May 25

G’Day family and friends!

Today was an extremely educational and enjoyable day for all of us. We arrived at Wanniassa Hills Primary School at around 9:15 and began our school day talking with the principal, Maree Uren, and a few other faculty members. We got the opportunity to ask them questions regarding their curriculum, students, staff, and issues on sustainability.

Wanniassa Hills offers preschool to grade 6 classes for the 420 enrolled students. The students come from a range of about 20 different countries. Out of the 420 students, 43 students are learning English as a second language, 17 students are Indigenous, and some students are African refugees. The school works hard to meet the needs of each student individually.

Wanniassa Hills offers French to their students. There are two band classes offered to years 5 and 6, which consists of 10 and 11 year-olds. Wanniassa Hills has an excellent team of special education teachers and helpers. Students with disabilities are placed into mainstream classrooms but also have their own support systems to help them with their personal struggles. Because of the numerous students with peanut allergies, Wanniassa Hills is a nut-free school. When it comes to daily meals, the students at Wanniassa Hills are well-informed about what it means to eat right. The school has a daily snack break at 10 a.m. where they are only allowed to eat fruit, vegetables, cheese, and other healthy, unprocessed foods. Lunch is either brought by the students or bought at the school’s canteen, which only sells healthy food. They do occassionally sell treats, such as chips and “lollis”, but these snacks are also low in fat and sugar. Principle Uren made her intention clear when she said “every child is represented somewhere!”.

Maree Uren and Cheryl Patrick, a reading response teacher, explained the original connection that Wanniassa Hills has to Michigan State University. In 1993, our professor Luke Reese’s daughter was involved in a program at her school in Haslett, Michigan, called “Keypal”, where she and her classmates communicated with students across the globe at Wanniassa Hills via email. Wanniassa Hills was the first school to have internet access in the Australian Capital Territory, and possibly in all of Australia. The technology of Wanniassa has only gone uphill from here. The school’s cutting edge technology has recently resulted in virtual learning environments that provide the students with an efficient way of communication, active learning, and connections between visual and audio lessons. Each classroom is equipped with mac computers and SmartBoards. SmartBoards are projection screens that incorporate audio, visual, and written abilities, where the students can write directly on the screen. Virtual learning ensures that students and teachers learn from each other, rather than having formal training where the teacher “always knows more than the children”. I hope to someday interact and improve the learning of my students by using SmartBoards in my future classroom!

After learning interesting background about Wanniassa Hills, we were split into groups of three and then assigned to specific classrooms to work in for the afternoon. The students had the chance to ask us questions about America, and our family, friends, sports, weather, holidays, etc. We also passed around American money to the students, fascinating them with a different currency. Sarah, Brendan, and I were lucky enough to work in the kindergarten classroom and be the audience of them singing their “Dig, dig, dig, like a wombat” song. After being questioned by the students and staff, we were privileged to help the students with their afternoon lessons. Some classrooms were speed reading, spelling, and forming sentences while others were working on math, music, poetry, and art. I noticed that no matter what subject was being taught, the students were using hands on objects to enhance their understanding of the various concepts.

The recycle bins, informative posters, students, and staff at Wanniassa Hills informed us all of what a sustainabile school they are. Each classroom has a blue bin for paper and a red bin for plastic, enforcing recycling in a way that is easy for the students to remember. The staff introduces sustainabilty to the students at age five, by using interesting videos and their own enthusiasm to get the students excited about being green. A staff member told us that, unfortunately, recycling costs the school money, but in the long run it is totally worth it. The French teacher at Wanniassa Hills enforces picking up rubbish as a positive thing instead of a negative thing, which is how we usually see it. Since increasing the promotion of sustainabilty at Wanniassa, she has found her students wanting to help more and keep their environment clean. Wanniassa Hills is also starting a new program that teaches every student about the Ngunnawal world, which is a traditional tribe that lived around Canberra. This Indigenous unit allows the students to gain respect for the aboriginal community and culture, reflect on their beliefs, and connect the Ngunnawal community to their own. The ACT Aboriginal National Land Resource Management is a program that is not here yet, but is in the process of being launched. This program teaches students about good land use and sustainability.

