Students ‘switch off’ for Earth Hour

Powerful influence: BUGS members Montana and Isabella lead their schools environmental initiatives. Photo: Alyssa Zagari

Powerful influence: BUGS members Montana and Isabella lead their schools environmental initiatives. Photo: Alyssa Zagari

Mater Dei Catholic Primary Blakehurst marked Earth Hour by turning off classroom lights and switching to digital device-free activities in the last hour of their school day before the global environmental initiative takes place.

It is the third year students have held a ‘Last hour, no power’ to support Earth Hour. Sydney homes and businesses will also turn off their lights to reduce carbon emissions on Saturday, March 19 at 8.30pm.

‘Last hour, no power’ is an extension of the activities Mater Dei’s student environment group BUGS –Blakehurst United Green Society – do to keep their school environment healthy.

BUGS captain Isabella El Hiti, 10, and fellow Year 6 BUGS member Montana Kostas, 11, joined the group this year. They said all classrooms including their own switch off lights and opt for board games and art activities over digital learning in their hour without power.

“I really wanted to be a BUG because I hadn’t been one before and I especially like the gardening,” Montana said. “I think last hour no power is a really good idea because it does help the environment stay healthy and clean and it doesn’t pollute the air. For an hour there will be less pollution.”

Isabella said students also turn off the lights when they leave the classroom for recess and lunch breaks.

“On the light switches in each class we have a sticker which says to make sure to turn the lights off when you go out. We also make sure if it’s not needed that the air conditioning is switched off. We do quite a lot with recycling.”

Montana agreed. “Everyone tries to help, so if you realise that you’re the last person walking out the door and the BUGS person may have forgotten, you turn out the light,” she said.

Montana said her parents were appreciative of her energy saving efforts at home too. “They think it’s a really good idea to be saving energy and helping the environment,” she said. “I do some composting at home now. I used to think there was no real need.”

Isabella said she also recycles at home and is conscious of making sure lights and taps are turned off.

“I’m very interested in the environment and trying to keep Australia clean,” Isabella said. “I know when I told my friends that I had the responsibility of the BUGS they didn’t really get what that was, and when I explained it they said they didn’t really have anything like it at their school. I think it’s a good idea to help people be environmental.”

Assistant principal and BUGS co-ordinator Vanessa Chisholm said last hour no power was born after an energy audit three years ago. The school implemented energy-saving measures with a grant from Kogarah Council.

“We did a survey on electricity consumption and purchased cut-off switches for each classroom,” Mrs Chisholm said.

“We also bought stickers for the light switches from Ausgrid and that was when we introduced the ‘Last hour no power’. It was an initiative to raise awareness in the community and for the children to be a part of that. The children also know that it is earth hour tomorrow night and they’ve been encouraged to take part in that as well.”

Earth Hour is on Saturday, March 19, from 8.30pm. Details: earthhour.org.

Read one Mater Dei student’s account of Earth Hour here.

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