In 2019 the Enviroschools team in Te Upoko o te Ika a Māui identified the need to bring Enviro leaders from the region’s secondary schools together to develop skills to lead their Envirogroups. Sophie Handford, Enviroschools Intern for Toimata Foundation in 2019, encouraged the team to co-design and run these workshops with experienced young people already engaged in environmental leadership.
Recruiting rangatahi/youth and getting stuck in
Two young people stepped up – Hana Pilkinton-Ching and Belle Willemstein were both deeply involved in the School Strike 4 Climate in their rohe/district and change-makers within their school systems.
Hana’s main projects the previous year were coordinating the Porirua School Strike 4 Climate event in September, advocating for a strong youth voice in the development of the Porirua City Council Climate Strategy. She is passionate about making environmental leadership and action accessible for young people.
Belle had completed her final year at high school in 2019. During her last year she supported Wairarapa’s School Strike 4 Climate and developed valuable skills in leadership and organisation. She was also involved in the 2019 Youth Parliament and Youth Council.
Youth advice helps set the scene
Annually student prefects are asked what they want to pass on and what they wish they had been equipped with. These ideas helped guide the initial planning and development of the hui purposes.
Te Whanganui-a-Tara – To empower our rangatahi/youth in schools to build teams for the purpose of taking action for the environment and community
Wairarapa – To engage, inspire and empower our rangatahi who have environmental leadership roles in schools
Including rangatahi in the design process ensured the content and delivery was a good fit for the culture in each rohe. Secondary Enviroschools facilitator, Chloe Bisley-Wright, was reminded of this when discussing the workshop delivery method with Belle, rangatahi representative for Wairarapa. Belle pointed out that some activities planned for the Wellington City/ Te Whanganui-a-Tara hui were probably not suited to the Wairarapa students because of their different perspectives. This insight led to changes that meant greater student engagement.
Hana and Belle took on the responsibility of seeking appropriate guest speakers for the sessions and worked in mana-enhancing ways to support the school leaders from around the region to develop workshops. These two wāhine helped build school leader/ guest speaker confidence to present and provided help with content for the participant handbook and promotional material.
“The manaaki/support for their guest speakers before and on the day was heartening”, said Chloe, Enviroschools facilitator.
Two other young people were recruited for the hui as guest speakers. Alesi Fauolo (who graduated from Aotea College in 2019) shared her thoughts as a Pacific Islander, hoping to expand youth knowledge of what’s happening in the Pacific with the view to get more voices and more diversity within this global issue. Nika Reichert (who also graduated from high school last year) talked about her involvement as co-founder of Marsden’s Roots & Shoots club and hosting Dr Jane Goodall for a workshop with many different schools in the Wellington region.
Hui planning and delivery
The content of each hui differed slightly but was structured around the Enviroschools Action Learning Cycle. Hana and Belle identified their own strengths and selected sessions to run during the day, including co-facilitating a hauora/wellness session titled ‘Sustaining Self as an Enviro Leader and Sustaining the Envirogroup’.
Upon registration student participants were invited to indicate if they would like to challenge themselves to practice facilitating parts of the day. It was great to see that in Te Whanganui-a-Tara 6 out of the 11 activities were facilitated by youth participants and in Wairarapa 8 out of the 11 activities. Break-out sessions included setting direction, valuable connections and group management, advocacy in school, and engaging diversity.
Reflections and working towards a sustainable future
During these workshop processes Hana and Belle were observing and learning from the Enviroschools facilitators.
“I noticed the way you led, Chloe, and intentionally stepped back or tried to make space so we could contribute what we wanted. You were so intentional in trying to bring us into it. I tried to do the same with our year 9 and 10’s in our organising committee for the Porirua Youth Climate Summit, it genuinely impacted the way I led that summit.” – Hana Pilkinton-Ching
After the two hui Hana and Belle had an opportunity to provide feedback to the Enviroschools facilitators, reflect and receive feedback about their own engagement.
“It was funny to think that as cool as the workshops were the whole thing probably benefited me the most, just being able to be so involved in something! It felt like you were actually taking onboard our ideas, it was really cool because it made us feel more empowered to contribute more and think of different ways of doing things” – Hana Pilkinton-Ching
These young people have now gone on to apply and extend their new skills. Hana organised and facilitated the Porirua Youth Climate Summit and she credits her involvement in the Enviroschools student leadership workshops as having impacted the way she led that summit.
Belle is keen to maintain her connections with the other young people from the workshops. She was delighted to know that as a result of the workshop, one school who didn’t already have an Envirogroup has since set one up.
“I like the emphasis on if you are working with youth they can’t just be your token youth. [I learnt] a whole lot of different skills – life skills, how to work with people, it’s been invaluable. I want to show them that this wasn’t just a one day thing, we are still here for them” – Belle Willemstein
The Enviroschools team in Te Upoko o te Ika a Māui recognises the huge value in genuine involvement of young people in designing and running events. These two young women have not only shared their own knowledge and skills for the benefit of others but have gained confidence and new strategies for continuing their personal journeys.
“Doing this has made me appreciate [the value of] having a team of people. I have thought more deeply about how to do that [support, encourage and up-skill others] and I am keen to carry that approach to leadership and to other stuff I do.” – Hana Pilkinton-Ching
Banner photo: Leaders facilitating future leaders