School stories

Case studies

Here are some case studies outlining a whole school approach to sustainability learning from school ethos, to managing resources, teaching and learning.

For case studies relating specifically to implementing a Return and Earn program, see Return and Earn in Action

Aldavilla Public School

An outdoor learning areaA strong environmental conscience can be communicated through our students to family, friends and the wider community to create wellbeing for all.

Community Projects Co-ordinator, Aldavilla Public School

Aldavilla Public School opened in 1992 and is located west of Kempsey in a rural setting close to the Macleay River and Stuart McIntyre Dam. In 2010 it has an enrolment of approximately 250 students, with a significant percentage of Aboriginal students.

Read the Aldavilla Public School story (PDF) or Word version (DOC)


  • strong school ethos and Principal support
  • student leadership via the Student Parliament
  • building sustainability into the curriculum
  • networks and partnerships driven by the Community Project Coordinator and students

Our goal

Environmental conscience classes encourage student leadership, cooperation, tolerance and environmental sustainability.

All Saints Primary School

We will be successful when what are now called 'environmental initiatives' becomes a normal part of everyday practice within the school.
Rose-Marie Hoekstra, Principal

Staff and students of All Saints Catholic Primary SchoolStaff of All Saints Catholic Primary SchoolFounded in 1828, All Saints Catholic Primary School is the third oldest Catholic school in Australia. It is very close to a large shopping centre in Liverpool in Sydney’s south west, so has limited open space. In 2010 it had 662 students. Students come from 54 cultural backgrounds and 90 per cent are from a language background other than English.

Although the neighbourhood is becoming increasingly urbanised, there are natural areas of the Georges River, Chipping Norton and Heathcote nearby.

Read the All Saints Catholic Primary School story (PDF) or Word version (DOC).


  • school ethos, governance and leadership
  • focusing on curriculum organisation and teaching and learning
  • accessing support and funding
  • creating biodiversity in an urban area
  • networks and partnerships, including a focus on parents and the home.

Our goal

The students’ capacity for understanding sustainability has grown, but it needs to be continually supported to keep the school active and focused on sustainability and environmental issues.

Bungwahl Public School

"Everything we make is always made from scratch, teaching the kids essential life skills that they will carry with them through the rest of their lives."

Nikki Dixon, Kitchen/Garden Specialist, Bungwahl Public School

Bungwahl Public School is a small government school in the lower North Coast region of New South Wales, which has served an isolated rural community since 1876.

We value learning, communication, respect and safety.

The tranquil location of the school offers a range of opportunities for environmental study. In 2011 the school won a United Nations Award for their Kitchen Garden program.

Bungwahl Public School garden Bungwahl Public School - possum in the chicken coop


  • delivering an excellent education in a warm and nurturing environment
  • school values of learning, communication, respect and safety
  • one of the first nine schools in NSW to join the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program

Our goal

"We feel that our students are developing an appreciation of the rituals and tastes of the table that will last a lifetime"

Sue Hobbs, Principal

Cringila Public School

Environmental Education works with kids on the fringe of learning. It empowers them with knowledge and skills and develops their trust in teachers. It gets learning happening.

David Lamb, former Principal

Cringila Public School has an enrolment of 156 students with three percent indigenous Australians, 45 percent from an Arabic background, 35 percent from a Macedonian background and ten percent from an African background. Historically the school has catered for children of migrant workers and new arrivals to Australia, and has a strong multicultural heritage.

Cringila Public School is adjacent to a steel works, and is five kilometres from the centre of Wollongong. The school also operates as a venue for many community groups including several preschools, a community church, a meeting centre for health and child development organisations and the Arabic Community Languages School.

Hear the students talk about their sustainable kitchen garden.

Read the Cringila Public School story (PDF) or Word version (DOC).


