Connecting through Cluster Meetings

By Enviroschools Facilitator, Beccy Dove
A cluster meeting was held recently connecting Northern Waikato and South Auckland Schools at  Pukekohe Hill School.  Fourteen teachers and two Enviroschools facilitators attended and the feedback was to hold these once a term and rotate around the group so they all get to see different schools.
In the past I have experienced clusters as after school for an hour and a half.  Usually this seems quite rushed with not enough time to cover much ground or for teachers to really have time to connect and network. Often people are tired from a full days teaching and it can be hard to raise the energy level.
This meeting went from 1.30 to 4.00 pm which gave teachers a relaxed amount of time to share successes and challenges; help each other solve issues; hear, see and be inspired by the host school and have time to chat over some yummy healthy kai.
The feedback was unanimous to keep this up every term and to keep this same time frame.  It was also suggested that some meetings might involve hands on learning eg: making herbal skin products, learning about Rongoa, compost making etc… sometimes inviting an outside expert to share their knowledge with teachers.
One of the teachers sent me an email to say “what an awesome cluster meeting last week, it was great to meet all the enviro teachers in the area, I came away feeling really inspired and energised!”
Most teachers got around the ‘time’ issue by asking another teacher in their school to take their students for the afternoon.
One of the activities involved sharing challenges and other teachers offering solutions to these challenges by schools that had ‘been there and solved that’.  From this exercise came the following great list:
Challenges faced …. and solutions suggested
 
“How can we create a workable compost bin?”
 
Ideas suggested….
  • Start with kids inquiry using ‘Action Learning Cycle’ from the enviroschools kit – identify current situation
  • Invite a skilled ‘expert’ to help
  • Ask community gardeners
  • Enviroschool facilitator
  • Zero Waste facilitator
  • Botanical Garden Visit/Workshop
  • A class/enviro team responsible for the upkeep and maintenence
  • Feed me, Leave me, Use me signs for the bins
  • 3 bins are good, 4 even better
  • Get caretaker on board
“How do you get and maintain staff buy in?”
  • Put ‘Enviroschools’ into the stategic planning
  • Hold an Enviroschools workshop/staff meeting
  • Put into job description
  • Put it as though staff think it is their own idea
  • Add to inquiry planner
  • School displays – share the load
  • Assembly items from enviroteam
  • Newsletter/Website
  • Ask other teachers to come to a cluster meeting
  • Each teacher having one area to focus on/look after with their class
  • Reflection time with staff leads to more understanding and involvement
  • Ask staff what they are interested in
  • Pick your battles!
“How can we get whole school buy in?”
  • class vs class competition with suitable rewards
  • whole school divided into enviro groups and each fortnight work on projects
  • once a term hold an enviro day – focusing on different things each time
  • newsletter – tip of the week
  • Assembly – greenie given out for litterfree lunch, picking up rubbish etc
  • links to videos on website
  • Enviro group performing/modelling skits to promote the idea that everyone is involved
  • dedicated display area for children’s enviro work
  • buddy class/whanau group time on ‘Me In My Environment’ theme area activities (Theme area CD found in Enviroschools Kit)
“How can we get more community involvement in projects?”
  • Create a video newsletter and add it to the enrollment page on your website
  • Ask for it on community facebook sites/newsletters
  • Inviting people in – open day
  • Whanau involvement – making it a welcoming place for the whole family
  • Create an open door feeling
  • Any help given from a community member is a gift – make sure they leave feeling valued. Make time for a cuppa and debrief at end of the day, always ask a child to personally thank them for coming

2 thoughts on “Connecting through Cluster Meetings

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