Students Design and Build a New Sustainable Whare Heihei!

| By Zoe Watson, Enviroschools Regional Coordinator

The students at Granity School explain how they have been ‘egged on’ to design and build a warm and healthy chook house…

Our Granity School whare heihei (chook house) was in desperate need of an upgrade. There was no shelter or nesting box for the chooks to lay their eggs in.

When students went to collect the eggs, it was like a treasure hunt – they were difficult to find, and this took up time! The area got mucky and smelly.

We also found it difficult to collect the manure for the gardens. We knew something had to be done!

Exploring Alternatives

The senior students started by drawing a map of what was near our current chook enclosure, then brainstormed all the criteria a sustainable design would need.

We talked about what materials we could use (what we already had and could repurpose or find locally) and how designing and building with these materials we could meet our criteria.

Our school is located next to the mighty Tasman sea and we get a lot of rain so we needed to take our sometimes harsh environment into consideration.

We asked our Principal if there was anything else we needed to plan around.

We researched how other people were housing their heihei.

We got lots of inspiration from an internet search and from talking to our families.

Taking this all into account we used the Enviroschools Design Planner to outline some ideas.

We then made some ice-cream stick models of what our desired heihei whare could be like.  We ended up using features from several different models.

Taking Action

We set to work sourcing the materials we needed.

We scavenged wood from the old changing sheds by the pool, iron from the metal recyclers down the road, and wood from the caretakers shed.

Steve, our adult helper, donated a beautiful lead-light window. The only materials we needed to buy were nails, screws and hinges.


“Steve helping students with their building skills”.


“Got this nailed!”

Students dug holes, mixed cement, and set the posts in place. Our neighbour cut the timber to length.

We constructed the nesting boxes and learnt a lot in the process. It’s really important to measure twice and only cut once!

After much hard work, a few ouches, and plenty of encouragement from the rest of the school, the new whare heihei was ready!

The heihei seem more settled, the eggs are easy to find, and we have a surplus of manure to feed our kai gardens.

“The whare heihei takes shape”.

“Happy and healthy heihei”.

Original story written by Zoe Watson for the Enviroschools Ecological Building Theme Area Case Studies