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Students Speak for the Planet


For the first time in New Zealand is an opportunity for our children to speak for the planet. A Speak 4 The Planet student competition has been running very successfully in Australia for the last six years and is coming to Christchurch this year.

Speak 4 The Planet is a year 7 to 13 speech and art competition based on the World Environment Day theme which changes each year, where the best of Christchurch and Banks Peninsula school students will have their say in a one day event in early June. Organised by a partnership between Sustainable Ōtautahi Christchurch and the local branch of the New Zealand Association for Environmental Education (NZAEE). It is supported by SIFT (Sustainable Initiatives Fund Trust) a charitable trust that funds projects that create or inspire long-term environmental benefits.

When there is so much damage done to our living planet articulate, intelligent young people are starting to speak out clearly. Greta Thunberg, a now famous sixteen year old student has powerfully told global leaders that they need to panic and has chastised adults at both the COP24 climate conference in December and the World Economic Forum in January. Greta has now inspired many young people to strike from school across Europe and the movement is spreading.

What will our Canterbrian students say? The competition no only provides a robust opportunity for our local young people to express themselves but also will be a public event so many more will hear them. Thunberg’s school strike for climate will come to Christchurch on March 15th.

“We aim to find the best students who can articulate their thoughts, opinions and ideas, celebrate and award them (yes there are some great prizes) but also then support them to share their speeches and posters to a wide audience, including public officials.” says Michelle Whitaker, who is project managing the event for Sustainable Ōtautahi Christchurch. “When it comes to the environment and climate change we’re not that good at listening to the facts or to the adults, so it’s time to support the young people to have their say.”

Jocelyn Paprill from NZAEE says “we really want the schools to get behind the students involvement, run mini competitions themselves and send the best to the main event. We supply all the resources and info they need to take part.”

Already over ten schools have registered their interest in taking part as well as some students who are homeschooled. “We’ve got older student leaders available to mentor participants too. It’s all about building the confidence and abilities of young people’, says Papprill who has also been involved in coordinating events for Seaweek. She also says ‘we have some really great sustainable/enviro themed prizes too but welcome further sponsorship of prizes from any businesses who are eco-minded ”.

There are also some well-known judges involved. “We’re keeping the prizes and judges under wrap for now, but they are really good!” Whitaker says. To register interest contact michelle@sustainablechristchurch.org.nz and keep up to date on Facebook @sustainablechristchurch. Final registration day is April 14th, end of term one.


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