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Mana ora: students decarbonising schools

June 10, 2024

In 2023, Auckland Council’s Sustainable Schools Team (SST) piloted a project called Mana Ora: Students Decarbonising Schools.

Students explore design options for their project at the launch.

The aim of Mana Ora: Students Decarbonising Schools was that students, with guidance and support from teachers and Auckland Council’s Sustainable Schools Team (SST), would plan and implement climate and sustainability action projects linked to decarbonisation within their schools.

Students and teachers were encouraged to explore five theme areas to provide inspiration for their project ideas: transport, energy, waste, food, and grow.

Mana Ora supported the projects through a pool of funding, on-demand support from SST advisors, and cluster gatherings to bring schools and kura together at key points across the project.

In primary schools, projects were most often led by envirogroup students, supported by a teacher with an enviro/sustainability co-ordination role. In secondary schools, projects tended to be either led by senior students in sustainability leadership roles or were woven into subject-based classes. In two secondary schools, projects were described as more teacher-led.

Ōrewa College students enjoy the bounty of their community gardens.

Eighteen Mana Ora projects were implemented in early childhood, primary, and secondary schools, 13 in English-medium, and five in Māori-medium contexts. NZCER was engaged to evaluate the impact of Mana Ora in English-medium settings. Auckland Council established a separate Māori-led process to capture learning from Māori-medium Mana Ora projects.

The evaluation explored the extent to which Mana Ora met its intended outcomes for students, teachers, schools, and SST advisors. It was beyond the scope of the evaluation to directly evaluate the emissions-reduction impacts of the projects, or the extent to which projects supported transfer of decarbonisation knowledge and practices into homes and the wider community. However, where possible, these outcomes were explored through interviews with students, teachers, and SST advisors.

“The evaluation found that Mana Ora largely succeeded in achieving its intended outcomes for students, teachers, and advisors

  • Many students said it was “empowering” to see ways they could take action on climate change and sustainability issues through making a change in their own school.
  • Many students were able to explain new understandings they had developed about climate change and/or decarbonisation.
  • Many lead teachers said Mana Ora had contributed to their confidence and knowledge to teach about and inspire climate action learning.
  • Advisors said that Mana Ora had helped build their own knowledge and confidence about how to “connect the dots” between school sustainability practices and decarbonisation.”

(extract from 2024 Bolstad, R. Mana Ora: Students Decarbonising Schools evaluation | New Zealand Council for Educational Research (

Advisor, Cate, supports the celebration at Pakuranga Baptist Kindergarten.

You can find out more about Mana Ora projects and the individual case studies here: Mana Ora Students Decarbonising Schools – LiveLightly

Student-led climate action initiative helps efforts to decarbonise Auckland schools – OurAuckland (

The evaluation report written by Rachel Bolstad, New Zealand Council for Education can be accessed: Mana Ora: Students Decarbonising Schools evaluation | New Zealand Council for Educational Research (


Mana Ora: students decarbonising schools. Evaluation report – Knowledge Auckland

This work will be continued through Enviroschools and the SST Youth Resilience programme in 2024.