Enviroschools Foundation

Where: Christchurch, NZ

When: We met on Jan 26th 2014. The Enviroschools Foundation was set up in the early 1990s, starting in Hamilton and then rolling out nationally after that.

Who: I met with Andrea Taylor, regional coordinator for the Canterbury area. There are approximately 26 full-time equivalent staff across the whole organisation, 13 of whom are in the national team. In Canterbury region there are 4 part-time staff.

What: The Enviroschools Foundation has two programmes – Enviroschools and Te Aho Tū Roa. The latter is a programme working with communities that celebrates Māori culture and seeks to strengthen connections ‘People to People’ and ‘People to Place’.  This programme is not established in Canterbury yet with only early discussions had.

The EnviroSchools Programme supports children and young people to be active citizens working towards sustainable and resilient communities and ecological regeneration. Schools that want to take part sign an agreement and receive support to weave sustainability into every aspect of the school’s working, from teaching to procurement of materials.

They have a set of guiding principles centred around student empowerment, learning for sustainability, Maori perspectives, respect for the diversity of people and cultures and sustainable communities.

In their own words, it is “an action-based approach to education through which children and young people plan, design and implement sustainable projects and become catalysts for change in their families and the wider community.”

How: The process schools go through after they have signed the agreement involves learning more about what sustainability is and developing a vision for their school. Next they come up with ideas for how they can make their school more sustainable. At this point a group of students are recruited to lead the process forwards. Then they start taking action, usually starting with one of the more simple and visual suggestions they have had such as a butterfly garden or an indigenous art sculpture. Next they get into bigger actions such as waste management or energy use. Each step they take is celebrated. There is an annual reflective day where what they have achieved is reviewed, celebrated and then determined what can be done next.

Impacts/successes: In the Canterbury area there are 75 schools involved with more wanting to join. Across New Zealand, almost one third of all schools are involved in the programme. In absolute numbers, the majority are primary schools but in terms of proportions, there are similar weightings of middle and secondary schools involved too.

Further info: www.enviroschools.org.nz

Personal reflections: I particularly enjoyed learning about Enviroschools’ focus on student empowerment for giving children ownership over the actions they decide to take – helping to foster that sense of feeling ABLE to make a difference as one person is absolutely vital for creating the culture change Enviroschools is aiming for, hopefully inspiring that thinking in each of those children in the longer term and in their families and wider communities.

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