An engaging range of support for the Enviroschools ECE sector

| By National Team

2022 was a big year for professional development and inspiration in the ECE (early childhood) Enviroschools network! After spending large amounts of time relying on zoom as the key mode to connect it was wonderful to be able to start facilitating kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) and have the opportunity to grow and deepen our connections. Zoom still continues to provide an excellent platform to bring ECE Enviroschools and facilitators together, particularly for the sessions offered to the whole national network. We have found the ability for sharing inspirational mahi and then putting the recording on the Enviroschools website an effective way to support the network.

Inspiration and sharing zoom hui

A national ECE inspirational zoom event drew in large numbers.

Four zoom hui were held over 2022 attended by a total of 530 people and recordings of the zooms watched by many more! We developed a termly zoom session where ECE Enviroschools across the network had the opportunity to attend zoom hui or watch the recording via the Enviroschools website.

Every early childhood centre is unique, with its own ecology, history, culture and community – meaning Enviroschools looks different in every setting. We mihi to the 8 ECE Enviroschools for sharing their inspirational mahi over 2022 with the whole network.

Some of the topics that ECE Enviroschools have shared include:

  • Sharing haerenga of developing a Māra Hupara
  • Sharing the creation of a pukapuka celebrating the female Atua based on research and understanding of some of the Atua Wāhine
  • Learning about local pūrākau and engaging tamariki in place-based learning
  • Maramataka Māori woven through all aspects of the four key areas
  • Developing a centre vision and exploring the Enviroschools Action Learning Cycle
  • Focus on wai and connection to cultural identity

These zoom sessions have created a wonderful opportunity to connect and hear about Enviroschools in the ECE setting and were so well received, we will continue with this platform in 2023.

Other Zoom sessions

Showing the process of vision mapping.

Throughout 2022 Katie and Roimata facilitated many bespoke zoom hui for regions, as well as a number of zoom sessions focussed on Enviroschools holistic reflections.

Creating a Whole Centre Vision/ He Mahere Toimata

This zoom was made available to the whole ECE Enviroschools network and 115 people attended.

Roimata facilitated a zoom encouraging kaiako to delve into the Whole Centre Vision process.  The Enviroschools Early Years Handbook was used along with four key steps, top tips, some examples from an Enviroschools ECE (Central Kids Paraone Taumarunui) including space for some whakawhitiwhiti kōrero. Roimata collaborated with Rochelle Faire from Central Kids Paraone and created additional support documents for creating a whole centre vision.


Regional workshops

We facilitated 11 regional workshops for a total of 298 people – these were facilitated either via zoom or kanohi ki te kanohi. All of these workshops were in response to a specific request for bespoke professional development and support. Some of the workshops are summarised below.

Introduction and reconnection to Enviroschools – Inspired Kindergartens

This professional development focussed on introduction and reconnection to the Enviroschools Kaupapa (with a focus on the Enviroschools Guiding Principles and Action Learning Cycle).  This included an outline of the Enviroschools kaupapa, inviting kaiako to revisit the ECE handbook and foldout in the Enviroschools kit.  We also watched the ECE Enviroschools movie, pausing after each Guiding Principle to record examples for discussion. This was followed by unpacking each of the four parts of the Action Learning Cycle, looking at the differing questions laid out to guide each stage and the examples of activities to support. It was a great reminder that the Enviroschools Action Learning Cycle fits well with internal evaluation practices in ECE, as they both embrace – change, improvement and innovation, community of learners, collaboration and quality teaching practice.

Māori Perspectives

Kindergarten South requested professional development on unpacking of the Enviroschools Guiding Principle Māori Perspectives.  This included providing tools to engage with whānau, and an approach for working and connecting with tangata whenua.  Roimata Macfarlane, Enviroschools ECE Support, shared how using a Whole Centre Approach utilising the Four Key Areas (Place/Wāhi, Practices/Tikanga, People & Participation/Tangata, and Programmes/Kaupapa Ako) will naturally weave this Guiding Principle through their mahi.  This was reinforced by sharing examples of ECE centres making these connections.

