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Workshop series sparks inspiration, aroha and healing

December 4, 2023

The value of collaboration and providing hands-on workshops was highlighted recently in Tairāwhiti where a week-long series was held to facilitate fun and effective learning in the local outdoor environment. Here Bridget Dick, Enviroschools facilitator, tells us about what happened and the ripple effects this is already having.

In collaboration with Wild Lab-Tiaki Taiao, Gisborne District Council, Enviroschools and funding from the East Coast Exchange – Powered by Toha, we brought together teachers from all around the region to spend a week with Ruud Kleinpaste and John Lawry (two passionate nature experts) learning about how to integrate nature into the curriculum.

Fun, laughter and learning.

The purpose was to build resilience in our teachers with being able to take their classes outside for their learning and link the outdoors to all areas of their teaching. With this knowledge now imbedded in the teachers we are encouraging the connection to our outdoor environment to the next generation and in Ruud’s words ‘creating better ancestors’.

There were six workshops in total – two nighttime workshops (using UV lights to show what colours the insects see, and head torches to observe life in the bush by night) and four daytime sessions exploring biodiversity, the seasonal planning wheel, nature craft and visiting schools. These were based in Gisborne and Ruatoria. We had 20-25 teachers and educators at each workshop, gathering ideas, pūrākau and tools to take back to the classroom.

Each kaiako who registered was encouraged to attend a preliminary zoom session and has since been challenged to continue the learning cycle with a nature-based Action Project. This could be something generated from the course, or something already initiated that the new knowledge supports. The participants will be welcomed back in Term 1 for collaborative reflection and help to take these ideas further.

Te Wharau teacher, Maiko Lewis-Whaanga, says whenever she takes her class outdoors, nature is very calming for everyone, and the students love it.

The cave wētā found on Manutahi Hill caused a bit of entomological excitement!

The weather was a bit damp and that added to the adventure, not dampening spirits at all!  During the nighttime walks there was a lot of activity. We spotted a ruru sitting in a karaka rākau at the entrance to Grey’s Bush. People were very interested in the silent flying of the ruru because of its wings having a ‘fringe’. Teachers and whānau present were surprised, mesmerised by this fascinating nocturnal bird! (See banner image).

The cave wētā pictured, was found up Manutahi Hill in Ruatoria. It was HUGE! Many small ones had been seen but never that big. Ruud took a photo to add to iNaturalist as he had never seen a cave wētā so big! He went on to say these could be endemic to Ruatoria and suggested this as a study for a class to explore!

The feedback has been great with many kaiako being proud of what their school has already implemented and now feeling equipped with more tools and ideas for inquiry in the outdoors. They have a better understanding about integrating their Living Landscape learning across subject areas of the NZ Curriculum and Te Whāriki. The workshops focused on giving teachers the confidence to take their learners outdoors and in turn, teachers say they felt nourished, seen and recognised for what they do.

A tumuaki who attended two of the workshops found it was an amazing experience to get out of the office and be immersed in nature for 2 days.

Ruud and John with Te Wharau student Ted Bolton-Riley, who found a skink in the bush behind their school.

This centipede was part of the night-time learning.









One of the participating teachers commented that they particularly enjoyed all the storytelling elements and how excited she is to share this with her students back at school.

An awesome example showing how teachers ‘got it’ was seen when I was back at Te Wharau School the next week (after having had a site visit the week before). A student had made a sweep net to use on the field to capture and identify all the biodiversity present in their school grounds. This showed just how quickly the passion from Ruud and John had been transferred to this class and a clear indicator that nature already is in their hearts. It is about us as teachers and facilitators to provide them with the learning and opportunities to keep it there and expand their knowledge and understanding!

“Being outside can become part of the curriculum more and these workshops have given teachers the courage to do that with their students,” says Council Educator and Enviroschools Facilitator Bridget Dick.

Ruud said the most encouraging thing he learned over the week was that there were organisations that understood how important it was to go out there to the schools, engage with teachers and kids and bring nature into their hearts.

“Whoever funded this, whoever made this happen, I love you for it, and this is why I’m part of this. I’ll always be part of this. This is the most important thing we can do for humanity and the planet.” – Ruud Kleinpaste

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This was the press release from Gisbourne District Council here