When we started out on our Enviroschool journey in 2013, staff wanting tamariki/children and whānau/families to have a sense of belonging here at Renwick Kindergarten. We never envisioned what we would learn, create and change along the way. Our decision to weave the Enviroschools Guiding Principles into the fabric of our Kindergarten saw us gain Bronze in June 2014; Silver in December 2016 and Green-Gold in February 2019.
Identifying the current situation
As part of our mission towards Silver, our practice and thinking evolved from promoting sustainability within our own kindergarten, to looking towards the horizon to support a Sustainable Community. There we found a neglected corner of our backyard, Rousehill Reserve. Beyond the parched grass, rubbish littered around, dirt tracks, and very neglected plants, and gardens, we saw potential…. and an opportunity to Empower Students, work with our kindergarten whānau and local community to breathe life back into this whenua/landscape.
As a kindergarten we started to look at what action we could take, who we needed to get onboard, what resources we needed and how we could establish and foster a lifelong sense of kaitiakitanga and connectedness for our tamariki and whānau.
The vision was clear – to make this a green space for everyone to feel connected to and enjoy, not only for our Kindergarten whānau but the community as a whole.
With the support from whānau – through regular excursions with our tamariki trudging containers of water down to care for the plants, and coming back with bags of rubbish, it became clear where to prioritise our actions.
As the Marlborough District Council currently held official responsibility for care and maintenance of the grounds, it was pertinent that they jumped on board with our vision. Happy to delegate some of the responsibility, they welcomed and supported the initiative right from the start.
A plan was needed to ensure we could collaboratively focus our attention, efforts and resources towards bringing our vision to life. Alongside our tamariki and whānau at Renwick Kindergarten, we decided on how we wanted Rousehill Reserve to look, feel and show Respect for the Diversity of People and Cultures.
We knew this needed to be:
- a place where families feel safe and spend time
- a green space that people show respect and care towards, and can acknowledge the kaitiakitanga of Renwick Kindergarten
- a collection of gardens that are hardy and luscious – with a focus on native plants as well as fruit trees to feed the community and wildlife
- a place where we feel connected to nature and the whenua and that has special significance for us to host celebrations such as Matariki.
Making a plan helped us to identify the steps needed to reach our vision.
Countless whānau contributions were made – supporting with excursions to Rousehill Reserve (carrying water, as well as supervision of tamariki!), volunteering with weeding, watering, and collecting rubbish and through donations of native plants and fruit trees. This helped strengthen their own connection with the whenua/land. Often, as part of a child’s poroporoaki (farewell as they headed off to school), whānau would present us with a fruit or native tree, specifically to plant on behalf of them at Rousehill Reserve.
Through Learning for Sustainability, our tamariki felt empowered to make signs to erect at the reserve – using their words and pictures to remind Reserve-goers how they can show respect and care. Through the support of our local MeNZ shed, a plinth was installed with the whakatauki:
Hāpaitia te ara tika pumau ai te rangatiratanga mō ngā uri whakatipu. Foster the pathway of knowledge to strength, independence and growth for future generations. – Renwick Kindergarten kaitiaki of Rousehill Reserve 2017
Ongoing correspondence between tamariki at Renwick Kindergarten and Marlborough District Council kept everyone up to date with progress and areas for continued development. Over time as our relationship with Marlborough District Council grew, so did their support and involvement in the upkeep of Rousehill Reserve. In August 2021, the day before we went into a nationwide lockdown, we visited Rousehill Reserve with Mayor John Leggett and a number of councillors, after inviting them to visit.
They surprised us with a new irrigation system that had been installed, complete with drinking fountains and taps for dogs, as well as brand new pathways. Plans for updating the derelict playground were in place and over summer of 2021/22 this was completed with new shade sails. The playground was revamped and, although some new equipment was installed, salvageable parts of equipment by refreshing with a new coat of paint (helping to supporting the Enviroschools kaupapa by reusing).
Reflection on change
Due to the revolving rolls and ages of tamariki at kindergarten, we know that inspiring an everlasting relationship and sense of responsibility to the whenua, and Rousehill Reserve is something that needs to be embedded in our practice, become the norm and just an extension of Renwich Kindergarten.
On reflection, the past 2 Covid-years threw a spanner in the works, not only with our day-to-day operations and relationships within our physical Kindergarten environment, but also our ties with our beloved Rousehill Reserve. With the exciting news this week around lowering all Covid restrictions, our teaching team have made it a priority to renew this relationship and are already planning visits, and even our End of Year celebration for 2022.
Our journey with Rousehill Reserve has not ended, as we still have plans that we will continue to work towards, even the grand vision of having toilets installed one day so we can spend longer periods of time enjoying Rousehill Reserve, without the mad dash back to our kindergarten for the toilet! We would also love to find further ways to honour the status of tangata whenua (there are multiple iwi that are connected to the area) and have this reflected in the environment.
Looking back over our journey, our vision has well and truly come to life – Rousehill Reserve is now a destination rather than a thoroughfare, and through seeing families enjoying Rousehill Reserve together, witnessing children’s sense of kaitiakitanga, pride and responsibility over the space, hearing laughter and birdlife return, watching the plants thrive and grow fills us all with such pride that our whole community can continue to share and celebrate in now and for future generations.