Lockdown inspired creative online sharing with a positive outcome for Waiheke High School

| By Nicky Elmore with Waiheke High School Sustainability Group

Waiheke High School (WHS) have been on their Enviroschools journey for many years.  Over time they have built a strong  and active Sustainability Group of young people who are respected and involved in the wider Waiheke Community as active leaders. In 2020 the establishment of Sustainability Prefects was a great achievement in raising the profile of sustainability within the school.

With the end of the 2021 school year rapidly approaching, it was important for the current leaders, to take the time to carry out their Enviroschools Bronze reflection, celebrate their achievements and leave a legacy action plan of next steps to keep the momentum going.

As their facilitator, I had met with the group to cement an understanding of the Enviroschools Kaupapa, Guiding Principles and the Bronze stage paragraph. Then, the week before the scheduled sharing and decision-making meeting, the country went into Level 4 COVID Lockdown.

Year 10 trip to Goat Island.

These WHS rangatahi are innovative and determined and familiar with communicating online. During the Lockdown in 2020 they forged a virtual relationship with a Danish School, collaborating on a Climatorium Project and connecting across the ocean to the north of Denmark. (see video at the end of this article)

Conscious that young people are often faced with challenges and complexities brought about by Lockdown, I felt that their good work should be honoured and the process continue, regardless. I mooted the idea of doing an online bronze reflection with them. They were up for the challenge and began preparing evidence in a power point based around the Enviroschools Guiding Principles.

Working towards zero waste.

The school is closely linked with the Waiheke Resources Trust based at the Waiheke Sustainability Centre, a hub that supports local projects including Kai Conscious Café, Kai Gardens, the community fridge and pantry, composting and septic system workshops and the Ecostore refill shop, along with summer student internships.

Kristen, a facilitator for the trust, is also a facilitator in the Waiheke Marine Education Project (MEI). This is a collaboration between Auckland Council Sustainable Schools and funded by Waiheke Local Board and facilitated in all  four Waiheke Schools.  Kristen was invited to participate in the WHS Bronze reflection sharing and decision-making meeting as she is also involved with actions in the school such as waste initiatives, wetland restoration, youth leadership and planting projects.

Year 13 students carry out a stream study in the local awa.

Sharing online becomes the jam

Kristen had the great idea of creating Google Jam Boards for each of the Bronze Reflection paragraph sentences. This allowed the reflection team to record evidence during the online session and add next steps.  The boards also act as documentation of the process and are a fantastic visual representation of the evidence amassed.  Students shared their power point of evidence and stories in a Google-meets meeting.

All participants in the session were amazed at the wealth and diversity of evidence shared.  Sustainability was strong across all the 5 Enviroschools Guiding Principles. In the absence of being able to actually “experience” actions and projects in a school in person, this was a really powerful way of engaging with the WHS story.

“Students were surprised at how much collectively they are doing, in groups, in the community and through their curriculum. We are super proud.” – Sustainability Group student

Sharing evidence and making a decision online.

When it came to decision-making it was obvious there was considerable evidence to show that Waiheke High School can clearly say that the Bronze paragraph is describing them.  They have a close comfortable fit, with room to grow through their next steps.  Their current group of students have left a legacy for future students with clear guidelines of how to continue to develop their sustainability journey.



Facilitator comment: “Using Google Jam Boards for each of the Enviroschools Bronze sentences allowed evidence to be recorded easily in a digital format and next steps to be identified. This has now become documentation for the school.”

We are thinking about all the Guiding Principles in our planning and action, and we can see how they would look across the four Key Areas of school life.

Student comments

”We completed our school reflection online with some members of Enviroschools this afternoon and are excited to tell you that Waiheke High School is officially a bronze enviro school! This means that we are a part of a larger network of New Zealand schools who value the different aspects of sustainability”- from Rebecca and Ruby, the WHS Sustainability Prefects, to their Principal.

Students have a sustainability plan to share with their new Principal.

How have others responded?

