News and Events

Inspiration through an International collaboration

August 12, 2021

Esther Kirk, National Manager of Enviroschools Aotearoa hosted the August 2021 Webinar for International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA), sharing the history of the organisation and  inspirational stories from three education settings supporting children from early childhood up to secondary school age. This was part of a webinar series that showcased Southern Hemisphere play programme approaches.

The recording of the webinar is now published on ISGA Webinars YouTube channel.  You can view, like and share!

Esther introduced the Enviroschools Aotearoa ISGA webinar by giving an overview of the holistic approach to connection with the outdoors that Enviroschools programme offers. She acknowledged the journey of the programme and the celebration of learning, stories and actions that those in the network are now sharing.

Esther said that Enviroschools provides powerful learning opportunities for hands-on learning that nurtures students’ social and emotional development and wellbeing. Schools and early childhood centres (with their wider communities) are embracing risk-taking as an essential component of learning and child development.

Ruawai Kindergarten – the outdoors is significant in enabling children to develop a problem-solving and risk-taking disposition.

Teresa Robertson (9 min point) from Ruawai Kindergarten shared her perspective of how buildings and grounds at this early childhood centre area a learning resource and a site of action, where tamariki design and re-create their spaces. She said the outdoors is significant in enabling children to develop a problem-solving and risk-taking disposition.

Children at Ruawai Kindergarten get to experience sustainable living in a range of ways in the environment (such as through growing and preparing food, caring for hens, composting, seed saving and going beyond the gate for experiences).

The entranceway of the new outdoor classroom at Fernridge School, Te Ngātahi.

Esther gave a brief overview of 3 exemplars of student engagement at primary level (33 min point) – Hukanui School, in Waikato and their ecological building projects, Fernridge School in Wairarapa and their outdoor classroom Te Ngātahi, and the collaborative work that Harko Brown has undertaken in Tamaki Makaurau creating Mara Hupara, natural play spaces.

Beccy Dove, Corrie Anderson, Trish Waugh and Mike O’Donnell then told inspirational stories about healing the ground at Paeroa College. (38 min point)

They explained the rich processes and experiences, mapping and visioning they facilitated with the students. They also talked about how the school grounds project has stimulated other student-led projects.

Activating the site with a fire at Paeroa College.

Esther closed the webinar by talking about the processes and structures that allow genuine student participation and decision-making.

The invitation for Esther to host the webinar was a result of a number of years’ involvement in the International School Grounds Alliance.

In September 2015 Esther was invited to join others from 14 countries to Denpasar Bali, Indonesia to an “Inspiring School Grounds” Conference convened by ISGA. The International School Grounds Alliance (ISGA) is a global network of organizations and professionals working to enrich children’s learning and play by improving the way school grounds are designed and used.

The Risk in Play and Learning Declaration (also called the Ubud-Höör Declaration) was developed at ISGA Leadership Council meetings in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia and Höör, Sweden.  – a declaration around risk-taking being essential to children’s well-being.

“Since the world is full of risks, children need to learn to recognize and respond to them in order to protect themselves and to develop their own risk-assessment capabilities.” — Risk in Play and Learning: Ubud-Höör Declaration, International School Grounds Alliance

Esther continues her engagement in this forum, receiving regular updates on people’s research and findings around Inspiring School Grounds. In turn, she shares the effectiveness of the holistic approach to learning for sustainability that the Enviroschools Programme embraces and contributes to activities and resources.

This is the latest ISGA report which includes some great statistics and findings and that are useful and relevant to the kaupapa of Enviroschools. Learning Through Landscapes_my-school-my-planet-evaluation-summary

“Besides play spaces we need social spaces – place where you can hide or be alone or meet your friends and interesting ways of moving through those spaces.” Kerry Logan, Outdoor Play consultant. Perth Australia.


“The last thing you want to do is to need to travel a distance to put children into this context. You want it to be immediate.  So, the school gardens, the school grounds should be that green landscape for the children. … You become what you experience.” –  Susan Humphries, Former Head teacher, Arborfield, UK.


“It is not only a matter of changing the physical landscape of schools grounds. It is a matter of changing the landscape of people’s minds.”  Anders Wönge Kjollsson – director of Naturskolan Lund Sweden.


Beccy Dove, Corrie Anderson, Trish Waugh and Mike O’Donnell shared inspirational stories about healing the ground at Paeroa College.

Banner image: Keeping the Heihei happy at Ruawai Kindergarten.