Environment Waikato’s deputy chairman John Fisher, Waipa mayor Alan Livingston and other councillors from Waipa District Council and Environment Waikato helped Te Miro School celebrate its prestigious green-gold Enviroschools award in Cambridge today.
The school is only the seventh in New Zealand to have achieved green-gold status out of more than 550 registered with the national Enviroschools programme.
“It’s a huge achievement that recognises Te Miro School’s commitment to integrating environmental education into everyday school life,” Cr Fisher said.
“Students are genuinely participating in decision-making and taking action that is enriching the school environment and empowering them to be active environmental citizens for life.”
The Enviroschools programme, which encourages students to plan, design and create sustainable school communities, was launched in Hamilton in 1993 and has become a national success story.
Students identify issues at their school, explore alternatives, take action and reflect on changes. Projects include growing sustainable gardens, planting native trees to increase biodiversity and offset carbon emissions, creating recycling systems, reducing waste and improving energy efficiency.
Coordinated by the Hamilton-based Enviroschools Foundation, the programme is largely funded by the Ministry of Education, and supported by regional, district and city councils.
Te Miro principal Valarie Kells said the programme had made a huge difference in her school. Rubbish, once a big problem, is now hardly an issue.
“A lot of parents comment that their children are very conscious of not littering now, and actually pick up rubbish when they go to town. They’re also very conscious of reducing waste and not having plastic wrap on their lunches.”
The pupils are passionate about an area of native bush they are restoring on school grounds and have been raising their own seedlings. Every new entrant plants a tree when they start school, and the children grow their own veggies using food scraps composted from their lunchboxes.
“Environmental education is very much part of the whole school and what we do now,” Mrs Kells said.
“Once you start, it just continues growing. It’s made the children more aware of their environment and the importance of looking after it and they’re really quite proud of their school and what they’ve achieved.”
Mrs Kells said the green-gold award was “just a milestone in the journey”.
“It was what we aspired to, but now we’ve reached it, it’s just a stepping stone to further things because the journey just keeps going. The children have lots of creative ideas about other projects they want to do.
“I’d really like to acknowledge the cooperation and hard work of everyone together that’s achieved this. No one person does it alone; it’s a cooperative effort with the whole community.”