Hands on learning for sustainability at Gippsland Tech School

Students from seven Latrobe Valley primary schools thrived thanks to Gippsland Tech School's hands-on approach when they returned to the classroom following the second stage of remote and flexible learning in 2020.

The tech school designed 550 hands-on sustainability activity kits for the primary schools in partnership with the Royal Society of Victoria (RSV), Star of the South, Australian Paper and CarbonNet.

The kits enabled students to extend their knowledge and problem-solving abilities on topics such as sustainable manufacturing, renewable energy, and geography and geology.

All activities in the program linked to sustainability initiatives or groups in the local community. The activities were:

  • milk to plastics: where students learned how natural resources could be used to make products that are currently manufactured using unsustainable resources
  • wind turbines: students built their own turbines, with some schools holding a sustainability day (when face-to-face learning returned) and using the activity as a primary focus for the event
  • the Choc-Rock porosity challenge: students used Tim-Tams, 'bubbly chocolate' and a chocolate bar to answer a series of questions, including which of the chocolates would best store carbon dioxide.

Gippsland Tech School provided consultation and support to students working remotely.

Its director Paul Boys said he was delighted at the levels of engagement from students 'and how they connected the future of energy and sustainability to Australia's future security'.

Churchill North Primary School teacher Jill White said Gippsland Tech School were terrific to work with.

'Covid-19 meant we were unable to do the task during Science Week due to remote learning, but they kept in touch and provided the activity once we were back onsite and settled into our regular learning program,' she said.
'Our students loved creating their wind turbines using the kits. It was interesting to see them compare their design elements and discuss why one design may have been more successful in generating enough power to light a globe.'

Elizabeth Street Primary School teacher Denise Ruane said the windmill project had helped her students understand there were options to producing clean energy.

'They were keen to investigate this further throughout the following weeks, such as looking at hydro (energy),' she said.
'As we were unable to do much hands-on science in 2020, it was a wonderful, and positive, welcome back to on-campus activity for the students.'

Tech Schools are high-tech centres of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) excellence. They link secondary schools and industry to deliver innovative learning programs that challenge students to solve problems in a real-world context, giving them the skills and knowledge they need to compete in the future global job market.

For more information about Tech Schools, visit the Tech Schools webpage.