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Plan A, B & C is Earth!

Enter the gates at Sylvia Park School and you’ll be amazed at what students there have created. At the beginning of the term students were asked, “How can we ensure we don’t need Mars as our Plan B planet?” In response, students and teachers designed and constructed their own outdoor classroom – improving the school’s sustainability and helping to educate friends and whānau.

The outdoor classroom was officially opened just before the school holidays, and took just under three weeks to build. It features a swale and a bridge, a spider-web climbing frame, a bughouse and worm farm, and an entrance inspired by The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. “It’s important to us that students’ learning translates to something that allows them to contribute to our community and wider society in a meaningful and powerful way,” says school principal Barbara Alaalatoa. “Through experiences like this, our children learn they can be the change makers our world needs.”



The project was undertaken as part of the Enviroschools programme, which aims to help students develop skills, understanding, knowledge and confidence through planning, designing and working towards creating a sustainable school. Auckland Council Enviroschools facilitator Cate Jessep was inspired by the level of enthusiasm shown by students and teachers at Sylvia Park School.

“They came up with the ideas, and I helped to connect them with experts such as stormwater and biodiversity specialists. Everyone involved was totally committed to making this project a success, and the results are truly remarkable.” Principal Alaalatoa welcomes groups wanting to visit the outdoor classroom. Please contact Sylvia Park School if you would like to request a viewing.

Check out their amazing journey captured in video here 

Hukanui School's Living Room wins Award

Students leading the way

The efforts of more than 180 students over the past five years has seen Hukunui School receive a Green Ribbon Award for Community Action for the Environment.

The Student Working Party of Hukanui Primary School in Hamilton designed, funded and built an eco-classroom it calls ‘The Living Room'. The project idea was conceived and driven by students, with more than 180 children involved in every aspect of the project.

The Living Room was developed as an ecologically-sound building and has also created a working laboratory for the students. A water tank that captures the majority of the rainwater from the roof will supply the garden and a high efficiency wood burner enfolded in earth walls will supplement the passive warmth of a thick floor slab. Below the floor slab are three different forms of thermal insulation (polystyrene, recycled glass and volcanic pumice) so the students can monitor the effectiveness of these different insulation materials.

The Living Room started as a small idea that developed into a significant education project. By "owning" the project and being involved at every stage students gained valuable skills, not only in sustainable building and resource efficiency, but also more broadly in research, communication, decision-making and critical thinking.  

Their work on planning, designing and building New Zealand's first ecological classroom is an amazing achievement and shows how the process is just as important as the final product.  

Updates about Hukanui School's Living room can be read on their school blogsite

Check out this video to see what Hukunui has been up to over the past few years as an Enviroschool.

The Plastic Bottle Greenhouse and Arbor Day 2014

A bit about us!

Nestled at the base of the Oxford foothills lies the small country town of Oxford. We (Justin and Mel Fletcher) moved here six years ago from Bournemouth, England and set up a much needed quality preschool.

Bright Horizons Preschool was built in February 2010. We wanted to set up a centre of excellence for 25 preschoolers aged 3 to 5; creating a sustainable environment with a large outside space.

Our centre is ‘home’ to 2 highland cattle, 8 sheep and some chooks. We also have composting bins, a worm farm and a small vegetable garden. One of the benefits of being a small independent pre school is we can develop and grow the centre in line with our children’s interests.

In September 2010 Bright Horizons embarked on its Enviroschools journey. Here are some project highlights:

The Plastic Bottle Greenhouse – April 2011

We were looking for a sustainable project for the year and, whilst surfing the net, Mel came across a greenhouse made from plastic pop bottles. Never one to shy from a challenge Justin was on the case! Download instructions here

He is proud to say that this final design survived the 6.3 February earthquake and the wildest Nor West winds this year and ‘the big snow’ so is confident plastic bottles will not be spread around the paddocks.

In order to build the bottle house 105 canes and 1600 plastic bottles were required. We asked parents for used pop bottles and the remainder were sourced from the local recycling unit over a 6 week period. We used leftover framing from the centre build and macrocarpa off cuts for the door. The only cost would have been for the 4 corner posts and concrete, however Mitre 10 Mega Rangiora provided these. The result is a strong ventilated self watering greenhouse. The children are now drawing up plans for plants they want to grow.

As part of the centre’s ongoing review process Justin constantly questions and challenges the learning these projects generate. Last Friday at afternoon mat time he was quizzing the children on what items could be recycled and possible re uses, he held up a plastic pop bottle.  Our youngest 3 year old put up her hand and said “We could make another greenhouse, Mr Justin” – What price preschool education?

What’s next?

We are looking forward to our next projects: firstly installing two rain water collection tanks for irrigation and, longer term, developing some of the remaining paddock into a community garden.

Arbor Day 2014 - Little shoots set down little roots

Children, parents and teachers got into the spirit of AWorld Arbor Day with the planting of 30 native trees. They also celebrated expanding their outdoor area!  Justin Fletcher (owner) said a $1000 grant from Honda Schools Fund will be spent on planting native trees over the next two years.  For Arbor Day each child was given their own tree to plant, which they will take responsibility for and watch grow.  

The celebration reflects the preschool's philosophy whihc is centred on preparing children for a sustainable future.  They are looking forward to reaching their goal of achieving Silver in the Enviroschools Holistic Reflection later in the year. 


Justin is happy to share ideas or offer advice and can be contacted at: justin@brighthorizons.co.nz or be inspired at: www.brighthorizons.co.nz


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