Tatuanui is truly is a rural school making a difference. Located between Morrinsville and Te Aroha in the heart of the Matamata-Piako district, riparian planting and restoration has become a big focus for this dairying area and the school has jumped on board to become part of the solution. Tatuanui School is a Green-Gold Enviroschool and proudly walks the talk when in it comes to looking after its environment and community.
When the Wallace Corporation (NZ’s largest service rendering plant) was looking to restore the Waitoa River banks and floodplains surrounding its plant, it saw an opportunity to work in with the local community. Tatuanui School was also looking for ways to engage students in a meaningful way outside of the classroom and so partnership developed. In 2012, senior students took part in a planting day and a relationship developed. The following year the whole school (about 120 students) was invited back to continue planting and the idea was floated to become part of the Trees for Survival Programme. Lead teacher Ruairi Kelly approached Wallace Corporation about sponsoring a plant growing unit for the school to use. After much negotiation with the School Board, Wallace Corporation and teachers, a formal partnership was developed. Gull Corporation, one of Wallace’s key suppliers also came on board as a joint sponsor.
The Trees for Survival plant growing unit arrived at the school late in November 2014 and senior students took part pricking out their first native seedlings. In Term 2, 2015 the seniors worked alongside junior students potting on the seedlings, demonstrating the tuakana-teina learning approach – where an older ‘brother’ or ‘sister’, guides their younger, less expert ‘siblings’.
The whole school took part in its third planting day in May. Students were blown away by they growth of plants they had previously planted, and despite the damp conditions, had a blast getting out of the classroom and their hands dirty.
The restoration of this 5 hectare floodplain, is known as Wallace’s ‘Ruru’ programme. The local community and high schools are also invited to planting days and board walks are being developed so long term the site will be an area for wildlife and recreation.
In 2016, when the school returns to the planting site for the fourth time, Tatuanui students will be planting trees that they have growing in their plant growing unit. Without a doubt, these annual planting days are going to be a highlight of the school calendar for many years to come.
More information about the Ruru programme can be found at http://www.wallace.co.nz/Environment/ruruprogramme.html