 “Another first – doing an Enviroschool reflection via remote connection during a Covid lockdown, which makes the result even more impressive!” – Teacher comment


“I’m so energised by this process.  It has turned out to be such an optimistic and progressive process to model to other schools what can be achieved ONLINE during Lockdown.  Another next step for you could be mentoring other schools, students about the process you have led “ONLINE REFLECTION DURING LOCKDOWN – forging the way and not deterred by Lockdown.” – Facilitator Comment


“Social Sustainability was particularly strong including PSSP and Pride club.” – Facilitator Comment

We have started work on getting to know our environment better and creating a whole school vision.

Students at our school are exploring options and some finding ways to take action for a sustainable future.








You can see the student powerpoint presentation here. 2021_ES_Auckland_Waiheke High School_Bronze Reflection slideshow

Below is a summary statement written by the students of Waiheke High School to celebrate their sustainability journey and express why they are confident they are a bronze Enviroschools.

Waiheke High School is a Bronze Enviroschool

Our school encourages students to learn about the different aspects of sustainability, important to our future as Rangatahi. By incorporating sustainability education into our curriculum in diverse and engaging ways, students gain an appreciation for our world. In combination with opportunities outside of the classroom, students feel empowered by their learning to take action and work towards making a difference.

The WHS Sustainability Group.

Our student-led Waiheke High School Sustainability Group is evidence of this, with passionate and driven students working to better the school and island community. Their projects involve waste-management, pest-tracking, beach clean-ups, and community collaboration. The foundations this group have built leave a legacy for future students to continue their positive work into the future. Our recently appointed Sustainability Prefects ensure that student-led environmental initiatives will continue into the future, creating new environmental leaders.

Our school strives to be an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and respected. Waiheke High School shows respect for the diversity of people and cultures in many different ways, including compulsory Maori lessons for years 7-8, optional Maori classes for years 9-13, gender neutral bathrooms, and the Peer Sexuality Support Programme. New students coming from all parts of the world are made to feel welcome through buddy systems as well as a school powhiri at the beginning of each year.

Waiheke Piringakau Kapa Haka group perform.

Waiheke High School honours Māori culture through an annual Matariki celebration, which includes a Hangi, Ki O’rahi matches, as well as a whole school Waiata and Haka Competition. Every student gets involved in this celebration, immersing themselves in the preparation, the practice, and the performance. This event teaches new students the school waiata and haka, which are performed regularly throughout the year. Students of all ages are given the opportunity to join our Piringakau Kapa Haka group, a talented and passionate group of rangatahi that represent our school in a number of different ways.

Connections with our community allow students of Waiheke High School to experience opportunities that promote sustainability. Community prefects and teachers regularly communicate with community members and groups, building positive relationships. Students have recently completed summer internships at the Waiheke Resources Trust, learning how sustainability and community come together. These connections also allow for students to become ambassadors for local environmental projects, including Te Korowai and Meat Free Mondays.

Summer internship at the Sustainability Centre

We are proud and excited to be able to call ourselves a Bronze Enviroschool. We look forward to working on making our school even more sustainable and inclusive, with a number of next steps planned. Being a Bronze Enviroschool means that we are a part of a larger network of New Zealand schools who, like us, value all of the different aspects of sustainability.

Our next steps are…

Improving our schools waste management systems. We will continue to work with the Waiheke Resource Recovery Park to implement recycling and composting systems. Involving other groups from our school including the tuckshop and Maori leaders will allow for a more seamless integration of these systems.

Expanding the student-led Waiheke High School Sustainability group so that its momentum can continue into the future. This involves carrying out their current projects including zero-waste events, school clothes swap, waste management and reintroducing the beehive.

Involving the school community more in our actions for sustainability, by getting the word out through assembly, social media and school newsletters.

Continuing our relationship with community groups outside of school, including the Waiheke Resources Trust, Te Korowai and Native Bird Rescue. Offering these opportunities, such as internships and volunteer opportunities, to more students will empower them to make a positive difference.

Passing on our experiences to the new sustainability leaders and Principal, so that the school can continue working in a positive direction.

Expanding out of school opportunities, such as leadership or learning programs, will teach students valuable skills they can use to create positive change in the school community.

Offer NCEA students Education for Sustainability standards to complete if they wish.

Denmark video collaboration