Te Kura o Haewai/Houghton Valley School have recently taken time to pause and carry out an Enviroschools Holistic Reflection process, considering all they have done and gaining a sense of the progression of the Enviroschools Guiding Principles. Facilitator, Chloe, tells us about some of the initiatives happening at Houghton Valley.
Houghton Valley School is nestled in the hills above Houghton Bay on the beautiful, wild south coast of Te Whanganui-a-Tara, and this flourishing environment features strongly in their learning. Taking time to intentionally reflect on the initiatives undertaken and the differences they have made has led to Te Kura o Haewai affirming their values and actions and recommitting to the Enviroschools Kaupapa.
When creating a team for their Holistic Reflection process, including the Houghton Valley School student council was important. These students, with 2 representatives from each class, readily took on the responsibility of gathering evidence using Enviroschools “like our school” activity. Each pair facilitated this interactive continuum activity in their classes and recorded their peer responses. In asking who else should be included in the reflection team, students were quick to identify and celebrate people in their community.
“I am happy to contribute because I know how important it is to be part of this,” – student comment
For two years it has become everyone’s responsibility to care for the school grounds. A waste inquiry led to students undertaking regular audits and reporting to the principal, celebrating good practices and contacting the council to clarify what can be recycled. This greater understanding has empowered students to take action at Houghton Valley. While taking visitors on a tour of the school during a recent Reflection Sharing Day students picked up rubbish as they walked around and returned items that had been blown around.
“I’m proud to be part of this reflection” – student.
A recent term-long inquiry focused on hauora, encouraging students to have agency over their own wellbeing, for example, skills for how to move out of unhelpful emotional state. Where kaiako see students’ interest, they offer support and resources to help them achieve their goals. Seniors have been leading student clubs during lunchtimes with different language, culture and interest clubs set up. Lunch times are also where peer mediators keep a watch for conflicts to resolve or injuries to report by walkie talkie to the duty kaiako.
As part of He Kōrero Haewai, the school’s Creatives in Schools project, students created fence panels to tell the story of the beginning of this land (Haewai is the original name of the land on which Houghton Bay School sits), the first people of the land, present day through to aspirations for the future (by the youngest of students). Some panels were created after a kōrero by Te Ātiawa.
The creation process has woven in literacy with students writing poetry with Te Kahu Rolleston from Te Pou Muramura . On being asked what the fence has to say, students called out “I am a guardian, I keep you safe, I keep harm out”. A line from each student’s poem has been crafted into a group poem for the panel. Each class has been working with Kate Te Ao to hear pūrākau, then draw what they imagine from the story. The resulting artwork has been photographed, arranged and projected onto panels for students collaboratively to paint.
The community held a whakatuwhera/opening for the panels, a bringing together of all peoples connected to Haewai – mana whenua, students, staff, board of trustees, Home and School association, past students of school, residents association, neighbours, and local community groups. The collaborative effort has been helped by many people including local historian, Grant, Creatives in Schools artists Te Kahu Rolleston (Ngāi Te Rangi) and Kate Te Ao. Morrie Love (Te Atīawa) zoomed into the class from Tākaka to share Te Atīawa history of the whenua over the past 850 years, and in speaking at the whakatuwhera he expressed his admiration for the students to whakarongo, interpret and create, which is no easy skill. He affirmed the learning of the story of the land is important to be able to stand together as one on this.
Kate Te Ao, the artist working with students on the fence panels shared the whakataukī “Poho kereru ana i a koe,” meaning the students made her so proud they made her feel a puffed-up chest as they had painted on one panel. This same panel featured Dave in his shorts, a long-standing community member in the school’s sustainability journey. This whakataukī was significant as the vision for Haewai is to see the kererū return.
The wider school community are now seeing value of student involvement in local projects and look forward to supporting implementation of a 100-year vision for Haewai Stream being returned to flow overland instead of being piped, and wetland restoration to support fresh water kōura and banded kōkopu (their presence being identified through recent eDNA testing).
Houghton Valley Board of Trustees have led their kāhui ako in Tiriti o Waitangi training from NZSTA, working on giving effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and reflecting this in their policies and governance. With seven schools involved in the kāhui ako training, the hope is they can journey collaboratively and engagement with mana whenua will be in a meaningful way.
During the Sharing Day, the reflection team discussed ideas for how they would share their decision that they were a Green-Gold Enviroschool. This included creating a special newsletter capturing the voices of what this means and a special assembly to receive the flag and sticker and ensure all the whānau and wider community received the acknowledgements they deserved. Jill, the long-standing Enviro lead kaiako, was shown special appreciation. She had run her weekly sustainability sessions with classes for two years leading up to the reflection Sharing Day helping, helping the school to consider and celebrate all those who had contributed over the years.
“I have a feeling of whanaungatanga and kotahitanga, unity and the bigger picture of whānau and all students not able to be here and the previous students, Dave McArthur, families and all the people in the past who have got us to this place”. – Jill Holmstead, Sustainability lead teacher.
Students celebrated with waiata, free play and ice blocks while the Board of Trustees and staff shared a morning tea to connect and acknowledge teachers support for the children.
“Environmental issues can be overwhelming so being able to look deeply into what we are doing, and role modelling was wonderful in feeling hope for the future” – Kelly, Parent
The reflection team shared what they were proud of or were looking forward to being part of in the future.
“[I am] hopeful for the future with you as tamariki today, our mokopuna tomorrow will be able to play in a restored place.” – Amanda, Enviroschools Facilitator
Following the Sharing Day, students took action around the school including the creation of a sensory walk, a mindfulness path, a mural, messages on the friendship seat and building and designing seating so students could sit in shade.
Te Kura o Haewai see their role in the Enviroschools network as sharing their stories and bringing others along with them.
Banner image: Panel created by students after hearing Morrie Love’s kōrero.
By Chloe Bisley-Wright, Enviroschools Community Facilitator – Te Whanganui a Tara