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Leading by Design at Paraparaumu Playcentre, Kapiti

Energy1 pic-welly snapshot

When their 125yr old building started to fall apart, Paraparaumu Playcentre didn't miss an opportunity to create a building that was good for people and nature!  

Read more about their purpose built centre that brings sustainability to the forefront of learning >here

The Dynamis Project

Renewable Energy for New Zealand Schools

The Dynamis Project is working with schools to demonstrate and test new technologies that encourages them and their communities to become more self-sufficient.

Schools are well suited for solar power as most of their power use is during the day, and with the project being long term considerable financial savings can be made. 

Currently three enviroschools in Lower Hutt, Wellington have installed solar PV with the aim to generate a good percentage of their school's energy requirements. 

Read more about Maungaraki School, Gracefield School and Naenae Primary's success with their installation here 

If you are interested in what this project is about, see the FAQ at The Dynamis Project to find out how to support a school with solar installation, or what to consider if your school is interested. 

Watch this great video that demonstrates the installation process at two Wellington enviroschools.  It's wonderful to see schools taking action with energy generation.  

Greenwood Kindergarten

Deepening practices in sustainability

Local teachers, who see the wonderful plastic bottle growing house at Greenwood Kindergarten that children and staff designed and built, say they want one too.

When these teachers ask the staff at Greenwood how they did it, what they hear is a reflection about the rich process of taking time to empower children and together learning and designing each baby step to enjoy the journey of actions to achieve their vision. This is in sharp contrast to knowing how easy it is for teachers to make the decisions to quickly get things to happen, which often involves seeking funding as the answer to achieve the sort after things.

Greenwood staff had a vision of becoming a solar powered kindergarten. First thought was how to afford the solar panels they could have. However, they put a hold on those thoughts. They knew they had to start a few steps back on the Action Learning Cycle. Although, there may be alternatives to just finding money as the solution to a specific project achievement, the teachers also knew that ‘ako’ with the children and parent community is the real key to engagement and development of any worthwhile project.

Identifying how the sun already works in the Kindergarten was the best way to start their inquiry learning to lead to action. You can imagine all of the activities and science experiments the teachers did to help children and themselves gain knowledge and experiences around temperatures and the power of the sun. After all, solar power is natural not just something that is technologically derived.

Children’s questions led to internet investigations and the first project was to make and use a solar oven, using what was made available and was achieved at no cost. It is an interesting part of any action process to find that after setting a worthwhile shared goal and being prepared to explore alternatives, doors more easily open to potential resources. Of note, was that silver card was used to minimise the reflected intensity of the solar oven heat. Even then, staff observed it still took 6 months before all of the children gained the courage to put their hand in the solar oven to feel the heat and thus experience this solar process. The children and teachers became aware of how much they could more effectively use solar power for all sorts of things. They used times of the day and places around the Kindergarten for best drying or shade. Creative experiences with enhancing paper mâché bricks, water for play, and choice of clothing, light reflection and growing things all benefited through developing their solar energy kindergarten.

When the question arose of how to grow plants in winter, both staff and children explored what others had done and had fun experimenting with designs. This led to the plastic bottle Grow House project.


The ethics around plastic bottle options was addressed benefitting healthy choice awareness. By also bringing the community on board, it was another successful learning outcomes solar-powered project with little cost. Next step is to investigate water conservation and warming water for the Grow House in winter. The teachers at Greenwood have integrated solar power into their Kindergarten in a myriad of ways and enriched children’s learning by stepping back to use the Action Learning Cycle with the children. And, there’s still the possibility of having solar panels one day.

Photo 1 – TDC Councillor Eileen Wilkins and the 4 year old main designer opening the Grow House December 2011 at Silver Level celebration
Photo 2 – Kid safe solar oven at Greenwood KindergartenPhoto 3, 4, 5 – Fitting the bottles together to make a row and fitting the rows together can be practised over and over. All sorts of things may be needed and tall teacher Shayne puts in the high rows.


EVolocity Waikato Regional Finals promises an exciting day for budding engineers and innovators

EVolocity Waikato is a first-time competition for high school students to design, build and race their own electric vehicles. More than 70 students from 12 schools are taking part in the competition, designing and building their own electric cart or bike equipped with an electric motor kit. The designs range from four-wheel go-karts to two-wheeler bikes. 

EVolocity Waikato Student bikeTauhara College students Denis Mansell and Joshua Love-Parata are pictured with their electric bike they have built for the competition. The bike is made from an old bike found at the local dump and uses recycled materials from school for the seat and scrap metal in the design. EVolocity provided the electric motor kit. "We picked up the bike from the dump, the seat fabric and foam were offcuts from the fabric department, and apart from a new piece of tubing, everything else has been recycled."

On Friday 16th September their designs will be put to the test, with competitors racing their vehicles in a drag race and on a street circuit to see which schools’ electric vehicles will go on to compete in the national finals in Christchurch on November 27.

As well as speed, vehicles will be judged on economy, rolling resistance and motor control. Other prizes will be awarded for innovation and sustainability, with extra points for body design, bling, creatively dressed teams and community awareness.

Waikato Engineering Careers Association (WECA) manager Mary Jensen said EVolocity has been an excellent way to spark interest in important secondary school subjects and mechanical and electrical engineering.

St Johns’ College head of technology Steve Andrew said 10 Year 13 students taking part in EVolocity at his school had embraced the challenge, renewing their vigour for technology, maths and science subjects.

“They’re using core subjects like science and physics in the workshop and they’re so engrossed. It’s also probably the first time they have been exposed to mechanical and electrical engineering, so that’s a big part of it too,” Steve said.  

Students design, build and race their own electric vehicles with assistance from teachers, tertiary tutors and mentors from engineering businesses. “Our technology teachers are working together and students are working together to solve problems for a common purpose. The competition element of it has really motivated them. The response from everyone has been great,” says Steve Andrew.

"Learning with your hands is as important as learning with your head," said competition scrutineer and mentor Stew Lister. “EVolocity means they can be mentored throughout their project and learn those things. They can also be free to learn from their mistakes, which is just as important."

The EVolocity programme is a valuable tool in teaching NZ youth to think outside the square when considering future transport options and to appreciate the dramatic impact electric transport can have on air quality and energy efficiency.

The Waikato Regional finals are being held Friday 16th September at Kartsport Hamilton, from 1.30pm. See the programme here.

WECA is co-ordinating EVolocity in the region and its engineering company members, along with Wintec and the University of Waikato, who are supporting the initiative.


For more information contact:

Levinia Paku
EVolocity Waikato co-ordinator
022 372 0335

Story and pictures featured in Stuff and weca.org.