Lowanna's Sustainable Vision

 Mrs Stewart Trent Euman and Nyachou Gawar in front of the Lowanna Aquaponics system using fish manure to fertilise vertical wall plants

Mrs Stewart Trent Euman and Nyachou Gawar in front of the Lowanna Aquaponics system using fish manure to fertilise vertical wall plants

Three representatives of Lowanna College have been invited to Abu Dhabi to attend the award ceremony for the Zayed Future Energy Prize.

Lowanna College is located in Newborough, a very picturesque part of Gippsland a regional centre within Victoria, Australia. The school opened in 1994, 23 years ago and can accommodate up to 1200 students, with 140 staff. Our guiding philosophy is "Pursuit of Excellence"!

In discussion with Trent Euman and Nyachou Gawar; the Zayed student ambassadors today, we would like to quote them as saying: “We want the world to know how to grow food sustainably and how to use energy sustainably.”

The principal of Lowanna, Brett Windsor, suggested that our program which has been designed to produce 21st Century sustainability knowledge and leadership skills, will promote student self-efficacy and has been proven to lead toward excellence in endeavours.

Our project involves two aspects:

The first is to improve our sustainability by providing solar technology classes, by installing an outdoor class room to demonstrate solar cooking and rocket stove cooking as well as water saving wicking garden beds for growing and harvesting vegetables.

We will be using a significant amount of the Zayed Future Energy Prize to improve the Lowanna energy footprint. Initially we plan to install $70,000 of solar panels then continue to reinvest the savings into further solar panels until our energy bill is close to zero dollars. We estimate that this process will save the school 2.5 million dollars over the 25 years of panel life. Or $100,000 per year!

The second aspect is to provide a Leadership for sustainability course to our middle school 15 & 16 year old students, who will learn leadership skills and sustainability concepts enabling them to become responsible 21st century community leaders. We want the world to know how to produce food and use energy sustainably.    

Our mission to become more sustainable started 17 years ago with the installation of  a 20,000L water tank in the school garden, however, finances have limited the progress of the Lowanna garden program.

During the application process for the Zayed Future Energy Prize, we have involved around 100 students but plan to involve many more. The application process involved 4 members of the teaching staff, two members of administration staff, our resource schools representative and the Baw Baw shire Energy Trailer sustainability promoter.

The application process was initially driven by staff, however, the project development involved three classes of middle school students who attended the Energy Trailer exhibition and the Resource Smart Schools workshop to learn about current sustainable energy techniques. Last year we had a middle school class attend the Australian Youth for Climate Change Summit at Latrobe University in Churchill.

One of the highlights of the development process was having the Australian Youth Representative to the UN visit Lowanna to interview the students about their thoughts on sustainability and future community needs which may impact on the reduction of greenhouse gases and global warming.

 Nyachou Gawar and Trent Euman in front of a Wicking Garden under construction

Nyachou Gawar and Trent Euman in front of a Wicking Garden under construction

This project is important for our school, but even more important for our region. Lowanna College is located in the heart of the brown coal belt in Victoria where all of Victoria’s coal fired power stations are located. While global warming is increasing and our coal reserves are diminishing, our power stations are closing. This results in a very challenging situation of needing to retrain the work force to suit more sustainable jobs in the future and a more sustainable global climate.

In order to demonstrate future energy and water reducing methods, Lowanna has installed several wicking garden beds (minimum 40% and possibly up to 70% more water efficient gardens), a solar powered aquaponics system, began the construction of an outdoor class room to demonstrate solar cooking and rocket stove cooking using school produced pellets and further we have planned classes to train students in solar manufacture and IT concepts.  

The production of organic fruit and vegetables from our own school garden and the involvement of students in that process as well as the harvesting and cooking will create and launch a systematic model for environmental and community health.

The main challenge was how to fit a new sustainability agenda into a school program which had already been established and aimed at providing excellence within the Australian Curriculum VIC VELS program.

The development of the project has enabled students to understand that there are two approaches to sustainability. One is to change energy production technology to more sustainable methods and the other is to reduce energy use. The students had heard about a push bike smoothie maker which was then organized so that students could experience using it. They absolutely loved making banana and raspberry smoothies and chocolate milkshake smoothies. As a result, some students want to make their own push bike blenders!

We have started on our sustainability journey, however the Zayed Future Energy Prize would help develop it at a greater rate and help us to promote the sustainable features and lessons with other Australian schools as well as those within the Oceana community.