Sustainable Communities and Connection

Energising activities helped ECE facilitators and kaiako explore the concept of sustainable communities.

Katie Higgins, National ECE Enviroschools Coordinator, and Jacqui Lees from Pakuranga Baptist Kindergarten, facilitated a morning hui for all Kaitiaki Kindergarten Enviroschools (based in Tāmaki Makaurau). The focus was on connection and exploration of the Guiding Principle of Sustainable Communities. After a long period of time of lock down and restrictions around whānau being physically involved in kindergartens, it felt timely to focus on drawing upon the relationships with communities. Jacqui shared inspirational mahi about Pakuranga Baptist Kindergarten’s enquiry and action around connecting community. There was additionally a focus on the Enviroschools Action Learning Cycle being used in this context, spending time delving into identifying the current situation.

Everyone enjoyed being kanohi ki te kanohi,  sharing in delicious kai and even some kanikani to keep us energised.

Utilising the  Enviroschools Transitions resource with Kāhui Ako  

As part of an exploration to trial out new ways of working we created an opportunity for the Mt Albert Kāhui Ako to connect with and use the Enviroschools Transitions resource. The area of transition from ECE to Primary was a focussed goal for this Kāhui Ako, where many of the centres and schools are already part of the Enviroschools network.

The Mt Albert Kāhui Ako gathering provided an opportunity to share the Enviroschools Transitions resource.

Carol Hartley and Katie Higgins facilitated an afternoon workshop for 17 teachers representing 11 schools and ECE centres. The group was led through the following areas to explore:

  • The importance of thoughtful transition for tamariki, kaiako, whānau and school community
  • The Enviroschools Guiding Principles and sharing what they looked like within their different educational spaces
  • The links and language between Te Whāriki, NZ Curriculum and Enviroschools Kaupapa
  • The skills, knowledge and attributes tamariki transitioning into school have
  • Ways to involve whānau in transition and to continue with the Enviroschools journey
  • Provocations relating to the transition space through an Enviroschools lens
  • Next steps for strengthening transition for the Kāhui Ako group

We invited feedback from the group to evaluate the effectiveness of this workshop. The teachers said it was valuable for providing focussed opportunity to discuss transition and connect with each other. The unpacking of the Enviroschools Transitions resource  proved to be very useful with many teachers from Enviroschools commenting that it reinvigorated their commitment to Enviroschools and supported them to explore the relationships with local ECE centres.

The outline of this workshop and ideas for putting it together is available from the Enviroschools National team for any of our Enviroschools facilitators wishing to replicate it within Kāhui Ako in their spaces.

Roimata Macfarlane and Henare Gurney prepare for the Inspired Kindergartens event hosted at Te Whetu o te Rangi Marae.

Linking Enviroschools to Te Whare Tapa Whā/Hauora Hui

Both Inspired Kindergartens and Northland Kindergarten Association requested support in linking the Enviroschools kaupapa with the context of Te Whare Tapa Whā/Hauora. Roimata unpacked each dimension of Te Whare Tapa Whā and discussed how our hauora is and can be directly affected by our connection (or lack of) to our taiao and how our treatment of taiao affects mauri both of taiao and tangata.  She then shared how we can strengthen our hauora through linking of Enviroschools Theme Areas to each dimension of Te Whare Tapa Whā.

Mason Durie’s Te Whare Tapa Whā Māori health is a model that encapsulates the whole of a person, keeping them at the centre. Te Whare Tapa Whā connects what we know in terms of the science of mental health and what makes a positive difference – e.g. connecting, learning, keeping active and taking notice (being mindful and present). It includes these as foundational parts of a person (whare) and who they are – taha tinana, taha hinengaro, taha wairua, taha whānau and whenua. The holistic connection between the Te Whare Tapa Whā, the Enviroschools kaupapa and Te Whāriki is completely synergist with hauora.

