By Jason Kimberley
Recently many supporters have been asking what we have been doing at Cool Australia. Hmmm, we thought, it must be time for an update. For those who may have missed it and for those who may have heard parts before, here comes the longish short story.
In 2005 I spent 18 days man-hauling sledges across Antarctica with my mates Jason Veale and Peter Hillary. While researching my subsequent book (Antarctica: A Different Adventure, now available in all good clearance stores) about our adventures, I was shocked to find that the natural environment around Antarctica, and more generally around the world, was under threat from the reckless actions of humans.
During this research I read about the Chileans and how they were going down to the Southern Ocean and netting boatloads of krill (the basis of the food chain) without permit or regulation. These krill were then used as an additive in pellets, that were fed to cattle, that were grazing on cleared Amazonian rainforest, to make hamburgers to sell to the Americans (who, one could argue, didn’t need any more burgers). It was bizarre and wrong on every level but because the so-called ‘externalities’ are not costed - someone was making a dollar at every step. I had no idea, so I asked around and it turns out that very few of us have the first clue as to the destruction we are causing to our life support system. Something had to be done.
The Cool Melbourne web site was founded on the idea of relevant information about our environment – the challenges we face, the solutions at hand and how we can all get involved. This information needed to be engaging, entertaining and presented in plain English. We clearly needed to move away from the grey beards, white coats and dry science. All of a sudden we had 10,000 fans on Facebook and 5,000 online members – we were seriously onto something!
The next step was education. Cool Melbourne employed a master’s graduate in environmental education Krista Nisi, to join Lynn Freebairn and myself and set about creating an easy-to-use format for teachers and students. Our Cool School was launched in August 2008 and was quickly recognised by News Limited as the premier online resource for environmental resources. In 2010 Our Cool School was expanded to include NSW, QLD and SA. Kristina De Greene joined us to update the Cool websites and engage our fans on the various social media platforms. As at May 30th 2011 all states and territories are in operation and Szilvia Csanyi (a former political campaigner) has been engaged to introduce educators to Cool Australia.
In 2010 more than 125,000 students participated in our learning activities that were downloaded from Our Cool School by their teachers. The feedback we get from teachers in our workshops is that they learn more in 30 minutes than they would through 50 hours of research. We make environmental education easy for teachers and engaging for students. Cool Australia understands that when you entertain you educate.
Although Environment and Sustainability are not stand alone subjects we bring them into the heart of the school curriculum by including Science, Maths, English, Literacy and Numeracy into a lesson about food or water, forests or energy, wildlife and climate. In 2011 we are working very closely with ten flagship schools that have embedded our resources into their schools’ curriculum. We will be closely benchmarking these schools and their students with Australia’s’ peak educational research body, the Australian Council of Education Research (ACER). The students’ performance throughout the year will be monitored to clearly demonstrate the positive impact that Cool Australia is having on their education. ACER will be compiling this data on our behalf.
We have a rollout plan for our flagship schools that will see 760 schools across Australia engaging 500,000 young Australians by the end of 2013. Cool Australia has a clear strategy to achieve this.
We have recently appointed a Board of Trustees with some of the brightest minds in the country to help make this happen.
We are keen to work with organisations that can either assist Cool Australia improve our resource, promote our resource, or financially contribute to the expansion.
Cool Australia is a registered not-for-profit organisation. You can donate now on our home page.
We love to work with passionate organisations and individuals who give a stuff and who are determined to help shape the next generation of solutionaries. It is these solutionaries who will lead us through the twenty first century.
We had a big event - the Closed Loop COOL KIDS DAY on Sunday August 28th from 10am – 2pm at the St Kilda Town Hall. It was a ripper - similar to the Enviroweek launch night we held in 2010 at Carousel - but better.
And finally, there was Enviroweek (September 4 -10, 2011), now in its fourth year! Launched in 2009, Enviroweek is the chance for all Australian classrooms to take on an environmental challenge for the week, get sponsored and fundraise for their school’s environmental projects or for Cool Australia, if they prefer. In our first year 200 students participated, in our second year 5,000 students participated, in 2011 we had more than 22,000 registrations seven weeks out from the start.
Things are happening ‘round here. Thank you for your interest and support, and be sure to check in with us on our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter for updates on our exciting upcoming events.