Our network response to Covid-19 – Strengthening Connections and Building Sustainable Communities

| By National Team

Hinepūtehue – qualities of soothing, settling, calming.

Local curriculum suddenly got very local through the need to stay within a short distance of our homes. Me in My Environment, one of our foundational Enviroschools resources is showing its robustness with the ability of whānau to carry out many of the activities and reflect on these – maybe even reimagine their places as they redefine their lives moving out of a state of pandemic alert. Ideas bubbled away.

Our reality of work and home boundaries has been reshaped lately. Right from the early stages the messages within the team have been positive. Through a range of ways our national team and regional facilitators have modelled activities so that others can see the ease of undertaking them and the benefits for people and the environment.

“Through our mahi we are all continuing to contribute to the health, sustainability and resilience of our communities. In this time of change and uncertainty our kaupapa and our mahi is even more valuable. We are focusing on the positive actions that we and our communities can take, learning together and strengthening connections with each other and our beautiful taiao. Rather than look at what we currently can’t do we are asking, “What might be possible now that wasn’t before?” With great respect to the serious nature of this situation, there is some new adventuring to be done,” was the message from Heidi Mardon, Toimata Foundation CE.

The Toimata Foundation team met online recently, and part of the kaupapa for the day was a mapping exercise – to explore our places and see what supports us and our whānau to have sustainability, resilience and hauora at this time.
Esther Kirk, Enviroschools National Manager, used one of the Enviroschools Kit activities, Mapping My Place, with her whānau recently. Her two boys Khan & Joel created a mind map around the question ‘What do we need to live sustainability for these next four weeks’?

Khan and Joel with the start of their mapping.

Below we see Katie Higgins’ (national ECE Enviroschools Coordinator) two boys, Ollie and George have started working on their Home Vision Map.

Ollie and George look pretty happy with how things are progressing with their mapping.

The Higgins’ home map with extensions.


The activities in Me in My Environment help to focus on the immediate surroundings as a starting point, encouraging young people to investigate the physical aspects of their environment, while also exploring the less tangible dimensions of sustainability such as peace, diversity, cooperation, kaitiakitanga (guardianship) and fairness. After gaining a broad picture as a foundation, specific interests and topics may be explored in more depth using the five Enviroschools Theme Areas and other relevant resources.
Young people are more equipped to make informed decisions if they have explored their environment (natural and built, physical and social) with all their senses, engaging their mind, heart and spirit.

Through doing this, they form connections and understand whanaungatanga and whakapapa (inter-relatedness and relationships). They gain a clearer idea of the things that they and others appreciate about their current environment and start developing ideas about what actions they could participate in for a healthy, peaceful and sustainable future.
Regional facilitator teams around the motu have continued supporting teachers as everyone grapples with the range of bubble environments that students are in. Innovation and creativity have been rife!

Lockdown Enviroschools Adventures continue in the Stanford bubble in Canterbury as Matt Follows the Action Learning Cycle with a pre-schooler! After ‘identifying the current situation’ with a garden bird survey, Lucy wanted more and different birds to visit. She ‘explored alternatives’ by flicking through some of the EfS booklets and found a picture of someone making pine cone bird feeders. “Can we do that, Dad?” means ‘take action’ to Enviroschools folk and Lucy set about gathering seeds from her own sunflower. “I think different birds will come now”, declares Lucy. We will have to wait and see before reflecting!

More backyard biodiversity explored at the Standford place.

Lucy and Matt observe their backyard, recording bird presence.

Meanwhile in a small village just out of Te Aroha, Waikato facilitator Ruairi is facilitating his family. Ruairi and his whānau started some planning for the best future as a family. With Ori and Ani being only 8 and 6 Ruairi thought the task might become torturous with a stream of questions like “‘how do we spell so and so?” so he did the writing in order that the children could get their thoughts out.

Looking at what we know already. What do we do that’s sustainable?

They brainstormed how they were already practicing sustainability then created a map of how the family uses their house and property – “where is fun, noisy, scary, interesting?” And then finally they came up with a shared family vision – “what we want to do, and act like in the future”. Ruairi reports that “it looks like it’s lots of growing food, a bike track and tree house making, buying less stuff, so we can go around NZ lots more! This was led by us but formulated by the kids!!!”

What can we observe and how do we feel about different spaces?

The Kelly family explore what a sustainable future might look like in their place.










Ori and Ani display the progress on their mapping and brainstorming.

Some facilitators have undertaken the creation of short videos as they explore their place and build their whānau Pool of Knowledge – Puna Mātauranga. Other responses, to this different way of supporting our network, have been to seek out quality material from other organisations that adds value to ours.

Modelling our kaupapa over the lockdown period has included the support and care of those who deliver the Enviroschools Programme. One aspect of this is a wellness Zoom check-in each week. Sandy Bell-Jameson Professional Development Co-ordinator for Enviroschools has led these gatherings and the feedback has been very positive.

Thank you for the zoom catch up/wellness check in today. It felt lovely to connect with everyone, hear how things are going for each of them, as well as having the opportunity to share. Being new to Enviroschools, these check-in’s have also been a great way to get to know the other facilitators in the team. I may be in my small bubble in Kawakawa, but it is amazing to know I have the support of the Enviroschools community – Judy


Thank you, Sandy, for facilitating today’s wellness zoom. It was helpful to hear people express their thoughts. I also took comfort in the fact that some of the internal conversations I am having are also being experienced by others. Kia kaha – Nicky

It has been uplifting to see how our network has responded to the current situation, modelling great practice, collaborating, connecting with the taiao, observing, reflecting, and promoting opportunities for inter-generational learning.

Banner photo: Ollie and George sort their collection of natural gifts before making a colour rainbow.