Walking in the shoes of a reflecting Enviroschool

| By National Team

Our facilitators are often in the position where they encourage their Enviroschools to pause and take stock of where they are at and look ahead to where they might go – all part of the Action Learning Cycle and even more so for the Enviroschools Holistic Reflection. Their role is to facilitate conversations that prompt deep consideration about experiences, the learning that has taken place, and help recognise, affirm and celebrate contributions.

With the facilitator network constantly contributing to innovations and the evolution of great practice, and a curiosity around how to free up our approach to Holistic Reflection, what better way to understand how processes might feel to those within a school community than to walk in their shoes, live the experience.

The flow of the event held at Tī Kōuka.

Gill Stewart has held roles in Te Upoko o te Ika a Māui – Greater Wellington team for many years as well as contributing to the Enviroschools National team. Gill and her colleagues have been curious about different tools and techniques for a reflection process for a number of years and have been immersing themselves in ecologically grounded activities and exploring metaphors that help to articulate the complexities of an Enviroschools journey. Gill and her colleagues were keen to trial the thinking in a practical way. One question they were asking was, “How can we better understand the process of Holistic Reflection from the perspective of those reflecting?”

“Our team wanted something experiential when working through the effectiveness of our pilot, so it made sense to run something that modelled the reality.” – Gill said about what the driver was for undertaking this.

Gill volunteered her family and home, Tī Kōuka, in rural Wairarapa, as a place where the whole team could come together, contribute to and experience some of the possible approaches from the lens of Reflection Host. Team member, Facilitator Amanda, guided the process on the day and the rest of the team held the roles of community participants. This meant they could all learn together and feed the future of Tī Kōuka, and at the same time Enviroschools Te Upoko o te Ika a Māui – Greater Wellington facilitation.

The puna mātauranga that Amanda and Gill created together, and everyone added to.

The process leading up to the Sharing and Celebration included lots of thinking, reflection, consideration from Gill (and her family, although she admits that ideally, they would have been involved more) and conversations with Amanda in her role as the ‘Holistic Reflection Facilitator’.

Using her knowledge and understanding of the Enviroschools Guiding Principles, Gill captured, using ngahere ecosystem symbols, reflections on what these looked and felt like at Tī Kōuka, also relating these to the 4 key areas of school/ Tī Kōuka life. From identifying the guiding principles in action Gill and her whānau developed 3 stories that helped share about their place and the way they lived and learned on the whenua.

The day before the Sharing and Celebrating event, Amanda and Gill checked in to ensure the process was robust and that they were both comfortable with the flow of the day.

Sharing stories

Seeking out aspects of Sustainable Living – Low Carbon Lifestyle for the Scavenger Hunt.

Andrew talks to visiting facilitators about the simple composting system.









Sharing stories of the straw and earth plaster building process.

Sustainable Living – Low Carbon Lifestyle:

Gill brought her organised, experiential and facilitative style to the way she shared the Tī Kōuka journey. She invited visitors on a Sustainable Living – Low Carbon Lifestyle Scavenger Hunt, encouraging them to seek out the practices and places that Gill and Andrew have made choices around in the way they have built and developed their lifestyle.

Living With and Regenerating Nature Tour:

Participants were taken on a tour to hear the story of how Gill and Andrew have regenerated many areas on the farm, including bush and wetlands, and around the house to increase insect, bird and soil biodiversity and live more aware of the seasons and cycles of nature, living sustainably connected to the natural environment as manuhiri on this whenua.

Toitu te Tiriti – a photographic show:

Andrew shared some important moments in time recently caught as a documentary photographer, summing up their commitment to be tangata Tiriti in Aotearoa. This included recent marches in Masterton and Wellington and the calling out of councillors voting against incorporating a Māori ward.

Noticing from within

Gill, basking in the warmth of affirmation.

When asked about the slideshow that was made about the process on the day, Gill commented, “I noticed it allowed for grounding in place, sharing a part of me/my place (with my team) and the opportunities for feeling proud! It almost forced me to recognise achievements and refocus.”

The vision for Tī Kōuka has been held strongly by Andrew with the rest of the family being part of realising it. By the end of the sharing and celebration day Gill was really moved.

Gill expressed a natural reluctance to acknowledge/receive the wealth of positive feedback, yet her wonderful team encouraged her to bask in the warmth of affirmation and recognise the shifts and progress the family have made towards their “off the grid, living sustainably” vision.

“Te Upoko o te Ika a Māui team wanted me to accept the affirmations, and really listen to them about what they were seeing and hearing.” – Gill



Soup and celebration!

By experiencing this process Gill said that Holistic Reflection, through this model, offered an opportunity to focus on affirmations, wonderings and offerings. Another team member, Sian, helped the whole team unpack the process. This confirmed some thinking and raised some questions. They all recognised that regardless of the desire to move towards a simplified approach it still takes time to reflect, however there is real joy in sharing, affirmation and celebration. This uplifting experience encourages a recommitment to the journey – creating natural momentum of something that is positive, exciting and engaging. It harnesses the emotions/feelings, and these are carried through into creative ideas.


“Having invited my (work) community in, in a way that I could share my journey, knowledge, shifts, and challenges, they became engaged and wanted to talk about opportunities, and offer contributions and ideas. They wanted to be part of this. That is what we want for schools/centres to experience too – their community wanting to get on board with them. However, I also recognised that as the reflecting host, I was in the best position to notice next steps, then understand how we could grow and flourish further.” – Gill talking about the reflection experience.


To celebrate, the team spent time together eating, laughing and chatting about the richness of their experience. There was celebratory cake, a tradition established by Amanda for all of her holistic reflections.


We mihi to Gill and her whānau for the courage to open their home, hearts and minds to this experience and wish them well for the next part of their journey, whatever that might be.


Banner image: Looking out across the whenua.