News and Events

Catering for Caretakers in an Enviroschools Context

March 28, 2024

Mulching the gardens while having a chat about their roles and responsibilities in Enviroschools.

In Enviroschools, sustainability is integrated into the whole school by generating learning opportunities for everyone in the school community.

In Tairāwhiti/Gisborne, caretakers from a number of Enviroschools came together at Eastern Institute of Technology for a hands-on day covering composting, mulching, mowing, building planter boxes, recycling, food waste, pruning fruit trees, maara kai, native trees, pest trapping and sharing stories!


The event was co-facilitated by Brendon, the caretaker at Eastern Institute of Technology. Although a tangi meant 5 of the registered people couldn’t make it, 10 caretakers had the benefit of a designated day focused on their role within an Enviroschool.

At the start of the day participants were encouraged to share what they were proud of from their school. This provided a positive start and whakawhanaungatanga.


Sharing their understanding of the Enviroschools Kaupapa.

Enviroschools facilitator Kauri led a discussion about the Enviroschools kaupapa and what being an Enviroschool means. Participants were keen to have their own copy of the kaupapa from the Handbook to reinforce with teaching staff and students what being an Enviroschool meant.

Practical tasks like creating a compost and including the different nutrients and layers added to this (all things gathered from either at the EIT campus or from Brendon’s garden) meant that everyone could get stuck in, adding it to a pre-built garden box and mulching an area on site. It also meant there was an ease of conversation as they moved around the campus undertaking different activities.

One conversation they had, reflected on the current rubbish situations, with a continuum being created of how well their food waste management systems were working in schools. There was lots of discussion about green waste (as a resource), pig buckets, worm-farms and compost bins and the cycle of decomposition (including microbes) back into the maara kai.


Sam the caretaker manager from Gisborne Boys High School said, ‘it is good to hear we are not alone, and we are all facing similar challenges when it comes to waste and trying to do the right things in our schools.’

Another topic was the increased cost of fuel and how this influenced operations such as mowing and how managing this by planting native trees in small patches of grass could help.

Mixing up a compost treat.

Building a living landscape.








A discussion about climate change led to talking about being prepared for weather events. Alternatives to spraying such as mulching and weeding were chatted about along with water tanks, irrigation, access to traps to control rats throughout the year and free native plants from the Women’s Native Tree Nursery.

Tips and tricks for pruning citrus trees – maintaining shape and form and removing growth from below the graft.

When thinking about exploring other skills and techniques, the caretakers were enthusiastic about learning even more about pruning fruit trees. Two schools offered to host future workshops to strengthen this network.

Talking about their own caretaker situations throughout the day meant the caretakers were learning and facilitators were able to hear their perspectives and consider ways that they could support all caretakers in Enviroschools. Sharing stories and delicious vegetarian kai and building relationships all seemed to be highlights along with tools gifted by Toimata Foundation to all participants.


Brett from Te Kura Reo Rua o Waikirikiri said ‘I learnt some new things that I will take back to my school’

Everyone learnt a lot, ideas were shared and caretakers left feeling inspired to implement their learning back at their school.