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Homes for weta at Nelson Central School

Nelson Central School is giving a helping hand to their local wetas by building them prime real estate. Students teamed up with the handy folks from the Menzshed to build nine weta homes on September 21.  Earlier in the year, the school was successful in winning a $500 grant to support environmental projects. 

Nelson Central Enviroschools coordinator Lynley Walters said a visit from "Bugman" Ruud Kleinpaste had drummed up excitement amongst the students about insects. "We thought we would foster the children's interest in the bugs and develop our garden areas to make them healthier habitats for insects. The children have learnt a lot about healthy eco-systems and the importance of these."

The funding grant encouraged the school to work with a community group "so we approached the local Menzshed to support us in building the weta houses". "It's fantastic ... the men are so enthusiastic, they get a lot of enjoyment working with the children."

Insects may be able to sleep rough, but having shelter protects them from predators, including birds, while the houses also let the children view a weta up close.  "They like dark, cool places. They crawl into the hole in the wooden structures and get quite cosy and because it's dark, they love it."

Walters said the students could open one side of the house and look at the weta's body parts without being intrusive as part of the weta house was clear perspex. "The children were absolutely amazed that it was an ancient animal.  It's been around since the time of dinosaurs so that was a very important fact that the children were greatly excited about."

Along with the wooden structures for the nocturnal insects, new greenery will be planted to attract more bugs to the weta house area. The house will be attached to poles or trees on the embankment area around the playground. 

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.

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