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Published: 2008-06-06 00:00:00

From humble beginnings as a three-school pilot trial launched in Hamilton in 1993, the Enviroschools programme has become a national success story, with more than 550 schools now involved.

The Enviroschools programme encourages students to plan, design and create sustainable school communities. It was initiated by Hamilton City Council and is coordinated in the Waikato by Environment Waikato.

Environment Waikato’s Environment Committee heard an update on the success of the programme at its meeting in Hamilton yesterday.

Hamilton-based Enviroschools programme manager Kristen Price said the programme had brought about remarkable changes in many schools.

“When students are actively engaged in creating a better school environment they have a real sense of place and pride,” she said.

“They learn how to make their ideas happen, their leadership skills improve, they have more participation in the school community and they’re motivated to learn.”

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.

“It’s about taking action so you can be part of the solution in your community now, rather than waiting until you’ve grown up before you can do something about it,” Ms Price said.

She said the Enviroschools network was increasing in popularity. There are now 14 regional Enviroschools coordinators, most from regional councils, helping to implement the programme, and 21 per cent of all New Zealand schools are involved.

“Nationwide we’re seeing more and more secondary schools get involved as students move through the system and there’s increasing interest from early childhood centres and kura Maori,” Ms Price said.

Thirty-five per cent of Waikato schools – more than 110 – are involved.

“The programme is particularly strong here and there are many model schools that attract interest from all over New Zealand,” Ms Price said.

Environment Waikato councillors also heard presentations from Enviroschools silver award winners Woodstock School and Hillcrest Normal School at this week’s meeting.

Woodstock students explained how they had planted a native garden, started a worm farm and collect food scraps to reduce waste. They now aim to grow native plants and landscape a hill area.

Hillcrest Normal School students told councillors how they had set up a paper recycling system and worm farm and created a vegetable garden. Jars of chutney had been made from the produce and these were sold to buy more seeds.

“We’ve become more aware of our environment, teachers and children have become guardians of the environment, and we’re making a big difference by working together and being passionate about our place,” the students said.

The Enviroschools Foundation is largely funded by the Ministry of Education and is based in Hamilton, with the Enviroschools programme supported by regional, district and city councils.

If your school is interested in becoming an Enviroschool please contact Dean King on 0800 800 401.