Waikato Waldorf – the journey to Green-Gold

Waikato Waldorf School became a Green-Gold Enviroschool in November this year – a journey that has been the culmination of much hard work and reflection by the staff, students, parents and everyone in this very special learning community. As their facilitator, it has been a pleasure to work with this school. They reflected at Bronze level in 2013 and Silver in 2015. Becoming a Green-Gold school in 5 years is not unheard of, but it does take a special kind of commitment from the whole school community, because being a Green Gold Enviroschool means everybody is involved and recognises the role they have to play.

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At the end of 2017, Principal Sue Bradley and Lead Teacher Charlotte Goddard decided 2018 was the year. The whole staff embraced the purpose behind the reflection process and made time in the busy school year to pause and consider the past, present and future of the school’s journey. Charlotte led the Envirogroup, the student leadership group, all staff reflected with their classes on various projects, and the BOT and Parent Association also reflected on what it meant to be an Enviroschool.

The evidence gathered as a result of the reflection showed how deeply embedded sustainability is woven through the curriculum and the culture of the school.

Standing out was how students are continued to be empowered at this school.  Empowered Students, one of Enviroschools’ Five Guiding Principles was identified as an area the school wanted to develop as part of the Silver Reflection. During the Green-Gold reflection day, a teacher described the shift during this time as ‘transformative’. It was a very conscious focus, with the development of numerous student leadership groups through the school, student lead action projects and the adoption of the KiVa anti-bullying programme.  Being empowered as young people was so obviously important to the students on the reflection day and it’s vital that these qualities are developed in young people for a sustainable future.

Another highlight on the day was seeing the newly created Class 4 bird garden. Students were beaming with pride as they shared the story of garden and bird houses that they had planned, developed and made over the year. Everything had been thought about with sustainability in mind and the bird houses have a wonderful steam-punk aesthetic through the re-purposing of old materials and use of a muted colour palate.

Reflecting on environmental impact that big events can have, the Parent Association, decided to try going Zero Waste as part of their Mediaeval Carnival held in March – the school’s annual fundraiser. You can read about the process here Creating a Zero Waste school event.

The grounds of the school are clearly a living ecosystem. As part of this, the school has been on a journey to become certified organic through Organic Farm New Zealand (check out the article in next month’s Organic NZ magazine). The community garden has had many iterations over the years and children get hands-on learning as part of their lessons. Now with a dedicated gardener, it has been transformed into a market garden with the aim of selling produce at Hamiton’s Farmers Market.

Waikato Waldorf is a unique school community and a great place to visit as a model for learning and action for sustainability for both schools and the wider community. If you live in the Waikato, try and get along to their annual Medieval Carnival in March – it’s a fabulous event!

By Adrienne Grant.

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