Teachers taking action to combat eco-anxiety

Teachers taking action to combat eco-anxiety

By Jennifer McMillan  February 12th, 2024

Whether it's creating bush tucker gardens, planting for threatened species, building nest boxes, or revegetating biodiversity hotspots, teachers from around Australia are actively engaging in action-based projects to help mitigate eco-anxiety.


Each year, on the last Friday in July, educators, students and communities across Australia come together to celebrate Schools Tree Day. It’s a day filled with connection and positivity, as thousands of educators embark on a journey to nurture a deeper connection with nature and foster a sense of environmental stewardship among the next generation. With climate concerns negatively affecting the mental health of 67 per cent of young Australians, Schools Tree Day offers encouragement for collective action and community engagement to combat eco-anxiety.  

Growing a friendship garden at Warrawong High School

Maria Schettino has taught in the Intensive English Centre (IEC) for over 16 years. She has been involved in various planting projects including an edible food garden and a regeneration project at the back of the school grounds which connects to Green Connect. In total, 39 nationalities are represented in the student body and the school gardens provide a supportive space to bring them together with nature and each other. She’s seen firsthand the positive impact of the gardens in bringing students from the main high school together with the IEC students to learn about different cultures through plants. Recently, students have been clearing weeds to make way for a ‘friendship garden’ they will be working on this year, with funding for native seedlings from Planet Ark’s Seedling Bank.  

"When we have classrooms where lessons extend beyond textbooks, it helps instill in students values of environmental stewardship and a sense of wonder for the world around them. Planet Ark’s Seedling Bank grants have helped foster environmental awareness, hands-on fun, and a holistic educational experience for our students."

Maria Schettino

Incorporating Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) into the classroom at Busselton Senior High School

Geoff Holt has worked a Busselton High School for 16 years. In 2021, he became a UNESCO Global Schools Advocate, sharing his passion for practical and project-based curricula. He believes action-based projects such as tree planting and regeneration provides students with the much-needed agency, helping to mitigate eco-anxiety. Geoff, along with his colleagues and students, have been working on a number of projects on Wadandi Country in the southwest cape of Western Australia. One project saw students help revegetate the biodiversity hotspot of Meelup Regional Park after a bushfire destroyed 40 per cent of the vegetation. They did this alongside the City of Busselton Environment Office by installing coir logs to prevent erosion and run-off which are major causes of the spread of die-back (Phytophthora Cinnamomii), a moisture borne pathogen that kills trees from the top down by preventing the uptake of nutrients. Following this, the area was successfully regenerated, with over 6,000 trees planted by Busselton students in the locality since 2021. Busselton SHS, including staff and students from the Aboriginal Stars Program are currently planning their biggest tree planting project in June this year to celebrate Schools Tree Day. 

“After participating in action-based projects such as these, students competed surveys which revealed that they feel a great sense of pride, achievement, and value the opportunity to work as a team to care for Country and take action to help the planet. I see it as essential that our education system responds to the climate emergency by empowering teachers and students to take practical action to support environmental recovery and address the existential challenge of climate change. This should become core business in curriculum and pedagogy."

Geoff Holt 

Building nest boxes with students at Bendigo Senior College

Ken Beasley has been a National Tree Day coordinator for over 15 years, and he has worked with Landcare groups for over 30 years. He actively seeks opportunities to share his environmental enthusiasm and encourage teenagers to explore the wonders of nature. Last year, he gave students from Bendigo Senior College a hands-on experience in building nest boxes. Through this initiative, Ken hopes to educate the students, providing them with valuable guidance and exposing them to new experiences that may pave the way for future employment opportunities requiring hands-on skills. Experiences like these have the power to ignite a lifelong commitment to the environment, leaving a lasting positive impact on wildlife for future generations to cherish.  

“It is important that small grant opportunities are available at a grass roots level. Great to see Planet Ark contributing to our local community.”

Ken Beasley, Northern Bendigo Landcare President. 

Important dates for your calendar

  • Schools Tree Day – Friday 26 July

  • National Tree Day – Sunday 28 July  

  • Tropical Tree Day – Sunday 1 December  

How to get involved   

Got questions? Email Planet Ark’s Tree Day support team at treeday@planetark.org  



Positive Actions

Jennifer McMillan

Jen worked as a vet nurse while studying environmental science and completing her master's degree in Journalism. She loves bushwalking, storytelling, caring for baby animals, Australian birds and river red gums. Jen works on the National Tree Day campaign and Planet Ark's Seedling Bank.

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