The Auckland Council Sustainable Schools team ran an engaging zoom for principals and senior management examining Enviroschools transitions and transition pathways.
The zui included:
- Enviroschools founder and Toimata Foundation CE, Heidi Mardon, sharing her perspectives on the future of Enviroschools after 20 years and following a two-year organisation-wide review.
- Panellists from six different Auckland Enviroschools from ECE to Secondary sharing their views and experiences of transitions and transition pathways.
- A chance for attendees to workshop with each other on how to strengthen pathways and support the Enviroschools shifts that are waiting to happen.
Marisa Pene, (Regenerative-Kaupapa Māori Lead, Enviroschools & Te Aho Tū Roa, Tāmaki Makaurau) welcomed everyone into the zoom space, introduced the panel and settled participants into the kaupapa for the gathering.
Heidi Mardon (Toimata Foundation) spoke passionately about the beginnings of the Enviroschools Programme. She said that initially there wasn’t a massive vision but a lot of questions. At those early stages, although there were limited resources, a group of people with diverse knowledge and skills came together with a common purpose.
“We needed transformation!” – Heidi Mardon, of Toimata Foundation.
The Enviroschools Programme has evolved in a way that is now engaging thousands of people and influencing more. The energy is now rising in young people, and Enviroschools, alongside Te Aho Tū Roa, is at the leading edge.
There is a large and trusting network and there are things to do over the next 20 years. These include:
- increasing connections with mana whenua and understanding local history and exploring reciprocal relationships
- “re-imagining “local classrooms” where schools are base camp for exploration for the community (innovation hubs)
- question – nothing is off limits
- model what sustainability authentically looks like
- holistic, positive, deeply principled delving into what a sustainable world feels like
- heart based approach that focuses on solutions.
Jacqui Lees from Pakuranga Baptist Kindergarten offered her perspective of tamariki moving from an early childhood Enviroschools setting into a primary Enviroschool. She explained that the shift for this early childhood centre has been to get out and about – providing learning opportunities in, about and for the local environment and community. This provided tamariki with authentic experiences. She gave the example of seeing homeless people and the subsequent rich discussions and actions that came as a result of this observation.
“These children care deeply about social justice issues” – Jacqui Lees, Pakuranga Baptist Kindergarten
Jacqui talked about the value of being part of Enviroschools cluster meetings – hearing stories about the different journeys and strengthening understandings of different approaches. This helps the kindergarten staff with their preparation for tamariki transitioning to school.
One thing that the staff at Pakuranga Baptist Kindergarten would like to see shift is to ensure that the excitement, motivation and passion of the young learners is acknowledged as soon as they reach primary school. Often this is not reignited till around year 3.
Diana Tregoweth has been principal at Papatoetoe West School for 8 years and over this time has seen things change, with more schools engaging in the Enviroschools Programme and EEfS and more understanding of its importance.
Papatoetoe West School is part of a small kahui ako that has a focus on transition. Although it is not specifically through the Enviroschools Programme, she says that because the Enviroschools philosophy is woven through the school there are some natural fits.
Enviroschools cluster meetings have provided opportunities to meet and discuss and learn from each other. The kahui ako provides opportunities to share resources, for example the local curriculum studies on Kohuora Park.
“We feel we are preparing our students to make a difference and to understand sustainability and to be able to leave our school with those values.” – Diana Tregoweth, Tumuaki/Principal Papatoetoe West School
Tirimoana School Principal, Peter Kaiser talked about the Enviroschools Programme in his school’s commitment to develop a sense of inclusion and respect for each other and our environment. This includes student transition and their learning evolution. Tirimoana School has an Enviro Team coordinated by a passionate teacher responsible for the Enviroschools Programme and supported with a unit of responsibility. This teacher has empowered several other teachers by working collaboratively and rotating leadership each year, which builds the team’s capacity and understanding of Enviroschools from taking a lead role with the whole school.
The Enviroschools Teacher Aide (ESTA) project has helped with building this capacity as well as adding to the richness and diversity of the school.
Students are involved in the recruitment of staff at Tirimoana. Recently, 10-year-old ākonga/students took part in the interview process of prospective caretakers, asking:
“How can we be sure that you are committed to environmental practices, too” – students’ recruitment question.
Peter said this is a very powerful engagement. It tells everyone who is coming in that this is important to us and sustaining.
Jo McIntyre-Brown, lead Enviroschools teacher at Manurewa Intermediate, standing in for Ian Taylor her principal, said that during the 2 years that students were with them they focused on 5 strands of sustainability linked to their school values and the key competencies.
They promoted student agency by supporting students to consider different issues and come up with ideas and practical solutions. The involvement of whānau meant that these messages were shared. The school has developed a sense of safety and productivity and contribution.
Dr Paul Bennett of Howick College talked about effective scaffolding that allows empowerment of students along with motivation, deep exploration, and co-creating of curriculum. There are dedicated roles within staffing that acknowledges the importance of the Enviroschools Programme and allows for planning. The Enviroschool kaupapa influences staff recruitment.
Dr Bennett spoke about the alternative achievement programme that the school offers. This is available for Year 9, 10, 11 and 12 students and supports the transition process. Students work on and are supported through collaborative problem-solving projects.
Marisa Pene closed the meeting by acknowledging the wealth of sharing and building of trusting relationships within and across our Enviroschools network. She thanked people for their courage to step into, hold and maintain this space.
“Enviroschools are inclusive of all people of all ages. If we deliberately transition students from ECE through Enviroschools for all their learning, they will be connected and equipped and wanting to take actions to contribute to creating a healthy, peaceful, sustainable world and be able to articulate their why.” – Cate Jessep, Enviroschools Facilitator, Auckland Council Sustainable Schools team