“When schools join the programme, they often start by making their buildings and energy supply more sustainable,” Susan explains. “You’ll see solar panels being installed on roofs and buildings getting insulated, for example. The next step can be improving waste management and recycling, so you’ll see bins for different waste streams being put up and students being educated about recycling. That’s a good way to start including sustainability programs in the school curriculum. As that requires a lot of dedication and continuity, it is usually only up and running after a few years.” The regional coordinators, funded by regional councils (like the Northland Regional Council), assist the schools throughout the process and work closely with the teachers who are responsible for the enviroschool programme at their school.
“Enviroschools aims to create a healthy, peaceful and sustainable world by learning and taking action together. Students take centre stage and are encouraged to share ideas. They explore indigenous wisdom, work together with people from diverse communities and discover their own passion and qualities in the process”, Susan continues. “That’s the overarching mission, but each school decides their own approach. We don’t impose anything, but support and contribute new ideas. Because each school is unique, with its own ecology, history, culture, and community, the Enviroschools program is different everywhere,” Susan adds. “What the projects have in common is that students learn to make contact with nature with their heads, hands, and hearts.”
She beams when she tells us what wonderful things the programme has already spawned. “All over the country, there have been initiatives to reduce waste, recycle, and restore nature. Students have also built a tiny house and a worm- and insect hotel. A group of high school students is even entering a competition to make – and drive – their own electric vehicles.”