On Friday, 5 March 2021, St Columba Anglican School celebrated the Official Opening and Dedication of the Burch Sustainability and Environmental Centre. The building was completed in 2021 with the vision of providing exceptional teaching and learning spaces to collaborate and to innovate. The Australian Government partly funded the Centre under the Capital Grants Program and the St Columba Anglican School community.
The centre delivers opportunities for curriculum-based learning experiences as well as gardening, sustainability, and community-focused activities so that students appreciate their place in local, national and international communities.
Mr Pat Conaghan MP, Federal Member for Cowper, along with former Chair of St Columba Anglican School, Dr Gordon Burch, unveiled the School plaque for the building, which marked its official opening.
Witnessing the evolution of the educational landscape as well as the need to foster environmental awareness in students, has reshaped the learning priorities at SCAS. Further, acknowledging the international research findings that 75% of the fastest-growing occupations require Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM) skills, the new Centre will provide additional access to these STEAM education experiences.
Already SCAS students have had their understanding of the wider world and their place in it augmented by an array of environmentally conscious and STEAM-centric educational initiatives. As evidence, students in the Primary School have mobilised their very own Sustainability Committee, and some of the members did a presentation at the opening celebration.
Member of the Primary School Sustainability Committee, Grace Bunt, has already undertaken classes in the new building and is excited about its potentials. “I think this building marks a new beginning for SCAS and a new way to do things towards sustainability, it gives us more room for more ideas,” said Grace.
The building is home to state-of-the-art facilities that feature an open plan Primary classroom space for collaborative and enquiry Science activities, outdoor spaces and access to nature trails, LED lighting to maximise energy efficiency, a fresh air circulation system, a 10,000 litre water tank for rainwater capture, real-time monitoring of environmental conditions within the classrooms and local environment, and vegetable bush tucker gardens that are currently in development. These facilities have been designed to provide our students with the resources and opportunities that have been identified as key areas of educational importance in the 21st Century.
Primary School Captain and member of the Sustainability Committee, Rosie Ferguson, recognises the intergenerational importance of perpetuating an intentional culture at School. “The thought that one day we will be part of the reason we may have a better future is exciting. Sustainability education allows us to connect especially with Indigenous land. This was their lifeline, and it is up to us to keep it from being destroyed,” said Rosie.
Under the leadership of Principal Terry Muldoon, it is the School’s goal that The Burch Sustainability and Environmental Centre will inspire and support ideas that link education and sustainability that will offer SCAS students the opportunity to be a part of the solution to environmental issues. “With our planet groaning under the pressure of human use of its resources, why wouldn’t we create a space where our students can learn how they can restore the health of our fragile blue planet and become the sustainability leaders our world so badly needs?” said Mr Muldoon.
The building was named for our past Chair of School Council, Dr Gordon Burch MRurSc. PhD(UNE) FAIAST. Dr Burch has a background in rural science and has been awarded a Fellowship of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science and Technology. Dr Burch has also served as Executive Director to the Australian Science and Technology Council (ASTEC), and was Chief Scientist to the Australian and New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA). Whilst living in Canberra, Dr Burch maintained an active role in the Canberra Goulburn Anglican Diocese, serving for several years on Bishop-in-Council, and was involved in the establishment of Radford College in Canberra. He is also a member of the Grafton Diocese Synod.
Dr Burch has a passion for the environment and sustainability, and in 2019 hosted a Chairman’s Climate Change Forum for the local school community and our students with guest speaker Professor Mark Howden, Director of the Climate Change Institute at the Australian National University. Dr Burch’s address to those present at the opening of the Burch Sustainability and Environment Centre is below.
Mr Terry Muldoon also addressed the special guests assembled for the opening, and his address is also linked below.