Building commitment and momentum at secondary level

| By Anna Cunningham, Enviroschools Waikato

An Envirogroup is a student-led network of enthusiastic, motivated people who share a common interest and commitment for sustainability within a school community. They can be a forum for development and exchange of ideas and opportunities, a group that take responsibility for creating communication for whole school engagement and a contact point for the Enviroschools process. Here Enviroschools Facilitator, Anna Cunningham tells us about a commitment to re-invigorate the Envirogroup at Fairfield College (FFC), Kirikiriroa, Hamilton.

Current Situation

Fairfield College is a secondary school of approximately 750 students, located within Kirikiriroa Hamilton’s north-eastern suburbs. The school has been an Enviroschool for a number of years, with varying degrees of engagement and action during this time.

In the past Fairfield College had a vibrant Envirogroup under the support of science teacher Roger Cox. With COVID 19 and Roger’s retirement, the Envirogroup lost momentum. In 2023, year 13 student Caleb Richardson decided that he wanted to change that and stood for Environmental and Sustainability Leader. He had been part of the school’s Envirogroup as a junior, has a real passion for the environment, and wanted to make a difference in this area. This role seemed daunting to Caleb at first, however he rose to the challenge!

Explore Alternatives

The first step was for Caleb to get a student Envirogroup started. This was supported by ex-teacher Roger Cox who, whilst retired, is still very much part of the school whānau and was happy to be involved. Support also came from Caleb’s whānau, including stepmother Kristen Price.

In Term 2, a small number of enthusiastic students started gathering once a week during a lunch break. With support from Roger and Kristen the group of students started to brainstorm what changes they wanted to see at their school, and what action they could take. Conversations were initially had around waste, and ideas to improve the physical environment at Fairfield College. The group also worked on promoting the Envirogroup, through posters around school, to attract more members.

The group identified a number of opportunities, however they decided to focus on one area rather than spread themselves too thinly. Before choosing what to focus on, the Envirogroup engaged with the wider student body to get their input on what the priorities for change were.

Gathering diverse perspectives.

Take Action

The group felt that the easiest way to engage with the school community was to run an event in the school hall during a lunch break. Pizza and home baking would be on offer to draw the students in. The aim of the event was to “gather ideas from staff and students about ways to make the outdoor environment at FFC more attractive, nature friendly and a reflection of the cultures of our school- in pursuit of supporting student wellbeing and to increase biodiversity.”

A list of jobs was drawn up and split up between the Envirogroup members – covering event promotion, inviting specific people to the event (including the caretakers), and collecting resources for the event. The event date was set for Monday 18th September.

On the day of the event, the Envirogroup and some of their friends set up the hall, attaching large pieces of butcher’s paper to tables and notice boards for students to write on. The questions that the group had designed at a previous meeting were stuck around the room, along with photos of the school grounds and inspiring photos of what the school could look like.  A map of the school was also printed out.

The questions were…

  • How important is the environment to you?
  • What is important to you about our school environment?
  • How do you currently feel about our school environment?
  • Where are places in our school environment that could do with a bit of love?
  • How could we make the school environment more appealing?
  • What would you like to see/ be able to do in our school environment?
  • Would you like to get involved in projects to improve the school environment?

Caleb, left, contributes to the gathering of ideas during the lunch time event.

Provoking conversations about the current environment and gathering ideas.









It is hard to estimate how many students attended this event, however the pizza and baking disappeared very quickly! There was a lot of engagement with the papers around the room, with some great observations and ideas being collected. The Envirogroup was very happy with the turnout and the principal was impressed with the way that the event was run.

At their next meeting, the Envirogroup looked through the collected information and used it to inform the creation of their Google Survey, which would be used to gather more responses and gain further clarity of information from the kanohi ki te kanohi event. The survey link was sent out to the school community and was advertised during Akotahi time. Almost 100 responses were collected!

Gathering diverse perspectives.

Building a picture of possibilities for the future.










Reflect & Next Steps

Some strong themes emerged from the school hall event. Attendees wanted to see a clean, tidy school with green areas, native plants, colour and to feel that the environment was respected, and cultural significance was recognised. The feeling was that the school grounds needed some work, especially the gardens, the toilets, and the litter problem.  Ideas that came through to make the school more appealing included more trees, more rubbish bins, better toilets, more flower beds/ gardens (and less concrete), more seating and art projects including murals.

These results were also reflected in the Google Survey results, with the most frequent comments and ideas coming through being less rubbish, cleaner toilets and more seating. These results have been passed on to school management.

From Caleb’s point of view – “I feel proud of what we managed to achieve in 2023.  Although I was hoping for more people to get on board, we succeeded in getting the Envirogroup restarted and set the groundwork for future action in 2024.   There is more work to be done, so to the 2024 envirogroup, I wish you a productive year and I hope the group continues to expand action across the school. “

This research has put the 2024 Envirogroup in a great position to take on an action project and continue the momentum. The toilets are not the responsibility of the Envirogroup, much to the relief of the group members! Hopefully, this research will encourage the school management and maintenance team to pay closer attention to those facilities.

We wait to see what the new Envirogroup chooses to focus on. I will continue to work with and support the Envirogroup, when appropriate. There is also a funding opportunity through the Waikato Regional Council that the group will explore for their chosen project.