their own schools.
“A great idea we learnt from one school was to provide more opportunities for environmental elements in the curriculum,” he said.
“The presentations were super interesting and taught us about what our Sunshine Coast region is doing to make itself more environmentally sustainable, and how the effects of climate change will impact us on the Coast in the future.
“On a personal level, the Summit has inspired me to aim to use less single-use plastics, and more reusable and sustainable materials when possible.”
Summit Program Highlights
Summit sessions included a tour of the half-hectare Flinders Farm with Farmer Jeff to learn about the importance of growing food, composting and irrigation and how future generations can mitigate climate change using regenerative farming methods.
There was also a visit to the Flinders Primary School’s Edible Garden Project to meet with the Senior Primary students and teacher Mr Paul Anderson.
And an updated on the Flinders eBeast as an ongoing student-led journey to upcycle an old diesel into an electric car of the future.
Attendees also went on the Flinders Eco Experience, a one-kilometre self-guided walk through the Flinders campus using ‘tree caching’ technology to identify the amazing plant life and trees on the College property. The Flinders Eco Experience was created in 2019 by Environment Authority students as well as staff and experts in the community.
FEA Ambassadors thanked all students, staff, guests and volunteers who contributed their time and expertise, and the attendees for a wonderful first summit event.
Empowering Students to Make a Difference
Flinders Secondary Teacher Mrs Sheree Bell, who runs the FEA co-curricular club, said the event was an empowering opportunity for students who want to make a positive impact.
“Students who care about the environment are becoming increasingly aware that our world is under stress, and this awareness can often make them feel powerless,” Mrs Bell said.
“The Sunshine Coast Schools’ Environment Summit provided our students with an opportunity to develop their ideas and learn new ideas from peers from other schools.
“It was also a chance to share the wonderful projects our club has been working on at Flinders over the past few years.
“The keynote speakers and guests shared their environmental passion projects and challenged our students to move past their comfort zones and get involved.
“The visiting schools were rightly inspired to return home and make a difference in their communities. They brought great energy and ideas, and left with glowing praise for our students and the wonderful team at Flinders who made the Summit possible.”
Cover photo: Sunshine Cost Schools' Summit attendees visit the Flinders Primary Edible Garden Project