Fiordland group eyes sustainability

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Jess Willans on the trip to Abu Dhabi last year. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

A team of pupils at Fiordland College are helping future pupils increase their knowledge of sustainable energy; head girl and Year 13 pupil Jess Willans is one of them. She tells Southland Express reporter Laura Smith about her school experience.

LAST year proved to be a big year for the now 17-year-old high schooler, as well as for the team involved in the schools Zayed Sustainability Prize entry.

The group was named as a finalist in the Global High Schools category in East Asia and Pacific, with their entry picked alongside schools from Fiji, Australia and The Philippines.

“At school we’re kind of involved in environmental stuff, but we don’t do a lot of that energy kind of stuff. It’s more about the trees and the native environment around us… the whole idea was to try and have a way to show both the school and the wider community all the options we can have apart from oil to run things.”

Jess Willans (left, then 16) and Dr Sue Peoples, of Fiordland College. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

While they did not win, Jess said the project was likely to be installed at the school this year or next. It was proposed they would build an energy park which integrated solar, water and wind energy and it would be built in a paddock at the back of the school. The group’s application explained the project would combine functionality with art via energy-generating culturally inspired sculptures.

Jess said the project would be used as a tool for learning; for pupils and the community.

“The year before last year, we put in our application for the [award]… they wanted you to design a project worth about $US100,000, which is about $NZ150,000.”

The Global High Schools category asked for applications which proposed innovative, impactful and inspirational sustainability projects in the areas of health, food, energy and/or water.

Part of the eligibility criteria was the student-led projects must demonstrate innovative approaches to address sustainability challenges, and inspire students to take active roles in sustainable development. As the group had been named in the top four of its category, the members travelled to Abu Dhabi for the prizegiving.

“We didn’t win it but it was pretty cool, meeting all these kids from around the world and talking about different sustainability options and environmental things.”

She was mainly involved in the video aspect of the project, which was a requirement of the application. Others worked on things such as budgeting, community engagement and surveys, and sourcing funding. The latter came from Community Trust South.

Jess hoped construction work on the project would begin this year.

“We’re going to be able to do it. It was going to start this year but Covid-19 mucked that up a bit.”

Fiordland College was one of a handful of schools in Southland to have achieved Green-Gold as an Enviroschool; Jess aided her school and fellow pupils in gaining this top level.

“I was part of the team who got that last year. I think we’re the only high school in Southland who has it.”

Her interest in science would continue in her studies as Jess said she might study either environmental science or health science with an intended focus on genetics or physio.

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