Enviroschools is not an add-on – leading an integrated approach

| By Barrytown School principal, Rachael Whyte

To be honest whenever Enviroschools was mentioned I could almost feel myself cringe. It didn’t seem to fit what we were muddling our way through doing. It wasn’t something we felt we owned. It felt like something else we had to try to fit in.

In 2021 we discussed removing ourselves from the programme as it was just too much and seemed too hard. Fortunately, our Enviroschools facilitator talked us into taking a breather rather than leaving.

Barrytown School had been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride over the years and a lot of things had been put on hold. The values were hand-me-downs and the curriculum delivery plan was outdated. It was time to strip things back to the foundations and start from scratch.

Potting up nīkau seedlings rescued from the garden.

We ran a community consultation process and asked our community what values they would like their tamariki to leave school with and what was important for their learning. Armed with this information and Ministry Funded PLD to develop our Localised Curriculum, we didn’t just work on the curriculum, we stripped everything back. A new logo was designed, and our school values were rewritten.

It was important to us that we didn’t have 101 things to teach ākonga – we wanted it to be simple and that is how our values came to be TĀIKO – which in essence encompasses the Enviroschools Guiding Principles. Tāiko is an acronym of a list of our values. It is also the Māori name the Westland Petrel, a very special bird in our local area.

Tiakina te taiao – Look after the environment

Ākina tātou e tātou – Encourage and care for one another

Itaita ana ngā akoranga – Hold tight to experiences

Kumanutia te hapori – Care for/cherish the community

Oranga mō te katoa – Wellbeing for everyone/all


Potatoes, broad beans and broccoli growing well in the planter box.

From this grounding, we went on to develop our localised curriculum, all the time reflecting on how this would support our values – the core of who we are and what we want our ākonga to be.

It was then that we had the ‘aha!’ moment! A lot of what we were already doing was in line with Enviroschools philosophy. It wasn’t something we had to do on top of everything else – we could weave it into our curriculum so that it became embedded and just part of what we do – it didn’t have to be stand-alone.

When we came up with the concepts for learning, a lot lent themselves to having aspects of Enviroschools woven into them and made it so much easier. It is early days and no doubt there will be hiccups along the way, but that is all part of the journey. Will we ever get to feeling we are Green-Gold? Who knows, but we know our ākonga will have a strong understanding of caring, not only for themselves and for others, but also for the planet.

Our advice to those who are struggling is to take a breather. Reflect on what you are already doing and then weave something locally meaningful into that.