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Major milestones for Enviroschools Northland

The Enviroschools programme in Northland has celebrated one of its most successful years, with nine of the region’s Enviroschools – including the first kindergarten – achieving major milestones.

Enviroschools is a ‘whole school’ approach to sustainability which is about student-driven action for designing and creating sustainable schools, ecosystems, local neighbourhoods and beyond. The popular national programme is largely funded locally by the Northland Regional Council.

Regional Enviroschools Co-ordinator Susan Karels says two Northland schools – Kaitaia’s Oturu School and Whangarei’s Ruakaka School – reached the prestigious ‘Green-Gold’ status during 2013. (Only a fraction of Enviroschools achieve that status annually and it represented as the culmination of several years of involvement in the programme for Oturu and Ruakaka. The two joined Mangakahia Area and Whangarei Heads Schools, which became Green-Gold in 2011 and 2012 respectively.)

Meanwhile, Oromahoe and Umawera Schools became Silver Enviroschools, joining six other Northland schools that are currently at the Silver stage.

Four Northland schools achieved the Bronze stage in 2013 – Kokopu School, Okaihau Primary School, Otaika Valley School and Parua Bay School.

Also attaining the Bronze stage in 2013 was Comrie Park Kindergarten in Whangarei, Northland’s first Enviroschools kindergarten.

Mrs Karels says 72 Northland schools – nearly half of all those in the region – and three kindergartens are now in the Enviroschools programme, which the regional council introduced to Northland in 2003.

“Schools that include sustainability in their programmes play a significant role in creating sustainable communities. Students become role models of sustainable practices, teachers amongst their families and peers, and future leaders who understand how to make informed decisions and take action,” says Mrs Karels.

“They learn skills that they can put to good use throughout their lives – leadership, decision-making and planning, co-operation and developing partnerships.”

Mrs Karels noted that Oturu School is different from many other Enviroschools in that a far greater proportion of its work through the programme has revolved around sustainable businesses. (Examples included beekeeping/honey manufacture, traditional medicinal balm production, making soap, oil and other olive products and selling value-added goods made from the eggs, vegetables and fruit it harvests.)

Among Ruakaka School’s sustainability initiatives are the student ‘power police’ who saved the school hundreds of dollars last year by auditing its electricity use twice-daily and encouraging people to switch off unnecessary lighting and other equipment. Other students fill a similar role auditing waste and encouraging recycling and the school also has its own productive beehive, chickens and edible gardens.

“In addition to the direct benefits, involvement in the Enviroschools Programme leads to other positive outcomes. Increased pride and appreciation and greater involvement in the environment boosts positive behaviour and strengthens the connections between schools and their local communities,” says Mrs Karels.


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