Thinking and acting sustainably can be supported through your child’s school if they are part of the hugely innovative Enviroschools programme. Here’s what you need to know about Enviroschools and how your child’s school can move towards becoming one.
Hinewai – a reserve on the very tip of Banks Peninsula – is host to the hum of excited voices. Groups of children are moving through the tracks, stopping to smell, touch and even taste plants. A flock of fat kereru swoops by overhead, causing everyone to pause for a moment to watch. A muffled beep beep noise is heard as another group gets close to their target: a bird with a transmitter strapped to its back and hidden in the trees. These are Enviroschool kids in action at a workshop, learning about biodiversity and how everything is connected.
Enviroschools started as a small community programme in Hamilton. 10 years later, it has spread nationwide, involving tens of thousands of people throughout New Zealand.
In simple terms, it’s a national environmental education programme that encourages children, their schools and their families, to think and act sustainably. But essentially, it’s a journey towards sustainability that each school takes in their own way, at their own pace, helped by the programme and its support network of facilitators.
Over a quarter of the country’s schools have become Enviroschools – more than 825 schools nationwide: kindergartens, primary and secondary, mainstream and kura Mãori, and schools across all deciles.
but what’s it all about?
The Enviroschools programme is a whole school, student-led approach to learning. It’s about young people looking at the environment around them, deciding what they can do to create a sustainable school, planning it, and getting the community on board to help them make it happen.
The programme is supported by The Enviroschools Foundation, a charitable trust, which trains and manages a network of facilitators and kaitakawaenga to work alongside the students, teachers, whãnau and community. These facilitators are employed by partner organisations, such
as regional and city councils, Department of Conservation, businesses and
Every school in New Zealand is different, so every Enviroschool has a unique approach to how they implement the programme. However, there are some key things that each school has in common, such as creating a whole school vision, forming an envirogroup, working with the community, and taking on action-based projects (see case studies). Learning about the environment is incorporated into every subject.
why become an enviroschool?
By becoming an Enviroschool, the whole school environment becomes an ongoing learning resource. It could be as simple as looking at ways to reduce waste at school, with paper recycling boxes in each classroom, litter-free lunch boxes, or collecting yoghurt pottles to plant seedlings. Some schools install worm farms and composting, create edible gardens or re-design the playground to create shady areas for eating lunches or to encourage birdlife into the school grounds.
All these actions have the added benefit of reducing costs for schools and making for a healthier and happier school environment. Children learn to respect the natural environment and understand the connections between their actions and the future of the planet – essential skills for young people in today’s world.
how does a school join the programme?
The Enviroschools Programme is implemented regionally, along regional council boundaries. Each region coordinates Enviroschools in a slightly different way depending on the partners involved. Contact your regional co-ordinator for more information –
Sarah Mankelow has worked in conservation for over 15 years and is mother of two nature-loving children.