A nationwide environmental education programme is supporting student-led sustainability initiatives, and one tiny area school in Northland has just received one of its top awards for their whole-school approach.
Mangakahia Area School, with just 130 students, is the first area school in the country to receive an Enviroschools’ Green Gold Award—only 35 schools have reached this level nationally.
The Enviroschools programme enables student-driven initiatives to take place within schools with the support of staff and regional coordinators.
Mangakahia Area School’s sustainability effort runs through every level of the school with classes and envirogroups focused on waste reduction and biodiversity. The school has developed a ‘food forest’, too, as well as edible gardens.
Susan Karels, Regional Enviroschools coordinator for the Northland Regional Council, says the school achieved the Green Gold because it has embedded the values and principles of Enviroschools in the everyday life of the school.
"It's remarkable to see how the school lives and breathes the kaupapa of the Enviroschools programme, from the Board of Trustees and the principal, teachers and caretaker through to every student at the school.”
She says another key aspect that saw the school receive the Green Gold is the support students receive from the board and staff.
"The students come up with initiatives and their ideas are fully supported—the students are valued."
One student’s idea for a recycling centre was lead by students through the design, construction and promotion of the centre. The initiative has meant that the volume of waste from the school has seen a dramatic reduction.
"The caretaker suggested the students were trying to put him out of work—they have managed to reduce the volume of waste going to their local rubbish transfer station from one ute-load a week down to one every three weeks,” says Karels.