Young people have an important role to play in restoring and caring for the environment, and local school curriculums reflect that responsibility.
NZ has a national strategy for environmental education entitled Learning to Care For Our Environment, which links the environment to all seven key learning areas.
The aim is to encourage environmentally responsible behaviour and informed participation in decision-making. Mahurangi Matters contacted local schools to see how the strategy is being put into practice locally.
Students at Ahuroa School will interact more closely with the environment this year when an outdoor classroom is built.
The classroom, designed by the students, will be 100sqm and incorporate a native plant sanctuary, tree house and tiered seating.
“We aim to use our native plants to create a sanctuary where we can listen, feel and interact with nature,” Ahuroa School principal Michelle Nell says.
Proceeds from this month’s annual Fair, Feast and Fireworks event on March 18 will go towards the new classroom.
The school is involved in a number of other environmental initiatives, including Trees For Survival, where they plant and re-pot natives on farms around the area.
Last year they participated in a long-term programme called CatchIt where the students learnt about the damage done by introduced pests and were shown how to set traps.
The school also works with Auckland Council to test the water quality in their local stream, which involves examining insect life.
Tapora School will become the eighth rural school to participate in the CatchIt programme this year. The initiative, which started in 2015, involves 310 students across the Rodney District gathering trapping data which was used by the University of Auckland. The school participated in Trees for Survival planting around a local catchment dam last year, and also participates in an annual tree planting at Atiu Creek once a year.
Local farmer Earle Wright has donated an environmental award to the school, which will be presented on the school Agricultural Day in September. The award will go to the student who makes the best environmental action plan and carries it out to make a difference in their area.
Kaipara Flats School, Tauhoa School and Leigh School
Kaipara Flats will continue its involvement with the CatchIt programme and is also looking to developing an edible garden with a food-to-table project. Tauhoa School is part of Trees for Survival and will continue to plant at Matai and Atiu Creek in June this year. Leigh School is doing a unit on healthy seas, and last month did a rubbish collection day at Mathesons Bay and a metre square study which collects data on what’s at the beach.
Mangawhai Beach School
Mangawhai Beach School is aiming to gain its bronze medal in the Enviro Schools programme this year. The students are creating a school vision map where they plot out what environmental features they would like to have around the school. Last year they developed a vegetable garden, which is still in use, and built bird houses and feeders.
School environment unit coordinator Jackie Fanning says the students are very enthusiastic about the initiative and that spaces in the environmental leaders group are hotly contested.
Each term they identify an environmental focus with Sea Week this term and World Environmental Week in term two.
The school also participates in the Paper4trees programme where native trees are given to the school in exchange for the paper they recycle.
Year 7 and 8 students of Mahurangi College will focus on Kaitiakitanga, meaning protection of the land, in term one this year. This involves working with Auckland Zoo on Rotoroa Island, off Waiheke Island. The study will include learning about pests, trapping, animal tracking and native birds on what is a pest free island.
Earlier this month, Year 8 camped at Tawharanui Regional Park to work on sustainability programmes. In May they will present an action plan which they have carried out to benefit the environment.
Snells Beach School
Snells Beach School is embracing the environment with this year’s theme, Care For Here.
One of the first activities was a clean-up at the Snells Beach waterfront, including the grass area.
The Year 3 and 4 students will explore the Snells Beach stream this year as part of the Whitebait Connection programme. The national programme was set up to help improve waterways to ensure the survival of whitebait and their habitat. Students will be looking for whitebait, checking water quality and looking at ways to maintain it.
“We want our kids out in their environment, getting muddy, sandy or wet; experiencing it, rather than just researching it,” Snells Beach School principal Kathryn Ramel says.
“We want them learning about real life concepts, in a real context that they can take with them after the learning focus at school has moved on.”