Chang­ing minds

The En­vi­roschools move­ment, now in over 900 New Zealand schools, is em­pow­er­ing pupils to re­alise a more sus­tain­able life.

Element - - Natural Parenting - By Amelia Reynolds Find out more: en­vi­roschools.org.nz

The prin­ci­pal of Royal Road School, Wayne Leighton, says the pri­mary school’s wind-tur­bine has done such a good job of pump­ing wa­ter into the veg­etable gar­den next to the shade house that now stu­dents have to de­cide what to do with the spare power it has gen­er­ated. “So that’s part of our next project,” he says. The West Auck­land en­vi­roschool is one of 944 pri­mary and sec­ondary schools and early child­hood cen­tres across the coun­try which are sup­ported by The En­vi­roschools Foun­da­tion.

Royal Road be­came an En­vi­roschool in 2006 and in 2013 was given green-gold sta­tus by the or­gan­i­sa­tion, recog­nis­ing sus­tain­abil­ity as an in­te­grated part of the school’s vi­sion. At the school, “sus­tain­abil­ity” is one of five of­fi­cial val­ues; there is a stu­dent-led green coun­cil, a troupe of green war­riors and even a des­ig­nated en­viro-teacher.

Royal Road’s wind tur­bine, which of­fi­cially opened last year, is one of many sus­tain­able ac­tion projects stu­dents have helped de­sign over the past seven years and con­tinue to man­age. Other projects in­clude a cit­rus or­chard and fei­joa trees, a worm farm and waste man­age­ment sys­tem, a but­ter­fly gar­den, a pumpkin patch, a harakiki hedge and most re­cently stu­dents ger­mi­nated and har­vested seeds on their seedling ta­ble.

The En­vi­roschools Foun­da­tion cel­e­brated its 10th birth­day last year and has grown from a small pi­lot pro­gramme in Hamil­ton to be­ing in thirty per cent of schools across the coun­try.

Un­der the um­brella of The En­vi­roschools Foun­da­tion is the En­vi­roschools Pro­gramme, for English medium classes and Te Aho Tu Roa for Maori im­mer­sion classes.

Chief ex­ec­u­tive of the or­gan­i­sa­tion Heidi Mar­don says the goal of both pro­grammes is to en­gage a gen­er­a­tion who in­stinc­tively un­der­stand the ben­e­fits of what it means to live sus­tain­ably. The best way to do that is through ac­tion learn­ing and a com­mit­ment from the whole school, she says.

“You can’t have kids learn­ing about zero-waste and then see­ing the waste-truck go­ing out to the land­fill ev­ery day,” she says.

Mar­don says there is no one model for an En­vi­roschool be­cause projects are de­ter­mined by the needs of the in­di­vid­ual school as iden­ti­fied by the stu­dents. One of the first steps an En­vi­roschool takes is to map out an over­all vi­sion for the kind of sus­tain­able school they would like to be.

Schools are also work­ing in con­ver­sa­tion with lo­cal coun­cil re­gional co-or­di­na­tors, En­vi­roschool fa­cil­i­ta­tors and the wider com­mu­nity.

“As soon as you start get­ting kids ac­tu­ally ex­press­ing how they feel about a sit­u­a­tion, and what would they do if they could make a dif­fer­ence to that sit­u­a­tion, then they

“At the time we thought it’s just learn­ing about na­tive trees and plant­ing but ac­tu­ally you learn that it’s an um­brella for all learn­ing”

– Wayne Leighton.

start to get ex­cited,” she says.

Leighton says Royal Road came across En­vi­roschools by chance af­ter it wanted to re­store an area at the back of the school which was a “who’s who of pest plants.”

Since 2006, that pest area has been planted with over 2000 na­tive plants and Leighton says the school’s un­der­stand­ing of what the En­vi­roschools Pro­gramme is re­ally about has grown im­mensely. The pro­gramme has pos­i­tively af­fected staff and the wider com­mu­nity too he says.

“At the time we thought it’s just learn­ing about na­tive trees and plant­ing but ac­tu­ally you learn that it’s an um­brella for all learn­ing.”

The best thing to come out of the pro­gramme, says Leighton, is see­ing chil­dren em­pow­ered with the knowl­edge that they per­son­ally can con­trib­ute to change.

“We talk about all the is­sues, like global warm­ing, and all of those is­sues are very real and that’s all very big stuff. But we don’t want chil­dren think­ing, ‘oh that’s too big, we can’t make a dif­fer­ence,” he says.

“All of the projects and all of the ac­tion that we take it just fits so eas­ily and it’s just a nat­u­ral part of the school. I think that’s a re­ally sat­is­fy­ing thing.”

Royal Road School in Massey is part of the En­vi­roschools Net­work. Here Re­bekah Phillips, the teacher in charge of the project at Royal Road School, helps (from left to

right) Hana Anae Petelo, Lizzie Strong, (back­ground) Zy­ron Prasad, (fore­ground)

Bernie Cai. Pho­tos: Ted Baghurst

Royal Road stu­dents Zy­ron Prasad and Lizzie Strong re-pot some na­tive plants.

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