Over 1000 schools and early childhood education (ECE) centres are involved in Enviroschools throughout New Zealand.
These Enviroschools are on a journey, learning and taking action about relevant sustainability and environmental topics – from wetland restoration, creating edible gardens, living a low-carbon lifestyle, planting native areas, looking after our waterways, measuring and conserving energy, science innovation and much, much more.
Officially launched at Hamilton East School in 2001, the programme supports children and young people to plan, design and implement sustainability actions which are relevant and important to their communities.
Programme Development Co-ordinator Sandy Bell-Jameson says ECE centres and schools look not only at what is happening locally, but also regionally, nationally and globally.
“For example, some schools are exploring energy reduction, while others are engaging with learning about climate change and how they can reduce their carbon footprint,” Bell-Jameson says.
Enviroschools may choose to select a project from the one of the five Enviroschools Theme Areas – Living Landscapes, Energy, Zero Waste, Water for Life and Ecological Building, or go with a theme or project that is relevant to them at the time.
Each Enviroschool has a facilitator working alongside them to support the implementation of the programme.
The Enviroschools kaupapa is based on five Guiding Principles - Empowered Students, Māori Perspectives, Learning for Sustainability, Sustainable Communities and Respect for the Diversity of People and Cultures.
Toimata Foundation is the national hub that supports the Enviroschools programme, with regional implementation of Enviroschools supported through partnerships with around 100 organisations nationwide.
Each region has an Enviroschools regional coordinator and a team of Enviroschools Facilitators who work with schools and ECE centres to motivate, advise, support and guide their vision for a sustainable future.
The Enviroschools network now embraces over 250,000 children and young people, their whānau and teachers.
With over a decade of development and growth, people refer to Enviroschools as a movement for positive change in this country towards a generation of innovative and motivated young people who instinctively think and act sustainably.
Benefits for students include a sense of belonging and contribution; recognition of the different skills and qualities of themselves and others; skills of working together, making decisions, planning and taking action plus increased confidence.
There are also benefits for Enviroschools and the wider community, such as increased pride and responsibility for caring for the school environment; more inspiring and healthy school grounds; financial savings through saving resources; more engaged and motivated students; increased links with whānau and community and increased knowledge of Māori perspectives.
“It is vital that young people are empowered to take action; and have the knowledge and skills to implement action and to be able to reflect on that action."