News and Events

Building with nature in mind – Wairarapa Workshop

March 28, 2024

Young people from five Wairarapa schools gathered recently to explore ideas around Ecological Building, a theme area of the Enviroschools programme. Ecological Building celebrates and honours that we are part of our natural environment. Our buildings can hold us in safety and warmth and help us reconnect with our natural surroundings.

“We can do this by acknowledging the gifts of our environment and draw on local materials. We can reflect our culture and stories in our built creations. We can tune into the natural flows and cycles around us and tap into the abundance they provide.” – Enviroschools Ecological Building Theme Area p 7

Observing shelters and homes of bugs in the wood.

Moring around the willow classroom to observe and connect with the natural environment.








In a scavenger hunt, participants found structures that shelter, funnel, and provide places for animals to live in. They observed sunny spots, welcoming structures, and places that use nature to create meeting areas.

Putting in order life cycle activity cards of different materials generated discussion about the long and short term effects of the building materials we choose to use and how important insulation and orientation is, helping to save money and create warm, dry and healthy homes.

“Ecological building is building while being conscience of the environment.” – South End School student

The second part of the workshop involved planning and drawing up a project using some of the ecological building concepts they had learned about. The projects included a pizza oven, an outdoor kitchen, and a quiet outdoor space where people and nature could thrive.

“Ecological building is using your surroundings to build beautiful things.” – Fernridge School student

Creating cob out of clay, straw, water and sand was a real highlight. The tamariki stomped and danced their way to creating this locally popular building material. They then developed structures out of it, testing its qualities and their design theories.

Active and creative participants work together.

Considering the site and the materials.








“Knowing we are part of nature and working with nature, rather than trying to dominate it, is going to lead to better outcomes for conservation and the sustainability of our world and us. Creating opportunities for our young people to be learning in the natural environment, learning about the qualities and cycles of the natural environment, and then taking action in their schools and homes is important for their wellness. It is an age-appropriate response to the climate crisis and shown to encourage hopeful thinking.” – Gill Stewart – Enviroschools Community Facilitator

Exploring ways that others have done things.

What have others done?








Te Kura o Papatuanuku Wairarapa Earth School, South End School in Carterton was the ideal place to run this workshop as there were so many examples of ecological buildings and structures. A big thank you to Emilie and Jules who hosted us and helped run the workshop.

All ideas are good ideas and then we need to agree on the features!

Applying the Ecological Building concepts to design.









“Ecological Building can be a pathway towards living and learning together in a healthy environment, that strengthens our links with our wider community and our natural world.” – Enviroschools Ecological Building Theme Area p 7

Creativity with cob.

Reimagining buildings.








Photos by: Lucia Zanmonti and Gill Stewart.