Experiencing a school system in another country was extremely insightful for me as an Education major and the others currently studying sustainability. The children were almost as excited to see us as we were to see them and  the staff could not have been more warm and welcoming. The students at Wanniassa Hills Primary School may be the only people who can make maize and blue look good ;). Once we returned from the school, we had a free evening to catch up on papers, do research for our final projects, or just to relax. We ended the day with a delicious dinner at the Kingston Hotel, where we picked our own meat and cooked in on a giant grill, followed by various spices and sauces. What a perfect way to end such a wonderful day.

Love to all back home! We miss you tons!

Anna =)

Juan at the entrance of Wanniassa Hills, ready for the day.

Students using an interactive SmartBoard during their spelling lesson.

A poster created by a student, showing his understanding of recycling and being sustainable.


Sarah, Brendan, and I showing off American money with the kindergarten classroom.

The woodwind bland class performing a melodious tune for me!

Ben, Sean, and Alexa creating math stories in order to help the 6-7 year-old students with subtraction.

A group of us cooking our own delicious dinner at the Kingston Hotel down the street.



  1. I know it’s only the morning in Australia, but this day sounds like it’ll be a lot of fun! Does anyone remember learning about sustainable practices in school when they were this age? I certainly didn’t, but it would have been cool, right? Should schools require something like this? and what would it look like if they did?

    • We hardly covered learnng about sustainable practices when I was those kids age. They were much more knowlageable than I expected they were going to be. They were able to tell us all about of how they were recyling and conserving resourses. I definitly think that is a a good thing for schools to teach this and its great that their school promotes recycling. In my high school we never had any recyling bins because it cost extra money and the school didn’t want to pay for it, at lunch the trash would always be piled high with plastic soda bottles and cans. I think that is it is very important to schools to recyle because it sets a good example for the students. At the elementary we attended the teachers said that the students often ended up going home and teaching their parents about recyling as well. So, if school are to teach about sustainability I think that just having a recyling program is a great way to start.

  2. Whitney,
    In elementary school, I remember learning about composting, recycling, and general energy conservation. However, these practices were not taught on a regular basis. I think schools should be required to teach sustainability practices to elementary school students in order to build these important habits from a young age. After observing the classroom in Australia, it’s evident that having a sustainable mindset is now just part of the childrens’ lives, which will make for more sustainable future generations.

    • Well stated, Alexa! Perhaps you can be a catalyst for implementation of additional sustainability concepts at Chatfield.

  3. I found it really awesome that they begin teaching children about sustainability at such a young age. I feel like Australia is ahead of us in a lot of ways when it comes to recycling, especially in the big cities. Almost anywhere you can find a rubbish bin there is a recycling bin right next to it. This leads to a reduction of recyclable materials ending up in the dump simply due to laziness or a lack of accessible bins.

    – Alex

  4. I am so impressed with the students and staff of Wanniassa School!!! Wow, in some ways they put America to shame!! Hopefully, all of you will help all of us “make a difference” when you come home.
    Thanks beautiful Anna– Thats my girl!!! You will be the best Special Ed. Teacher in the universe.
    When you graduate… I’ll buy you a smart board!
    Have so much fun!
    Mom xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxox

    • It would be really nice if the United States would take a lesson from Australia in their schools. I believe a simple lesson like having a fruit or vegetable snack every day could go a long way. The way the push the kids to participate in recycling was extremely impressive. I like to think that changing part of our education system could create the “tipping point” that we need to better our country.

  5. While at the school they also mentioned other sustainable practices they hope to implement in the future. They are hoping to start a school garden to promote healthy eating habits in the students. I would have loved something like this at my own school. Students in the U.S. seem to have little idea of where their food comes from and a school garden would do much to change that while promoting healthy eating options. I know I would have been more willing to eat my vegetables as a kid if I had grown them myself!

