Starting a student action team commonly known as a green team, can be a very rewarding for teachers. The aim of the group, which is comprised of students and teachers, is to work together towards the sustainability of their school environment.
One of the best parts of creating a green team is that you will get to know students on a personal level and watch them grow into passionate little environmental change agents. It gives students the opportunity to be part of a team and enhance their leadership skills. It also empowers them to contribute to something bigger than themselves – which can be challenging for some teenagers.
Here’s how you can start a Green team at your school.
Step 1. Get recruiting
The first thing you need to do is recruit some people to be in your Green Team and rule number one is ‘make it cool’. Why would anyone want to join your team if all they have to do is work and sit around in boring meetings? You need to focus on the benefits for them and make it sound fun and exciting.
Aim to have kids from all year levels become part of the Green Team and remember the more peeps you recruit, the more peeps you’ll have to help kick some green goals. Don’t worry if your Green Team initially starts out small, it will grow quickly, and together you’ll be able to make a real difference at your school and to our environment.
You should also approach other teachers to get aboard the green train. You will need lots of support and the more adults in your team the better. This is especially important to ensure you don’t take on too much and burn yourself out.
Getting your principal on board can make your life much easier. They are essentially the person who will say yes or no to the projects you and the team want to implement. School principals are incredibly busy people and are often juggling many different priorities. Finding out the key priorities of your principal can help you when you’re seeking permission for the big projects such as whole school recycling program, solar panels and community gardens. Think about what angle to take so that you can skew your communication to what will get the project over the line. Will the principal be interested in the financial, social, community, or environmental benefits? The key selling points for your principal might be that the project will increase student outcomes and school engagement. Or that you could save the school thousands of dollars. Find out what language they speak and use that knowledge to your advantage!
What about also trying to involve your grounds-person, cleaner or caretaker? They will know what things your school is already doing for our environment, such as installing energy or water saving devices around your school. They might also have a good understanding of how things work at your school, and how easy your green ideas for your school might be to do.
Step 2. Hold your first Green Team meeting
It’s time to organise and hold your first green team meeting! Some things to think about when organising and holding your meeting:
Meeting time and place
You should try to pick a time for your meeting when you think you’ll be able to have as many people involved as possible. After school might not be so good – lots of people play sport or have buses to catch and so can’t stick around school once it’s finished for the day. You could have it during lunchtime, but just remember that maybe some teachers or parents might not be able to make it. Another option would be to talk to your teachers about having some time in assembly or another in-school time to talk about your Green Team.
While you could just invite the people who have said they are interested in being in a Green Team, why don’t you try and get as many people as possible to come along to the first Green Team meeting? Create flyers or posters to advertise the Green Team meeting and put them around the school in places where you think they will be easily seen.
Step 3. What will you talk about in your first Green Team meeting?
Who is in charge?
The kids! The group needs to be all about the kids and fostering their student leadership skills. They are responsible for the running of the meetings and ultimately the success of the sustainability projects. The Green Team works best if the teachers take a ‘guide beside’ approach and give the students the opportunity to flex their leadership muscles. That way, the group takes ownership and they feel truly empowered to make positive changes. Once you have explained to the students that they are ultimately responsible for the running of the team and the success of the projects, you need to reinforce the importance of their role and the commitment required. If you decide to have a weekly Green Team meeting then it is expected that each student attends and follows through on jobs to which they have committed.
Roles and responsibilities
In order for the team to run well, you should create a team structure. You may want to have a president and vice president, or environmental captains and monitors. Select a structure that works best for your team and school. You should think about what roles the members of your Green Team can take. You don’t necessarily need to have a leader, but it might be a good idea to have people take on tasks and jobs that help you manage the team. Some examples of speciality positions are: Communications Manager, Treasurer, Designers, IT Specialist, Public Speakers, Minutes Taker and much more!
Remember…draw on the strengths of the students and give them the opportunity to succeed by using these strengths.
It is important for the team to work out their shared vision. This is a great opportunity for all the kids to begin to get to know each other and share their most important issues around sustainability.
Activity: Divide your kids up into small groups and give them a large piece of butchers paper. As a group they need to create a picture of their school once it is completely environmentally friendly. Then then need to think up a short sentence or statement that sums up their vision for a sustainable school. Each group then shares their picture with the team and ranks the top three most important features of their picture.
The big issues
In your first Green Team meeting you will probably want to think about the issues that your Green Team will focus on. Use the visioning activity to draw upon some examples of common themes such as solar panels, veggie gardens, water tanks, rubbish campaigns etc. Ask all the members of your team what they think are the big green issues at your school. Rank the top five issues in order of priority that the team want to address. Identify the issues and projects that can be realistically taken on now by dividing them into the following categories: ‘Now, One Year, Three Years’.
Some examples of projects might include: recycling system, rubbish in the schoolyard, lunch waste, water use and waste, energy use and waste, transport to and from school, local and organic food in the cafeteria, the plant and animal biodiversity at your school, or you might have a garden or creek that needs some love and care.
You should then begin to brainstorm how you could achieve this vision: What sort of things will you need? Will you need to talk to anyone? What can everyone do to help achieve the Green Team vision?
Step 4. Project Planning
Once your Green Team is up and running, it will be time to start planning your projects.
Use the following table to help give the projects structure. If your project needs approval or funding your principal will take it more seriously if you look organised.
Type of event/project
Aims of the project
What funds are needed?
What support and resources are needed?
What organisations or partnerships are required?
How will we evaluate the success of the project?
How will we celebrate?
The most important part of the project is the celebration phase! Your kids have put in time and effort to get something off the ground and no matter how small or large the project is, you should stop and celebrate. It might be recognition at assembly or a Green Team party, but if you don’t stop to celebrate your members won’t stick around for long!