Tree-mendous upgrade for 50 Sydney schools

50 Sydney schools are now growing cooler and greener through Cooling the Schools.

Thousands of trees and plants have now been planted at 50 Sydney schools, creating cooler, greener more inviting spaces for learning and play.

These 50 schools are just the beginning. Greening Australia’s Cooling the Schools program aims to have planted more than 36,000 trees and plants at 180 schools across Greater Sydney by the end of 2022.

The program is being delivered in Sydney in partnership with the NSW Department of Planning and Environment and Department of Education.

NSW Department of Planning and Environment Executive Director, Resilience and Urban Sustainability, Steve Hartley said: “A key focus of the program is cooling our primary and secondary schools where temperatures can soar to over 40 degrees in summer, making it difficult for students to learn and play.

“Each school receives around 150 trees and plants with the students playing a hands-on role planting them.”

Students learn about the urban heat island effect, and then get hands on to do something about it by planting trees and shrubs in their schoolyards.

Greening Australia’s Nicola Masters, who leads delivery of Cooling the Schools in Sydney, said: “We’re thrilled to be getting back into schools after all the disruption of COVID and the floods.

“As the impacts of a changing climate on nature and on our communities become increasingly obvious, many young people are anxious about the future.

“At every school we want to give students a chance to get dirty hands and feel their own agency as part of a global solution by planting to create shelter, natural cooling and habitat in their own schoolyards.”

Carramar Public School at Fairfield is the 50th school to complete their tree plantings, taking to more than 7,500 trees the number now growing in primary and secondary schools in Greater Sydney so far, as part of the program.

Image credit Schools Infrastructure NSW

Mr Hartley said schools from Hornsby to the Sutherland Shire and the Blue Mountains to Bondi are taking part.

“Tree coverage is our first line of defence against rising temperatures,” he said.

“We know they can make a huge difference to our lives by providing shade and reducing temperatures. They can reduce heat by at least one degree Celsius and reduce exposure to UV by up to 75 per cent.

“That’s why we are committed to increasing Greater Sydney’s tree canopy from 21 to 40 per cent by 2036 with the NSW Government allocating $60 million through the Climate Change Fund over the next eight years.”

In conjunction with National Parks & Wildlife, a stage 3 teacher resource has been developed for the program, focusing on nature-based solutions to reducing the urban heat island effect. The resource is free for teachers to access online.

Participants of a Cooling the Schools community planting day with Penrith City Council.

Cooling the Schools is also delivering plantings for public spaces to complement schoolyard additions, so the whole community can be involved. A number of local councils have already partnered with Greening Australia to plant through the program, including Penrith City Council, Blacktown City Council, Woollahra Municipal Council, and Western Sydney Parklands Trust.

Cooling the Schools is part of Greening Australia’s Nature in Cities program, and its delivery in Sydney is being funded through the NSW Premier’s Priority ‘Greening our City’, with the state on target to plant one million trees by the end of the year.

Sydney schools interested in participating in the program are encouraged to register at www.greeningaustralia.org.au/projects/cooling-the-schools.