The Kreative Koalas – Design a Bright Future Competition asks primary school students to investigate one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and, surprisingly, this year is the first time a school has taken the deep dive into SDG7 – Affordable and Clean Energy. Gardeners Road Public School, in Sydney’s east, is that school.
Teacher Suzie Barr explains why Gardeners Road students chose this SDG:
“We spent a lot of time researching sustainability issues in order to select the global sustainability goal we wanted to focus on throughout our Kreative Koalas journey. Students identified and discussed sustainable development goals that are relevant to our local area, in order to bring about awareness within the school and wider community. Sustainable Development Goal 7: Clean and Affordable Energy was one of them. We had a number of students begin to ask questions about the lights that are used at school and whether or not any of the school’s energy was powered by renewable sources, such as solar. As a group, the students recognised that this was topic they wanted to learn more about and that’s when the journey began.”
This journey would lead them to agriculture – and to the production of their jeans and boxer shorts!
Kreative Koalas director Lynne Strong connected Suzie with cotton farmer and renewable energy innovator Karin Stark and before long Karin was zooming into the classroom. Karin and her partner Jon grow irrigated cotton near Narromine in central-west NSW and in 2018 installed a 500kW solar, diesel hybrid irrigation pump, the largest in the country at the time.
“I really enjoyed speaking with Suzie’s class, about what we do – grow wheat, cotton, barley etc – and how we converted one of our diesel pumps over to solar/diesel to make the most of our free sunshine! It’s saving our business $180,000 a year in diesel costs and reduces 500 tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere each year. Suzie had prepared the kids and they asked wonderful questions about where our cotton ends up, how much we grow (enough for 7 million boxer shorts) and about the benefits of using solar energy,” Karin says.
Gardeners Road students now have a greater appreciation of the role of renewable energy, farmers and agriculture in a sustainable future.
“Karin’s passion for climate action and renewable energy within agriculture has truly inspired us here at Gardeners Road! Her presentation was very educational and the images and information she shared throughout supported our students with developing their understanding of agriculture and the innovative ways it can be transformed (through the use of renewable energy) to mitigate climate change,” Suzie says.
For Karin, the opportunity to take her story to the open minds of the next generation was a powerful one.
“We want to inspire children to look to agriculture for fulfilling future careers and we can only do this by demonstrating the roles available in agriculture and the exciting innovations that are happening all the time to make farming more sustainable,” she says.
By starting their affordable and clean energy journey by asking if their school lights were solar powered, the inquiring students of Gardeners Road now have a deeper understanding of agriculture and a connection to their own world in the clothes they wear every day. This is the power of Kreative Koalas.
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