Rangatahi from across the Waikato gathered beneath Pirongia mountain for the first Waikato Enviroschools Climate Camp. Over 2 days they engaged in discussion, carried out experiential activities, learned about climate change and explored opportunities for future learning and action taking.
Michelle Daly (Enviroschools Regional Coordinator) opened the hui by saying that this was an opportunity for like-minded rangatahi to connect, to learn, to share, and to build confidence and capacity to educate peers about climate change.
After a welcome from the team of facilitators, Sophie Handford, Councillor for Kāpiti District Council, spoke about the passion that fired her journey from Enviroschools student leader to Enviroschools intern, Strike for climate organiser to local politician, asking, “which side of the future do you want to be on?”
“This camp has raised the awareness of the reality of climate change. It’s unavoidable and we have been ignoring it for too long” – participant comment.
There was then time to get to know each other before a thought-provoking presentation “Understanding Climate Change” by Rick Liefting (Tsunami man) and Whitney Mills from the Regional Hazards Team.
“Talking about climate change and tsunami was powerful and influencing” – participant comment
Activities during the camp included archery, rock climbing, a Mangakara stream study, and nature awareness to help connect students to each other and the environment whilst building confidence in their ability to overcome challenges.
“I liked the metaphor used with the climbing activity. We were lifted up and supported. The actions of one were supported by many.” – participant comment.
Participants also connected with Rangatahi Voices, the independent youth forum for the Waikato region. This group led a number of the activities on camp.
A panel of inspirational speakers included Professor Margaret Barbour who talked about a new degree at Waikato University, Bachelor of Climate Change that combines scientific knowledge with understanding economic and political systems and impacts on Māori, Pacific and Indigenous communities.
Lilian Balfour (youth leader currently studying at Waikato University (B. Climate Change) and Halle Aish (student and Youth volunteer for Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society) gave their different experiences of transition from active Envirogroup members at school to study, work and further engagement in their communities.
Lilian commented that stepping up and into action boosted her confidence and advised tangible local action otherwise it can seem overwhelming.
Halle’s interest in conservation was very obvious as she showed photos of Pirongia forest and some of the actions she has been involved in with the restoration society. A key message she had was about the personal benefits of this involvement; mental, spiritual, physical, social and educational as well as environmental.
Julie Hansen caught the interest of a number of rangitahi (eager to get their drivers licences/cars) when she discussed emissions reduction plans and strategies to decrease the numbers of cars on the road.
Jo Wrigley from GoEco opened participants’ eyes to the significant issue of food waste, food security, and food rescue that she helps coordinate as part of Kaivolution. She shared facts and figures about food waste quantities as well as the amount now being redistributed.
Lorraine Dixon, Project Advisor Taiao Team, Climate Change (Waikato Tainui) talked about the importance of understanding the issues from a Mātauranga Maori perspective and not being afraid to getting involved. Lorraine is working with others assessing the impact of climate change on the 68 marae in the region. When talking about solutions, Lorraine reminded rangatahi of the 1000 years of observational knowledge that local Māori had.
The Climate Change programme incorporated activities facilitated by NIWA and Waikato Tainui as part of the Kura Waitī programme, which involved an interactive “board” game of climate adaptation that had rangatahi having to work as a team to decide best actions and use of a budget when planning for climate mitigation.
“It was great hearing other peoples’ stories and how they got there.” – rangatahi reflects.
Talking about what difference the Climate Camp made, one participant commented that they saw their role now was to help educate others, spread awareness with peers and raise interest in the topic.
There were many special connections and experiences occurring throughout the hui, including the launch of the Secondary Education for Sustainability resource, written for Waikato Regional Council (and teachers within the region) by Andrea Soanes and Lyn Rogers, two very experienced Secondary teachers and resource writers. Andrea ran a short workshop for teachers on the second day, introducing the resource and emphasised the importance of enthusiasm of teachers in climate change education. There are plans for this resource to be launched at a series of workshops including a workshop for Enviroschools lead teachers, a Ministry of Education workshop and possibly NZAEE conference.
Planning for taking action was an important part of the camp. This allowed students to consolidate their learning and each school was tasked to consider how they could take these ideas back to their schools and communities. Participating school groups will have the ongoing support of their Enviroschools Facilitator to launch a climate action or initiative at school and will have access to a dedicated Waikato Regional Council grant fund to enable their project.
“I feel excited about doing a project together at my school” – participant talking about next steps
With each facilitator taking responsibility for designing and delivering a different session of the programme this was a real team effort, with a series of planning hui necessary to scope, check in and peer review the wātaka development. The Waikato team are grateful to Enviroschools Hawkes Bay for the generous sharing of their climate camp material and hope that other regions can benefit from this growing puna mātauranga/pool of knowledge.
Michelle says that although there will be a few changes to the programme, the team are inspired and committed to running Enviroschools Climate Camp 2023. Watch this space!