The Sunshine Coast school reviving a butterfly

From a growing recycling program to the revival of a very rare butterfly species, Immanuel Lutheran College’s environmental ethic is creating a future generation of little eco legends.

Located in 20 acres of bushland, this Sunshine Coast school is the ideal setting for the next generation to learn about the importance of caring for the environment. The College’s commitment to developing an environmental ethic across the community came to fruition recently with the discovery of an incredibly rare caterpillar that is now calling the College home.

“Over the years, the students have been planting Pararistolochia praevenosa, commonly known as the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly Vine (listed critically endangered),” explained Colleen Long, Environmental and Indigenous Support Officer at Immanuel Lutheran College. “What a delight when we discovered this year several larvae of the Birdwing Butterfly (listed Vulnerable) happily chewing on the vines!”

Sunshine Coast butterfly

The planting of the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly Vine was part of a much wider College sustainability program.

“We have been steadily implementing programs across the College aimed at embedding an intrinsic environmental ethic with students and parents,” said teacher 
Rod Blom.
“This sustainability ethos is not just about classroom programs, but also about getting those fundamentals in place; embedding in the College community the importance of protecting the environment and adopting a sustained stewardship of the land for generations to come.”

By creating opportunities for students 
to see that all their small actions can make a big difference, students at Immanuel Lutheran College have developed a wonderful sense of achievement and autonomy in their eco projects.

“The key is to change behaviour and mindset,” said Rod. “It has become part of who we are as a community.”

The Environmental Centre

The process of implementing a sustainable ethos has been significantly expedited by the College’s onsite Environmental Centre that opened in 2019. With two large classroom spaces, a deck in the rainforest and a direct connection to the wetlands down below, the Centre offers a wealth of opportunities for students to complete science, sustainability tests, and environmental work.

“The Environmental Centre has made it possible for students to have a genuine indoor-outdoor classroom, with multipurpose areas and ready access to the rainforest,” said Rod.
Following the addition of the Centre and the butterfly program, the College is now seeking to partner with Sunshine Coast University for undergraduate research into the butterfly vine planting, and Sunshine Coast Council on raising awareness of sustainable practices.

Immanuel Lutheran students

Preserving the oasis

Blessed to reside in such a beautiful oasis, it has been important for the College to protect the rainforest, whilst also opening it up as a wonderful resource.

“To preserve, yet use the rainforest space respectfully, the Year 11/12 VET students have built raised boardwalks, where the bulk of the foot traffic was going,” said Rod.

“The boardwalks are much less impactful on the forest and they are a real investment as they will be there for many years to come.”

“Students have enjoyed constructing them and found a great sense of accomplishment in building something to last. Maybe they will come back as parents and describe the build to their children one day!”

Being a First People’s area, it was also important to the College to involve the local Gubbi Gubbi people in any rainforest activity.

“The rainforest is the land of the Gubbi Gubbi people, so it is essential that we acknowledge this and protect the land,” said Rod.

To connect the space to the indigenous community, the College is introducing an Indigenous Food Trail (bush tucker).

“We envisage additional trails that will incorporate ‘habitats for homes’ and sensory activities for the primary school students, as well as the Indigenous Food Trail and a Habitat Trail adjacent to the Primary School,” said Colleen.

“Information is being gathered for interpretive signage to highlight the Indigenous use of the plants found along the trail and in the adjoining forest areas,” continued Colleen.

The Eco Shed

As well as the addition of the Environmental Centre earlier in 2020, Immanuel Lutheran College opened a purpose-built $50,000 recycling shed.

“The students use the purpose-built recycling shed to sort waste into different waste streams,” said Principal Colin Minke. “A group of Eco Club members, dressed in aprons and gloves, sort recyclables as part of the College’s Recycle-it-Right program, and put them into corresponding bins.”

The Eco Club has almost 100 members now, with both a primary and secondary group. They meet for weekend beach clean-ups and school-based projects such as the worm farm.

“The College has two large working worm farms, one in the Primary School and one at the Secondary School,” said Colleen. “The students put their food waste into the compostable bins at the waste recovery station, this food waste then goes into the worm farms with the castings and liquid getting utilised in the school vegetable gardens.”

Mapping to the curriculum

With so many initiatives in place across the College, the most exciting part for classroom teachers is mapping these experiences back to the classroom.

“Connecting the practical experiences with the theory does take some time to map, but it’s important that the two are integrated in students’ learning,” said Rod. “Now we can connect a multitude of projects back to the environment. Even in math we can ask, ‘what does that mean about energy consumption?’, ‘how much do we put back into the grid?’. There’s lots of practical ways to implement and integrate information.”

“It’s important that we all find ways in which it’s not just learning about the environment, but doing something with it.”

Students are already beginning to take the future into their own hands. “We are certainly getting more ideas from the students,” said Rod. “They are starting to become more autonomous in what they do in the Eco Club. They generate their own projects and take time to think about it.”

“We’ve also seen a drift towards environmental scientist courses and a heightened awareness, where they want to act now, which is wonderful to see.”


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Immanuel Lutheran College