Step by step the Berhampore community want to clear the barriers that prevent students from getting to school. One of these barriers was not having someone to walk them from home to the gate. A walking school bus involves students and adult supervisors walking in a group to school. Each ‘bus’ walks along a set route with at least one adult ‘driver’ picking up children at designated ‘bus stops’ and walking them to school. This approach looks after children’s safety and can help build a sense of community and belonging. Congestion and emissions will be reduced at the same time. Along with a breakfast club, providing this safe and sustainable way to travel to school is being embraced by Berhampore students and their whānau.
At Berhampore Primary School, kaiako Courtney Miles and Kylie Hall had been running walking school buses during Greater Wellington Regional Council’s (GWRC) Movin’ March for the past few years. Feedback from parents indicated they loved it and in 2022, moves were made to make this initiative permanent.
Chloe, their new Enviroschools Facilitator, jumped aboard. She was keen to work collaboratively with GWRC, Wellington City Council (WCC) and the school to make it a student empowered success.
The Envirogroup enthusiastically took on the job of walking the community to gauge the best route. They decided which signs and walking markers would be suitable in the area and applied to council for these to be ordered. They also informed the residents who lived near signs or walking markers and put out a call for designs through fliers, posters, school newsletter, social media and mailbox drop off in the school community.
It’s good for our well-being and the well-being of our planet.” – Norah
The school worked closely with Māori whānau and staff to understand and build tikanga around the project and set criteria to develop the pou that would be positioned to indicate safe travel routes for tamariki to school. This collaboration led to a decision to incorporate all student and whānau designs into four pou.
The intention of designs was honoured by the students that had the task of painting. One kaiako, Helena Tihanyi (Ngāti Kahungunu ki te Wairoa), described how she supported a 6 yr old student with their design submission. Following the guidelines on the flier, they put into thought bubbles what pou are. This student came up with 8 designs all drawn with rulers and great care, then Helena supported them to visualize them off the page by curling and taping them into cylinders. That child’s designs included a harakeke to represent intergeneration within whānau.
“It’s good to get kids walking. It’s good for the planet. We learnt more about Te Ao Māori from creating the pou.” – Elisa
The southern-most pou, depicting Tangaroa, will mark the beginning of the route. It combines designs from Mia, Saffhire, Hermine and Laurie. The students carefully followed the tikanga of visably incorporating original designs and sharing ideas for mahi tahi.
The northern-most pou, representing Tāwhirimātea, north wind and autumn, included designs from Hazel, Toby, Iris and Rajvi. They celebrated their creativity along the way with joyful exclamations: “Look at mystical magical tūī guy!”.
With a ngahere at one entrance to the school, that seemed like the right place to poisition the pou representing Tāne Mahuta, the season of spring and the element of earth. Jesse, Charlie, Maymuna, Kora, Ratsu and Rose’s designs were combined for this pou. The students were careful to include the work of students who were absent. “I’m trying to include Ratsu because she isn’t here”.
The fourth pou is a representation of Tamanuiterā, the season of summer, the east and element of fire. The patterns on this pou are contributions from Maggie, Thom, Hayat’s designs and look energetic! The school’s kōwhaiwhai pattern is incorporated as an extension of Tamanuiterā.
Emma La Hood, a parent helper, loved the way the children worked together, saying “Everyone has been so supportive and complimentary of each other.”
These pou have now been installed over the term break. They vibrantly mark places for whānau to meet and connect with each other in their neighbourhood. It is hoped that this option of actively walking to school will also foster a sense of care and responsibility – to look after and protect the diverse space they call home. Having these visual pou in the community can remind residents to look out for those travelling on the foot path and share the space with kindness.
“It’s good to be more active.” – Armeresa
During school assembly, a skit was performed by senior students that encouraged engaging with the walking school bus. Afterwards parents shared how their children asked them to sign up as “Drivers” so they could join the walking school bus. The enthusiasm was hard to quiet down during assembly!
On Launch Day 22nd September 22 tamariki and 12 adults joined in singing their way to school. Traveling past the local shops people exclaimed what a jovial group it was.
Enviroschools will support students to measure the change from this initiative in 6 months, 1 year and 18 months time using auditing and reflection activities from the Enviroschools them area Energy! Resource.
The guidance and leadership of mana whenua – Matua Mark and Whaea Dana has set this initiative up to nourish the spiritual wellbeing of students. During the blessing of each pou whenua a tohu affirmed the process with strong beams of sun when acknowledging Tamanui-te-rā, swirls of wind and kisses of rain when acknowledging Tāwhirimātea and beautiful bird song of Tūī when acknowledging Tāne Māhuta.
“It’s safer to walk in a group.”- Esme
Banner image: the opening blessing.