  6. Going to this school was so much fun. The group I saw (10 and 11 year olds) were doing speed writing where they have to write as much as they can in 15 minutes. They had some really interesting stories for 5th graders. They were also taught how to talk with emphasis and enthusiasm when telling a story. They seemed a lot further ahead not just in sustainable knowledge, but also worldly knowledge. They knew who was on our dollar bill and what our capital was. It was really interesting because I had no idea what their money even looked like until I had to use it here. I think that their dependence on the U.S. (because they are such a young country and are so secluded) has made them really aware of our culture at such a young age.

  7. They probably know more about our American history and government than most Americans do!

  8. To add even more to all of Wanniassa Hills Primary Schools techniques to being sustainable, I thought it was a really great idea how they required students to bring reusable containers for their fruit break (snack time). This was a unique way to make the young kids used to being sustainable and not use things like plastic bags that will end up just being put in the rubbish bin and sent to a landfill. Also at the same time it makes their parents be sustainable by not buying plastic bags etc., which I thought was a grand way to get two different generations to be sustainable with such an easy rule.

    I hope everyone at home is learning from these posts and is working to make the States more sustainable one day at a time,

  9. I agree with all that has been said in response to my blog! I am glad you guys could enjoyed the school day and have so much to say about what an awesome school Wanniassa Hills is.

    In regards to teaching students to be sustainabile at such a young age, I believe that is the best way to teach anything to children. In my psychology and education courses at MSU, I have learned about the “critical period hypothesis”, which is a hypothesis that states how children learn specific subjects and issues best during the first few years of their lives, and if a child isn’t exposed to, lets say, reusing and recycling, by aroundage 12, then they will never be able to fully learn how to do it later in life.

    Wanniassa Hills promotes students to live “green” and healthy starting at such a young age. Not only do they only offer healthy foods, but they thoroughly emphasize active bodies! The government requires the students to engage in 150 minutes of physical activity every week. Most of the students are involved in after-school sports, such as cricket, rugby, swimming, football, etc. The students practice on weekdays and have games on the weekend. The principal noted that participating in school sports help the students stay fit and develop great cooperation skills and team spirit.

  10. oh i forgot– THANK YOU MOM! you are way too kind. spending part of our day at this school was such a highlight of my trip thus far and i am glad i could share part of it with you guys. and i totally agree… these intelligent do students put some of us to shame… but maybe ill change that? 😉


  11. i also found it interesting that some of teh teachers told us aobut how in this day and age, where the kids may know more that they do, they don’t play the teacher role, but rather accept that their students may know more than they do, and are willing to learn from them as well. I remember thinking when I was in elementary school thinking that my teacher was the end all, be all, and they knew everything. So I guess it’s cool that they are accepting that they can learn from their students, even if they are 6 and 7 years old. I was also impressed by the red and blue recycling bins they had in every classroom. From what we saw on our short visit, the school was showed that they were doing a great job at showing the students how to lead a sustainable life, and shaping them to act responsible. Also, they were ADORABLE!!!

  12. When we asked the kids what are ways they are sustainable there was one answer that stood out to me. The child said that after baths they scoop out all the water and use it to water their plants. I just was surprised at how simple that was yet I have never even heard of anyone who did that let alone thought about doing it. Since being here I have really been thinking of ways I can change my life toward bettering the environment and there really are so many ways that are as simple as scooping water out of a bath tub.

  13. I was impressed with how the students at Wanniassa Hills were using what they learned at school about recycling and teaching their parents. The principal talked to us about how starting to teach the kids about environmental responsibility early on in their education really helped to promote sustainable practices later on in life. Right before the kids went to recess they all had to clean up their stations and a few kids were in charge of turning the computers and projectors off, or on stand-by. Emphasizing little things like turning off computers when not in use will certainly help the school save money, while at the same time teach the students about energy conservation. The US could certainly learn a lot from Australia’s school systems and should consider implementing sustainable practices like this to reduce energy and water misuse.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: