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STEM Club Winners of Shell NXplorers Global Award

Members of Girrawheen Senior High School’s STEM Club have been recognised for their outstanding work on the 2022 Shell NXplorers program, by receiving a global award in the Bronze category. 

This is a huge achievement as there were many student teams from across the world that were nominated for the Exceptional Student Project category.

The NXplorer program was run by SciTech in 2022. STEM Club student took part in the project and met every Thursday after school for an hour. During this time, students were asked to identify any problems/issues within or outside the school community. Students worked in teams, brainstormed ideas, and identified the problems within their school community.

Garden Project:

One STEM group consisting of Year 8’s and one Year 9 student, noticed that students wasted food by throwing uneaten food in the bins.  With the increase in the price of food and cost of living, they recognised that this was waste of energy resources.  They came up with the idea of composting food waste.  Rather than asking the school for money to start composting system, they decided to reach out to organisations for donations.  They contacted “Jane Goodall Roots and Shoots” and applied for a grant for a compost tumbler and a worm starter pack.  When the grant was approved, students knew they could make the garden happen.  With money from the grant, students purchased the compost tumbler and the worm starter pack.  Together they assembled the compost tumbler and placed it outside the home economics area.  The intention was to place food scraps from cooking classes in the bin to be composted.  This bin was chained to the wall to prevent it from being damaged.  Every day, STEM -students placed food waste and check the compost bin.  This compost could then be used to make school grounds greener.  Students are keen to sell excessive compost to raise money for future sustainability projects.  The students wanted to expand their project and came up with the idea of developing two areas of the school into native garden/green place.

In one area they planted five established rose bushes, two frangipani trees, a lemon tree and some ground covers.  All these plants were collected from the verge collection and students repurposed them and made the area in front of the year 12 common room more appealing.  In coming months, this empty area will transform into a place which will be beautiful to look at, will have fragrant blooms and possibly lemons that can be used in home economics.  Students wanted to establish a native garden in the other area.  They requested “Roots and Shoots” organisation for some help, who kindly supplied students with twenty-five native plants.  The native garden vision included Totem Peace Poles. Students approached Heirrison Rotary who came out to look at the area involved and promised to help us out in setting up our native garden.  Contact has also been made with organisations who will deliver logs to be placed around this area as seats.  Totem peace poles will be painted and become a permanent fixture in the native garden.  In the future, students want to buy another compost bin and recycle more food waste.  They may also work on making other places in the school more aesthetically appealing.

Toilet Project: A group of Year 8 students identified that the condition of student toilets in the school was not ideal, and changes needed to be made.  There was graffiti, bad odour, chipped paint and bars of soaps for washing hands to name a few.  Their vision included repainting the toilets, having different toilets for different year groups and liquid soap dispensers which are much more hygienic than bars of soap.  This was a challenging task and they needed to approach it wisely.  Stem students conducted surveys with all year groups asking them if they were happy with the condition of the toilets; if they preferred separate toilets for different year groups; and use of liquid soap instead of soap bars.  The response indicated that the majority of students did not like the condition of the toilets, they preferred separate toilets for different year groups so that responsibility for the condition of the toilets lay with that particular year cohort.  The survey also indicated that students overwhelmingly preferred liquid soap to a bar of soup.  It was very evidently time to bring about change.

Once the surveys were collated and data gathered, it was then presented to the student council and the school leadership team.  Student councillors met with Principal Barbara Newton, to express their support for these changes.  Student assemblies were organised for each year group and the proposed changes were announced.  New signs were made for all toilets indicating which year group they were for.  The toilets were repainted and liquid soap ordered to replace the soap bars.  A post implementation survey was conducted to ascertain student satisfaction.  The Stem group were delighted to learn the majority of students were happy with the changes made.  Year 12 students wrote an appreciation email to the Principal applauding the work of STEM students in improving the school amenities.  Our school Cleaners have also shown their appreciation towards this initiative.

Pet Food: A group of Year 7 students wanted to tackle the food wastage problem by converting food waste into Pet food.  They researched what foods dogs can eat and what they can’t.  They then came up with the plan of placing bins to collect appropriate wood waste and use it to make pet food.  As they came up with the solution, they realised that pets are living organisms and they can not be given food made out of food scraps from the bins.  It was a very important lesson that they learnt.  Instead of giving up on their idea, they came up with an alternative plan which involved writing to local Green Grocers for donation of food that did not look appealing but still held its nutritional value.  After collecting the food, students then used it to make nutritional pet food.  They then packaged it in containers, placed labels with the date of manufacture, list of ingredients, and their company logo and web site address.  It was to be trialled by the school community and if successful, they wanted to run it as a business enterprise from school.  A website has been created for people to place their orders as well.

Conclusion: The success of all these initiatives is attributed to the problem-solving skills taught to the students through STEM club. Students are gaining the skills and tools to tackle real world problems and are finding solutions. They have become true global citizens. They are experiencing first-hand that implementing small changes can have a positive ripple effect on our lives. Students recognise they have a voice, they can reach out for help to a wide variety of people in our community who are kind and helpful.  All they need to do is, explain their vision and allow others to help with their endeavours.  This epitomises the true Aussie mate ship spirit.  It is an incredibly important and fantastic lesson to learn at such a young age.  The fact that all things may never go to plan does not mean to give up on your ideas but to persevere and find alternative, sustainable ways to make it work.

Congratulations to Year 7s, Alisha Leaver, Sharni Leaver, Saphira Martin, Reda Ramlan, Coco-Elizabeth Truong and Gabriel Bert Arela who won with the Pet Food Project.


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