Enviroschools, a school programme that teaches children to love, care for and respect the environment, celebrated 10 years in Marlborough last week.
The day involved a planting event at the Taylor River walkway in the morning, followed by a teacher workshop at Blenheim School in the afternoon. The planting event was run by Envirogroup students from Fairhall, Springlands, Linkwater and Waikawa Bay schools, who did a really fantastic job of introducing special guests, sharing the commemorative plaque, and offering a mihi before the planting began.
But it's not just the anniversary that is being celebrated - the programme, supported in the region by the Marlborough District Council, Marlborough Kindergarten Association and the Department of Conservation, has the largest uptake of any area nationally, and it's growing.
From humble beginnings in 2005 with five schools piloting the programme, 80 per cent of Marlborough schools are now signed on and all Marlborough kindergartens are on board. More than 90 per cent of the schools involved have eatable gardens and fruit trees, 90 per cent of schools have compost collection methods in place, 41 per cent are harvesting rainwater and 20 per cent keep chickens for eggs.
And it doesn't stop there. Thanks to Enviroschools, close to 1000 trees were planted across the Marlborough region in 2014 and the schools regularly go on outings to clean-up their local area. In addition to signing on to environmentally sustainable initiatives, the Enviroschools kaupapa teaches Māori perspectives and is about fostering deep connections within students "to love, care for and respect ourselves, each other and our planet."
Springlands School Enviroschool lead teacher Cathee Wilks says one of the highlights of the school's involvement with the programme has been how it had empowered children to take the lead on projects and use their initiative. "[It is great] seeing the 5-year olds take on leadership and initiate some actions at our school and the fact that they know they have a voice and know it will be listened to," she says.
Installing a sense of responsibility and empowerment within children is what motivates Enviroschools regional co-ordinator Annie McDonald. "We know that over the past 50 years humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable time in human history. "If we are preparing our students to be future focused then we need to equip them with the skills they need for our changing world."