Connecting with their place is central to learning – Central Otago update

| By Enviroschools Otago

Tānemahuta - Atua of the forest and all that dwells in it

Millers Flat students planting 100 trees on World Environment day.

Collective action – Mahi Ngātahi:

Enviroschools is a holistic approach to the development of sustainable communities. Enviroschools has a kaupapa of creating a healthy, peaceful, sustainable world through learning and taking action together.


Each Enviroschool completes an annual review of their sustainability highlights and achievements over the year. Below is a summary of the amazing mahi happening in Central Otago schools and their communities and the difference that Enviroschools is making. 2020 was a challenging year for everyone and we mihi the teachers and students for their energy and passion for creating a more sustainable world.


Enviroschools has made a difference to Central Otago schools in ways such as:

  • allowing students to drive their inquiry and action,
  • exploration of our backyard that changed the way students perceive the bigger world,
  • giving the school a mandate to focus on sustainability,
  • making us think about what we can do and how we can support change,
  • Having all staff engaged and seeing students empowered,
  • Supporting the junior school to remodel the outdoor environment at the school.


Poolburn students planting kowhai seeds in their origami pots.

Central Otago schools are making a difference in their schools and communities in many different ways.

Theme area examples of activities and actions:
All schools took action on waste through initiatives such as: Trash free Tuesdays, paper recycling, waste-free lunches with tips and recipes in the school newsletter, cooking at school, composting, making wax wraps, waste audits, eating before play.

All schools took action to look after the whenua by being involved with projects such as: food gardens (growing, cooking and sharing), native gardens at school and in the community, adopting community planting sites, creating skink gardens, pest monitoring and trapping, creating bird and bee friendly gardens, learning local Māori legends, growing harakeke and kowhai from seed.


71% of Enviroschools in Central Otago took action to look after water by: adopting a local stream: monitoring water quality and riparian planting, learning about the water cycle, designing storm water traps, planting a dry garden, engaging in a home challenge to reduce water use, timers installed on taps.

57% of Enviroschools took action on energy and ecological building by: fitting LED lights, double glazing and insulation, visiting the hydro dam, undertaking a re-fit of buildings.


Project Gold planting day at Clyde.

Connecting with the community

Students went out beyond the school gate to make a difference in Central Otago. They connected with community groups and Project Gold for planting projects. Clyde Primary School work with Bike it Now on their carbon offset project. Students got involved in community clean ups with Keep New Zealand Beautiful

Enviroschools facilitates connections to citizen science projects. NIWA worked with Cromwell schools and an air quality project.

Being sustainable isn’t always easy. Challenges teachers talked about included:

Time and funding. Integrating Enviroschools across the whole school and whole school buy-in. Connecting with the community and experts. Long-term continuity from primary schools into high schools.

Teachers said they would like more support with professional development, help with planning and integrating Enviroschools’ kaupapa across the whole school and facilitator time. They would like to see more hui, links to experts and resources and sharing success stories with other schools. Teachers also identified more support for students with projects and action as important. Enviroschools is seen as an opportunity to strengthen links between primary and secondary schools.

Central Otago Enviroschools overview:

Students with the map of their school.

All of the primary, secondary and area schools in the district are Enviroschools. As well as the facilitator supporting schools directly, in 2020 we ran a teacher hui on climate change, a primary student hui looking at river stories and a secondary teacher hui. Along with everyone else we started to utilise digital communication tools. We ran cluster meetings for teachers and developed a series of weekly challenges for teachers in term 3.

Find out more about Enviroschools here and at the Otago Enviroschools facebook page.

Get in touch with your Enviroschool facilitator for support with planning, projects, resources and connections to experts and the community.

Banner image: Alexandra Primary students work out how to keep rivers clean.