Tokanui Primary has been an Enviroschool since 2017 and since then the school has been working away on a number of projects to help create a sustainable community around them. Like some other schools in the district there have been a few staff changes and combined with Covid, the school has focused on other aspects of school life until recently when Kate Stevenson (school principal) contacted us at Environment Southland and asked for a meeting. Kate gave me a guided tour of some of the projects around the school which included a new greenhouse, vege garden and a worm farm.
The day kicked off at 10am with students running off to their pre-selected activities. Like a well-oiled machine we hit the ground running. Students quickly engaged with their facilitator and began a journey of building, creating, listening and answering questions to help develop an awareness of the various topics on offer.
Having the opportunity to stand back and observe the students engaging in these activities was fantastic, you could easily see the Enviroschools kaupapa come alive in all aspects of the day. One of our key focuses was for the students to see the world from a Māori perspective and this was facilitated through the flax/ harakeke weaving and kite/ manu tukutuku building sessions.
Tokanui Primary School has 82 students. The children come from the Fortrose, Otara, Waikawa, Quarry Hills, Waimahaka and Tokanui communities and the school thrives on support from these communities. This support was evident on this day as various members of the community arrived to share their knowledge and learn alongside the students and staff. This combined pool of knowledge/ Puna Mātauranga underpins the rich tapestry of learning that is on offer at the school.
Once the students had worked their way around all the activities they were invited to help plant some native trees around the school to enhance the biodiversity within the area. This was a very hands-on experience with students taking charge of digging holes, organising plants, choosing suitable locations and establishing protection for the plants. Plants were identified in both Māori and English and our karakia at the start of the planting helped to ground the students to this special event. This was their day for them to grow and develop their knowledge around how to protect their environment.
“This day has helped to motivate our teachers to work next year at building up some of our long-term projects like the outdoor classroom area. We hope that the learning around making the Beeswax wraps will encourage more children to ditch plastic wrap and bring their lunch in these wax wraps or maybe even make some more at home. They learnt about the protocols around using the flax and respecting the plant, returning the waste back to the place it came from and got to work with toetoe, a plant of local significance (Toetoe Bay is not far from the school).” – Kate Stevenson, Tokanui School Principal
One of the things that has come out of the day is after a discussion with Josh, a treasured grandparent and keen supporter of the school, Greta Buckingham, suggested that because the farmers are working on planting out trees along their waterways the school contribute to this. Students could collect seeds from local kowhai, Pittosporum spp. and other native plants and grow them to sell to the local farmers as a fundraiser. This could become a strong learning experience for students, relevant to the local community and learning in, about and for the environment.
“I guess the key point is the motivation for the students and staff looking forward and the igniting of the new idea around growing the seeds. One of the teachers said that her class thought they were going to be doing this every week! They clearly don’t know just how much effort goes into organising a day like that.” – Kate Stevenson, Tokanui School Principal