Category Archives: Sustainability

So, what’s so cool about ‘cool burning’?

NRW-logoNational Reconciliation Week (May 27 – June 3, 2015) is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures and achievements. To explore how each of us can join the national reconciliation effort.


In recognition of this event, we have invited Thea Nicholas from Cool Australia to introduce the concept of Cool Burning and the innovative professional development course designed to equip secondary Geography, Science and English teachers with the skills, knowledge and confidence to teach about the importance of Traditional Knowledge in caring for Country.

Australians know all too well about the devastating effects of fire on our country – its landscape and inhabitants. Less well known is the ancient land management strategy of ‘cool burning’ used by Indigenous Australians for thousands of years in Australia’s tropical savanna regions.savanna trees lge2

Cool Burning in the Australian Savanna

In Australia, almost 25% of the land is covered in tropical savanna. Each year in the late dry season, hot bushfires sweep through a large proportion of this area causing significant damage. These burns destroy everything in their path, including the vital forest canopy.

For tens of thousands of years, Indigenous Australians have actively managed the savanna using cool burning techniques. Their knowledge of the seasons and local conditions have enabled them to manage the land through the effective use of fire.

Traditional cool burning has been shown to dramatically reduce the incidence and intensity of hot fires later in the dry season. This reduces the amount of damage done to ecosystems, shortens recovery time, promotes new growth, clears waste materials and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

There are also social and economic benefits. The re-introduction of traditional management practices has given many young Aboriginal Australians greater respect for their Elders, their wisdom and the knowledge that has been transmitted through the centuries.

Indigenous groups who own or manage their land can also create projects and employ young Aboriginal people to earn carbon credits. This generates a viable form of long-term income and enables young Aboriginal people to remain on their land.Cool+Burning+(Secondary)+TTA-1200x670-340x190

New Cool Burning Online Professional Development Course for Teachers. 

Indigenous land management is the perfect vehicle for meeting the cross-curriculum priorities of ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Cultures’ and ‘Sustainability’.

Cool Australia has designed a new 2-hour online professional development course called Cool Burning to guide teachers as they develop their understanding of Indigenous land management practices. The course provides teachers with classroom-ready materials and is filled with supportive teaching tools including videos, graphs, additional reading materials and more. Teachers can also use these materials in their own classes.

This course enables teachers to enrich their curriculum, and share with their students some of the incredible knowledge possessed by the world’s oldest continuously living australia logoOL

Course cost: $89 (excl GST).

For further information and to enrol:
t: 1300 853 810

Cool Australia is an award-winning, not-for-profit organisation that provides educators and teachers with resources to help young people Learn for Life. For further information:


By Thea Nicholas
Curriculum Manager, Cool Australia


As a sustainability educator, it has been interesting to watch schools make the transition to the new Australian Curriculum which requires the teaching of sustainability as a cross-curriculum priority. Some schools have embraced sustainability in many forms – implementing programs as part of infrastructure, daily operations, curriculum, student leadership programs and community celebrations. However, others have found it challenging to engage with sustainability – and this is often due to a range of perceived barriers including a lack of support, training and confidence, as well as limited time and funding.

Transport Sustainability Audit - Warburton PS
Transport Audit – Warburton PS

I’ve also realised that one of the biggest obstacles is actually misunderstanding about sustainability education. Here are some common myths I’ve encountered and some ideas on how to overcome them…

Myth: Sustainability is a curriculum ‘add on’.

Some schools view sustainability as something that is in direct competition with other educational demands. They couldn’t be more wrong. Traditionally, sustainability was taught by Science and Geography teachers, but there are entry points within all key learning areas which achieve learning and teaching outcomes. On the Australian Curriculum website, ACARA uses a leaf symbol to indicate content that lends itself to the theme of sustainability. This shouldn’t, however, limit what is explored in the classroom. Writing persuasive texts? Choose a local environmental issue to debate. Exploring volume in Maths? Measure the volume of your bins and calculate how full they are when collected. Analysing financial markets in Economics and Business? Investigate the impact of climate change on business costs, revenues and profitability.

port fairy community sustainability program
Port fairy community program

Myth: Sustainability is all sad faces and bad news.

There is a general misconception that sustainability education is all about doom and gloom. In fact, the opposite can be true. Sustainability education helps develop capabilities, skills and knowledge for 21st century learners in positive and engaging ways. It supports students to expand their critical thinking, refection and evaluation skills. It encourages optimism, hope and resilience. It allows students to connect to nature, which boosts physical health and mental well-being. It provides an opportunity for students to act in ways that contribute to a prosperous, sustainable and socially just society. The not-so-great news about our natural environment can easily be balanced by empowering young people take meaningful action in their personal lives and community.

Myth: Sustainability drains a school’s budget.

Quite the opposite. The school budget often benefits when students embark on school sustainability projects. This alone is not a reason to embed sustainability in the curriculum but it is definitely an added bonus. Significant funds can be saved on utility bills such as water, electricity, gas and schools will benefit through lower paper and waste collection fees. In turn, this money can be channeled into other important projects around the school.

Myth: There isn’t enough support out there.

Never fear, Cool Australia is here! Along with our partners, we offer a suite of FREE to access resources – written by teachers, for teachers – that cater for a range of learning areas, year levels and student needs. We also offer a range of online professional development webinars, workshops and courses.

cool australia logo

Find out more on the Cool Australia website: and see the courses offered o help you integrate sustainability into your curriculum check out  TTA’s website:

We need to start busting these myths so that schools are energised to implement this valuable cross-curricular (and planetary) priority. Teaching young people about sustainability has never been more important. My advice is to start with the ‘easy wins’, find where the interest and passion lies within your colleagues and students and build your sustainability education program from the ground up.

Kirsty Costa, Professional Development and E-Learning Manager at Cool Australia

Whole-school sustainability planning and the Australian Curriculum

The whole-school approach to sustainability was recently shown to be the preferred method to embed Education for Sustainability in a systemic way in schools to facilitate sustainability learning across the Australian Curriculum. Read about the Education for Sustainability (EfS) and the Australian Curriculum federally funded project here:

The research also revealed that, whilst 92% of teachers consider sustainability an important concept for their students to learn, less than 20% of teachers know how to integrate sustainability into their teaching.

There are many opportunities in your school grounds to highlight EfS (Education for Sustainability) concepts, which encompass social, cultural, economic, personal as well as environmental sustainability, and provide a start for sustainability projects.

Staff at Wetland optimised

For example, a tour of the school grounds during an onsite workshop at Maitland Grossmann High School in the Hunter Valley, in July this year, surprised many of the teachers with the resources available at their fingertips for exploring EfS.This included remnant historical features from the original settlement of the school site, a constructed wetland, vistas of the Hunter River floodplain, an Aboriginal yarning circle, a Zen garden and food garden beds.


Projects in the school grounds can feed into subject outcomes and promote 21st century skills such as leadership, working in teams, social cohesion, creativity, critical thinking and problem solving.

How do I get started with sustainability?

A great way to start on your school’s sustainability journey is to let the students take the initiative! If your school doesn’t have a green team, find some interested students and get them to survey other students and staff to find out where to start. For the survey template, sourced originally from the Sustainable Schools SA website (, click here

,Screen Shot attitudinal survey

Fnd some interested students and get them to map the school grounds to identify areas for a project to kickstart the process e.g. a biodiversity area

 by Sandra Nichols

More templates and resources are provided at the forthcoming course: Whole-school sustainability planning Friday 14 November

Visit for ideas and resources on EfS and workshop testimonials.