Silverton was invited to be part of the DeforestACTION project as part of the Microsoft Innovative Schools program in April 2010.
We began with grade 5/6 students, introducing them to the issue of deforestation. We joined the DeforestACTION project via the TakingIT Global website and were given access to online resources which we used to gain background knowledge on the issue.
We took the Inquiry approach and for the first four weeks students were immersed in the issue. Students had access to on line resources; they communicated with experts via video conferencing and collaborated with other school s to develop a better understanding of the issue. These video conferences guided us through the stages of developing a project plan.
We developed a DeforestACTION Plan and presented our plan to the rest of the Global DeforestACTION team.
We decided to focus on the issue of Palm Oil and Deforestation.
Our school’s DeforestACTION plan was one of the two school plans that was adopted and adapted into what would become the global team project plan.
The next step was to support students that were inspired by the issue to pursue areas of interest related to this issue through group or individual projects.
The projects have extended their skills, creativity and knowledge beyond expectations.
Projects included radio interviews, displays, brochures, art work, computer simulation games, musical performances, outdoor simulation games, fundraising activities, lobbying activities including writing to companies and the government, multimedia presentations and Claymation’s.
The project for 2010 culminated with the Silverton “Kids Teaching Kids” Conference.
To raise awareness about deforestation, our students delivered five workshops around the issue to students from local schools and invited them to join the project in 2011.
Students gained support from councillors and education officers from the City of Greater Dandenong, local businesses and members of the community to plan and manage the event. The conference was a great success and has inspired other local schools to become involved.
In 2011 students have taken the DeforestACTION message to many more schools through the presentation of their palm Oil and DeforestACTION workshop at the Melbourne Water Kids Teaching Kids Environmental Conference. The workshop included a PowerPoint Presentation, a dramatization, written, performed and filmed by students and a taking action segment.
Students have invited many other students to become involved in this issue by supporting them to write letters to companies that use palm oil in their products, outlining their environmental concerns and urging them to switch to sustainable palm oil. Students also invited other schools to join the DeforestACTION Project and asked them to support the land Adoption scheme that would fund the establishment of a sanctuary for orang-utans and revegetate an area of rainforest in Borneo.
As a result of these workshop presentations our students were invited to The Melbourne Zoo to join their ‘Don’t Palm us Off’ campaign. Students were invited to set up a Palm Oil and DeforestACTION display near the Orang-utan enclosure and to talk to school groups and the general public about the issue. Students gave people brochures with information about the issue and urged people to write to their Member of Parliament asking them to support the changing of our Food Labelling Laws to include mandatory labelling of palm oil as palm oil not vegetable oil as current laws allows.
Students did a presentation to our school community at our school concert and ran an appeal to raise funds for the adoption of land through the land adoption scheme.
We reached our target of $500.
During s the school holidays our two Environmental Captains met with our Member for Parliament to speak to him about the issue of Palm oil and deforestation and to specifically ask him to support the amendments to the Truth in Labelling Bill which was up for vote in a few weeks’ time.
They outlined their concerns and asked him to give us an update on current the negotiations taking place. They also asked him to suggest other avenues that we might take to tackle this issue as the government’s stance on Truth in Labelling Bill as it did not sound promising.
They also asked him what strategies our government had in place to address the issue. He promised to give us some information about what our government is doing to help. We followed up with a transcript of the meeting and send it to him as a reminder. He sent us the information as promised.
The students also asked him to open our Kids teaching Kids Conference and also asked him to attend the Palm Oil and Deforestation Workshop. He did both.
From 2012 -2014 students from grade 3/4 have been introduced to the issue of deforestation and they have been involved in researching the issue, developing their own projects and have taken action in the form of writing letters to companies that use palm oil in their products. Teachers from all levels at our school are now looking for ways to engage younger students in the issue with the support of the DeforestACTION team.
DeforestACTION has become part of our school culture leading to many other positive environmental and social changes.
For example, students have alerted canteen staff to products that have palm oil in them and the canteen staff has taken action by removing these products for sale.
Our parents and Friends Association have made a commitment not to use any palm oil products at school fundraising events and now use fair trade products and have sourced recyclable packaging options.
Students have taken the message home and parents are now talking about palm oil in products and are sourcing alternative products for their families.
The overwhelming response from our community has been one of support and encouragement and a sense of following up on something that is important and valued.
In 2015 we will be introducing a new group of students to DeforesACTION and the Earth Watchers Program which is an online tool that gives students the opportunity to adopt a parcel of land within a rainforest area in Borneo. Students have access to satellite and radar technology data that allows them to monitor land use and recognise for signs of deforestation on their land. The project has also provided students with authentic and rich learning tasks that cover many disciplines and challenge students beyond what traditional teaching and learning models would offer. Most importantly it has given them an opportunity to make a difference.