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Published: 2004-05-13 00:00:00

Waikato students have asked for more opportunities to get together and work to care for their environment.

More than 1000 students from throughout the Region attended Environment Waikato’s first Environmental Education Expo in Hamilton in March and 30 students involved in environmental activities attended an inaugural four-day Regional Youth Forum organised by the Regional Council in Hamilton in April.

Environment Waikato Schools Programme Co-ordinator Dean King told this week’s Environment Committee meeting that both events were highly successful in engaging young people and developing students’ ideas for future activities. More schools were being invited to take part in next year’s Expo.

The Environmental Education Expo attracted teachers and students to participate in exciting, educational and motivating experiences designed to enhance environmental education and action in their schools. Most of the schools involved are “Enviroschools” with active environmental programmes as part of their curriculum.

Teachers had praised the Expo’s range and high quality of activities and displays, learning activities, engagement and obvious commitment of exhibitors and the ability of the Expo to provoke thinking and inspire ideas.

Cr Paula Southgate suggested the displays should be available at the Exscite centre so students from all schools could make use of it for a whole term.

The Youth Forum had workshops, presentations and field trips on waste and water quality for those taking part, who then made presentations to Environment Waikato staff on the final night. The students were enthusiastic about what they could do at school and in their own communities, with plans to start environmental forums, recycling programmes, composting and worm farms, write petitions, adopt a stream or plant a garden.

The Regional Youth Forum would be held annually with email groups and newsletters in between and a webpage on Environment Waikato’s website, Mr King said.

The Council-co-ordinated Festival of the Environment held in March was also a great success, with five district and city councils participating and 40 activities organised. Almost 7000 people took part, and 93 percent of those surveyed said they have learned something about the environment as a result. More than half said they learned something about how they could help the environment.

The launch event – the Great E-scape, where 19 teams travelled through the Region on an environmental quest – received a great deal of publicity. The most popular activities were at Hamilton’s zoo with a total of 2400 attending days for disabled people and senior citizens. More than 800 people attended the open day at Karapiro Power Station.