It’s amazing what can happen in a short time when you have a group of keen students, passionate teachers, an inspired Principal, supportive board and two highly creative members of the community.
Paeroa College became an Enviroschool at the beginning of 2017. The Year 9 and 10 teachers decided to run the programme with their classes to start with and allow it to grow throughout the school in subsequent years.
They wanted to start Term 2 with a bang and really hook the students interest with some hands on, authentic learning experiences around sustainability. Working with their Enviroschools Facilitator, local potter, Mike O’Donnell and well known permaculture designer, Trish Waugh, they planned an Enviro-event that spanned two days and was situated around the school, local river and at Mike and Trish’s home and garden at Tarariki.
Students rotated around workshops led by the teachers, Mike and Trish, Te Kauri Waikuku Trust educators (LEOTC) and the local Catchment Management Officer, all based around caring for and sustaining their local environment. Workshops included compost making, permaculture design, a water journey, native bush and stream study and beginning a new riparian tree planting project adjacent to the school. They also used these rotations to get groups mapping various aspects of the school in preparation for creating a Vision.
The learning for the rest of the term was based around Sustainability. In Term 3, a focus group of interested students worked with their facilitator to pull all the ideas together into one Vision Map for the school.
It was unanimous with students and teachers that the first area they wanted to develop was the large tar sealed quad that the Year 9 and 10 learning hub faced onto. In Term 4, the focus group, worked with Mike and Trish to develop a plan for the area.
As an act of faith in the plan, and to show the students that their ideas were going to be taken seriously, the centre of the quad was broken up, and a fire laid to bless the space and the beginning of this project.
The plan was taken to the Board of Trustees just prior to the 2017 summer break and thanks to the support and willingness of all concerned, plans were set in place to start the work over the summer break.
A term later the area is becoming a living landscape, a deck/stage area has been created on one of the adjacent classrooms, soft sections of grass have already become well established and wide pathways lead to a beautiful water feature made with a large rock and re-use materials in the middle. The students have planted lupins in one section in readiness for a spring planting of herbs and veges. Spaces in the pathways are awaiting the laying of clay tiles that are currently being created by every student and teacher in the school, to tell their individual story and show their connection to the local area.
Time has been set aside every Friday from interval to the end of the day to do hands on Learning for Sustainability with Year 9’s and 10’s, and older students in the school are also beginning to get involved. A whole staff meeting is being planned to see how others can become more involved in this journey. Next term a focus on waste (an area also identified on the Vision) will run alongside the continued development of the quad.
The Vision has been grounded with learning and action and will support the decisions around future learning.