Transitions workshop (Te Taitokerau Enviroschools facilitators)

The Te Taitokerau team look at geographical locations in relation to transition from ECE to primary Enviroschools.

The wātaka for this day was to unpack and connect with the Enviroschools Transitions resource with all the ECE from Northland Kindergarten Association (NKA) and all facilitators from Northland Regional Council (NRC). It was an excellent opportunity to increase the connections between the facilitators across the sectors. Part of the day was spent unpacking the Transitions resource and activities within it. We then went into depth utilising a geographical map of the region highlighting where all of the Enviroschools were placed, and then next steps were made between ECE and school facilitators.

Since this workshop there has been some progress and collaborations made between facilitators and their ECE centres and schools. The plan for the Te Taitokerau NRC and NKA facilitators is to meet in 6 months’ time to consider and discuss the following:

  • How many connections have born fruit?
  • Transition ‘teams’ share what’s been happening
  • What worked and what didn’t?
  • (more) Enviroschools communities will have formed


Kanohi ki te kanohi/face to face Professional Development:

Introduction to Enviroschools hui

At the Intro to Enviroschools ECE hui facilitators had time to look at the range of resources available.

This was the first time we have created a specific hui for Enviroschools ECE facilitators new to the role and we had 9 people attend the training.  The day included unpacking the key Enviroschools resources, the Enviroschools kaupapa and the role of the Enviroschools facilitator in the ECE context. Roimata and Katie also created opportunities for the facilitators to create their own resources to support their work back in their rohe. Each facilitator made their own kōhatu activity, making use of stones which had been blessed by Roimata using very special wai from the Niagara Falls.

The day was hosted at the Life Centre in Tāmaki which was a beautiful space to facilitate this training in.

National Enviroschools ECE Facilitator hui 

This was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect kanohi ki te kanohi after spending such a long time connecting only via zoom. 31 ECE facilitators from across the motu came to Tāmaki Makaurau for the day. Katie and Roimata designed a wātaka centred around exploring Te Whare Tapa Whā, climate change action in the ECE space, sharing the ngā Atua Māori Cards, Maramataka kōrero from Heeni Hoterene and sharing next steps for ECE Enviroschools.

The recently printed sets of Atua Cards were a valuable tool in exploring the kaupapa of Enviroschools.

We reconnected with and updated the big, visual roll out image of all of our ECE Enviroschools and partnerships and heard updates of all of the mahi in regions. We had time exploring Te Whare Tapa Whā and what this means to us individually related to our hauora.

The climate change action part of the day involved interesting kōrero around the two pātai:

  • What do we know?/What can we observe? – regarding climate change when we think about teaching and learning in the ECE context?
  • How can we influence things? – when thinking about climate change in the ECE Enviroschools context?

During the afternoon we had Heeni Hoterene join us via zoom, sharing her wisdoms around Maramataka Māori. Following this presentation there was plenty of kōrero around how facilitators could lean into the Maramataka specific to their regions.

“The mauri was indeed warm, and your efforts brought out the essence of the Enviroschools kaupapa where we took part in a peaceful place, ate healthy delicious kai and leaned in to share sustainable teaching and learning across the regions – the actions will come next! We also mihi and thank Toimata for this wonderful opportunity – it is setting us up well for what comes next.” – participant feedback

Participants build knowledge and understanding about maramataka at the September hui.

Each facilitator was given a koha aroha bag including generously donated goodies by our Enviroschools sponsors, Mother Earth and Earthwise. Also included in the bags were Tuhi stationary products and the beautiful Atua Cards created by Toimata Foundation. We really valued the feedback provided by facilitators about what they would like more focussed professional development and support around. This will form the next steps of what we will offer in 2023.

“I am still having ‘warm fuzzies’ around the Inspiration Day with Enviroschools ECE Facilitators – what an empowered, collegial, thoughtful, and reflective space was created – our cups were indeed filled! On behalf of the AKA facilitator team, we thank you deeply for replenishing us as kaiako ,  as facilitators and as people.” –  participant feedback