The staff and community wanted to generate a culture of kaitiakitanga at Pinehaven School. Inspired by the connection with the environment their students had experienced from community plantings, the Enviroschools lead teachers at Pinehaven started to think about restoring Pinehaven stream which runs through the park adjacent to the school grounds – a natural contribution towards the culture they were working towards.
At the same time the teachers were exploring with the students what it meant to be an Enviroschool and what a whole school approach might look like. They had a gardening club, and their enviro club had been meeting once a week during lunchtimes to initiate and maintain sustainability practices and projects. This lunchtime club could only cater for 20-30 students which they felt was not going to achieve whole school engagement.
“We needed the whole school involved, not just the enviro club” said Ruby.
A whole school approach
And so, the Eco-Warriors programme was born. During 2018, on Monday afternoons all students spent time investigating and taking action related to their environment with their teachers, some of whom had recently participated in a stream health workshop using Greater Wellington Regional Council’s stream testing equipment.
The student stream health group learned how the trees are part of keeping the stream healthy and how a stream can be a habitat for rare fish.
They started testing to see if their stream was healthy and found it pretty much devoid of invertebrate life.
A vision for the future
They explored the concept of mauri or life force and envisaged a stream where native plants created stability for the banks of the stream, shade for the water and attracted birdlife.
They anticipated that over time, changes would reduce sediment and lead to a greater range of life in the stream itself.
The landscaping would create a place of peace and beauty everyone could enjoy.
Students realised they were connected with their stream and that their actions could enhance or take away from its mauri, making the future they envisaged more or less likely. They had a role in exercising kaitiakitanga.
The students identified that the first step was planting the riparian margins of the stream. However, their Enviroschools Facilitator, Michelle, was aware of situations where schools had planted the margins of streams but later council contractors had mowed down the young trees.
She encouraged them to discuss what they had in mind with the key stakeholders in the community – Upper Hutt City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Wellington Water and their contractors, Forest & Bird, and members of the community.
This proved very prudent due to the stream being part of a flood management plan that could involve significant contractor work.
“Enviroschools really helped with identifying who to contact,” says lead teacher Kate Beaumont-Yee.
And the community loved being involved. “Your stream plans we saw last night and the confident way you talked about what you have learned give us hope for . . . working with schools to restore degraded environments.” Lynne, Forest and Bird.
A planting day of significance
This collaboration enabled a beautiful planting day for the whole school and the wider community at the end of Term 3 in 2018. After a warm welcome and explanation of the project, class by class, every child carefully planted a tree or shrub with the support of an adult.
There was time to connect, learn and enjoy each others’ company. The transformation over the day was amazing and six months later we can see the growth.
Monitoring of the stream will continue – and people are already dreaming about returning a neighbouring boggy field to its natural wetland state and seeing if this project can grow to include more parts of the catchment.
Enviroschools has really has enhanced what we do here at Pinehaven. The structure and support provided by Facilitators to ensure we are looking across the guiding principles means we are providing rich experiences that take learning to greater depth. One of our strategic goals is ‘creating an exciting place to learn’, with a key focus on authentic, real life learning opportunities for children. The focus Enviroschools has on taking action links really well with our strategy. Another huge advantage for us in working with Enviroschools is the links we have made with outside agencies who can support our students in their learning.