  • an understanding of how the parts benefit the whole
  • a focus on the best learning outcomes for students
  • a model for permaculture practice in education
  • outstanding networks and partnerships

Our goal

Gardens are designed and built to support the restoration of local plant, animal and bird habitats, and to acknowledge the school community's cultural heritage.

Chevalier College

Be the best person you can be by caring for other people, the community and the environment.
A student, after returning from Kiribati

Chevalier College is a 66-year-old congregational Catholic co-educational high school with approximately 1150 students. It is owned by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart (MSH) and operates within their Charism. Chevalier has 100 acres of well-maintained grounds in the NSW Southern Highlands.

Read the Chevalier College story (PDF) or Word version (DOC).


  • school ethos, governance and leadership
  • building sustainability into the curriculum
  • students leading change through an immersion program and student leadership structures
  • networks and partnerships

Our goal

The school motto is Fortes in Fide (Strong in Faith). Students are encouraged and supported to be the best people they can be and to be the best carers of others they can be.

Harrington Park Public School

At Harrington Park Public School, a group of students belonging to the Harrington Park Environmental Action Team (HEAT) are working towards improving behaviours and practices which protect the environment. At the start of the year they conducted a waste audit and, with the staff Environmental committee, have been driving waste associated actions in the school.

The following plans were included in the School’s Environmental Management Plan and associated actions have become part of school practice:

  • purchase worm farms for Kindergarten
  • increase the number of worm farms throughout the school
  • conduct ‘No Waste’ lunch days once a week
  • conduct Clean up Australia day challenge (we reduced lunch waste by 30% in one week one year)
  • look at additional ways to increase the amounts of recycling
  • introduce a ‘Cartridge Rescue’ recycling bin for printer/toner ink collection
  • purchase compost bins and introduce composting and take shredded paper to a local pet shop
  • do another waste audit in August to determine the effect of school actions.

The group approached the P&C which agreed to fund the purchase of needed items such as worm farm and compost bins. The team has observed that there is still some litter in the playground which may be associated with canteen purchases.

As a result of the team’s planning, it has been observed that practices within the school are changing and that students have benefitted from the authentic learning opportunities offered by the associated activities. Also because the student team drives the actions and documents planning in the management plan, improved practices should continue within the school.

Ashfield Public School

This is the story of how Ashfield Public School students became ambassadors for sustainable waste practices.

In 2014, in response to local concern about waste and littering the school community created a three week recycling challenge. For the challenge recyclable drink containers could be collected and 'cashed in' by students for house points with a prize for the winning team.

Students and their families were encouraged to collect recyclable drink containers from their homes and litter hot spots in the local community such as parks, public playgrounds and recreation areas.

At the end of each week students were given updates on their progress as well as tips about common mistakes like leaving non recyclable straws in poppers.

A total of 1261 recyclable drink containers were collected. The winning team, Riley House, collected 454 containers and was awarded a lunchtime disco.

Ashfield Public School teacher Elizabeth Lechlein recalls the enthusiasm the challenge brought to the school community and how the recycling message has become part of the student body's ethos.

“We had some kids begging their parents to take them to different known hot spots like car parks and the Cooks River to find recyclable bottles that could be cashed in,” said Elizabeth.

The school community is now focusing on organics in the playground. A three-bin system for recycling, organics and waste has been introduced through support from a number of grants. The organic waste is being managed on-site through new compost and worm farm systems and is keeping the school gardens healthy.

“The kids love pulling out the waste from the compost bin and getting a glimpse of the maggots!” said Elizabeth.

The benefits?

For the students?

  • Students learnt to 'look for the triangle' – the universal recycling symbol – which has helped them make everyday decisions about recycling waste that even their parents get wrong (like disposable coffee cups).

For the teachers?

  • A hands-on, practical learning activity that incorporated the entire student body.
  • Incentives were given to students to clean up the school grounds and beyond.
  • A whole-family approach to a fun, learning experience was encouraged.

For the local environment?

  • Local litter hot spot areas became cleaner.