Hamilton East School Trail Blazers Rejuvenate their Nature Trail

| By Robyn Irving

Hamilton East School demonstrates perseverance and teamwork in their Enviroschools mahi.

Tānemahuta: Qualities of growth, strength, shelter, diversity of life.

What an awesome effort by a group of committed students, staff and community members at Hamilton East School! It shows what a group working together can achieve. They have been hard at work recently, planting natives on the steep nature trail that connects the school to Putikitiki, the lower field.

This is a big project that has received funding from the Enviroschools Waikato Fund, O-I NZ Glass Environmental Fund and Trust Waikato.

While a lot was achieved in an afternoon, the project has been part of a long-term plan with considerable community engagement.

The project started many years ago and a series of plantings, weed control, and removal of large introduced trees that were uprooted and posed a danger (and a range of other setbacks and challenges) have all contributed to the journey.

Students have recently completed site planning activities, such as helping design outdoor classroom areas, and participated in hands-on restoration like hand removing less invasive weeds and propagating and planting native plant.

Experts have been on hand to help the students research which plants provide good habitats.

Lead Hamilton East School Enviroschools teacher, Olive Jones, has been supported by a dedicated parent group with useful skills and connections, including the Seeley Gully Group, the University of Waikato, Predator-Free Hamilton and Enviroschools. 

“This restoration project enables development of an outdoor ecological and education space to provide teachers, children and the community with learning opportunities that indoor classroom settings do not provide. It enables access to contextual based learning in the environment and includes a range of practical ecology-based (Science – our living world) activities using every-day materials” – Olive Jones.

Students learnt the common names of plants as they prepared them for planting. These sedges have sharp edges!

In her funding application, Olive added “the restoration project also focuses on building students’ science capabilities, by exploring their own school grounds. This will incorporate literacy and numeracy as students measure changes and report on findings.

There are opportunities for art in their school ecosystem, increased learning of Te Ao Māori through plant and animal names and stories, and an increased connection to the cultural history of the area.

The vision for the project is that students and teachers will continue to engage in learning and action in this area and develop critical life skills through teamwork, communication, planning and perseverance…”.

A large number of plants were dug into the ground and some great learning for students and adults alike took place with the identification of each plant provided, and then students repeated the name of plants as they put them in the ground to help with future recognition.

“Engaging in the schools’ natural spaces also encourages ongoing commitment and behaviour change in caring for the environment, and has positive impacts for well-being and mental health” – Olive Jones.

This is just one of the many Enviroschools initiatives that Hamilton East School students are engaged in, and they continue to build understanding and connections with their natural environment.

Whole community involvement has allowed this project to grow.

Read more about this project in the NZ Herald article