STEM students from Girrawheen Senior High School in Perth are a dynamic group of young people with a desire and energy to make a positive difference. Approximately a quarter identify as Indigenous and one-third speak English as a second or third language. Some are refugees. Many have experienced trauma. Most are impacted by poverty. As part of Shell’s NXplorers programme, they met once a week after school to brainstorm solutions to problems within their school community.
Students noticed how uneaten food was being wasted. With the increase in the price of food and cost of living, they recognised that this was a terrible waste of energy resources. They came up with the idea of composting food waste.
They contacted organisations for donations and successfully applied for a local grant. Students purchased a compost tumbler as well as a worm starter pack and placed it outside the home economics area. The intention was to place food scraps from cooking classes in the bin to be composted. It was chained to the wall to prevent it from being damaged. The compost will be used to make the school grounds greener. Any excess will be sold to raise money for future sustainability projects.
Students wanted to expand the project by developing two areas of the school into a green space with native planting. In one area, they planted rose bushes, frangipani trees, a lemon tree and some ground covers. In coming months, this empty area will transform into a place which will be beautiful to look at, will have fragrant blooms and hopefully lemons that can be used in home economics.
A second group wanted to convert food waste into pet food. They researched what dogs can and cannot eat. They came up with a plan to collect appropriate food waste – though soon realised pets cannot be given food made using scraps from the bins. They quickly found an alternative solution which involved writing to local supermarkets asking for donations of food that did not look appealing but still held its nutritional value. Once made, the pet food is packaged in containers. Every label features the date of manufacture and list of ingredients, together with their company logo and website address. Customers are also able to place their orders online.
The success of all these initiatives is attributed to the problem-solving skills taught to the students by Shell’s NXplorers programme. It has given them the tools to tackle real world problems and find solutions. Students now have first-hand experience of implementing small changes that can have a positive, ripple effect on all our lives. Students recognised that they had a voice and could reach out for help to a wide variety of people in the community who are kind and helpful. All they need to do is explain their vision and allow others to help with their endeavours. This epitomised the true Aussie mateship spirit.