Maungatautari School students were so excited to achieve a silver Enviroschools award this month they “just screamed and screamed”, principal Rosemary Hendrikse said.
The students have been working towards a bronze award for three years and didn’t know their teachers had secretly applied for a silver.
The Enviroschools award recognises the students’ efforts to restore a gully next to the school, which will eventually extend their playground. It has involved a huge amount of work removing exotic trees, replanting native species, creating new pathways and weeding.
“The kids absolutely love working in the gully and throw themselves into it 120 per cent,” Ms Hendrikse said.
“They’ve planned and designed all themselves and it’s their project – parents aren’t allowed in there unless the kids say so! But it is a real team effort and we get huge support from parents, staff and the wider community.”
The students are also working with the Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust to care for a patch of bush on Maungatautari and have created fruit and vegetable gardens at school.
A recent feast cooked with produce from the school garden saw students voluntarily eating vegetables they used to hate.
“One of the mums even wants our recipe for broccoli soup now – it’s so exciting,” Ms Hendrikse said.
Ms Hendrikse said she couldn’t praise the Enviroschools programme highly enough.
“I think it’s one of the best things we do here and it’s all transferable stuff that will make a difference to how the kids are going to think and run their lives as adults.
“We’ve got a teacher who, when she started working for us, just couldn’t get over how much the kids run the school, how they think, and how much knowledge and self confidence they have.
“They just have such an awareness of their environment and they’re thinking about all the big sustainability issues that we think about as adults. It’s amazing.”