Action-packed environmental education for teachers

Issue: Volume 100, Number 4

Posted: 8 April 2021
Reference #: 1HAJcQ

With the BLAKE Inspire for Teachers programme, primary and intermediate teachers can now gain a deeper understanding of environmental issues and how they can integrate environmental education across all subjects.

Fully funded by the Ministry of Education, the BLAKE Inspire for Teachers programme pairs teachers with scientists and conservation experts to learn more about environmental issues, such as climate change, freshwater quality, biodiversity and ocean health.

Teachers are able to better understand mātauranga Māori by exploring how connections and relationships – living and non-living – are made through tikanga.

Throughout the week of the programme, teachers interact with New Zealand businesses that are leading the way with sustainability initiatives and participate in a series of practical field trips.

There are hands-on learning opportunities for teachers to develop their skills and practical ways to translate their learning to their students.

Extended reach

BLAKE (formerly the Sir Peter Blake Trust) began the Inspire for Teachers programme in 2019 and over the past two years around 70 teachers have taken part in it.

“Feedback from teachers who have taken part in the programme so far has been overwhelmingly positive, so this year, together with the Ministry of Education, we are offering two programmes so we can reach even more teachers,” says BLAKE chief executive James Gibson.

“Delegates will have access to leading scientists from NIWA and the University of Otago, along with conservation and mātauranga Māori experts.

“We want to educate people about the key environmental challenges our future generations are facing and how everyone can take action to make positive change – and teachers play a huge role in this. I encourage teachers from schools all over Aotearoa to apply for this opportunity,” explains James.

Apply now

The five-day programme will take place in Auckland on 12-16 July 2021 and 4-8 October 2021. Ministry of Education funding will cover 60 participants in the programme (excluding travel to Auckland) this year.

If you are a Year 1-8 teacher in English medium or a kura Māori and are keen to take part, applications for the BLAKE Inspire for Teachers programme open on Monday 12 April and close on Sunday 9 May 2021.

For more information go to link)


Tumuaki Taiarahia Melbourne reflects on his experience of the BLAKE Inspire for Teachers Programme, describing it as “a must-do”.

What made you interested in applying for the programme?

I realised that the BLAKE kaupapa was directly aligned to what we were trying to achieve at our kura (Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Te Orini ki Ngāti Awa) in regard to our learning environment.

We had recently entered into a partnership with the Te Puna Taiao Trust based in Whakatāne who were helping us develop our outdoor spaces for learning. As a newly relocated kura to Coastlands (Papaka-ngahorohoro) on the coastline of Whakatāne, we literally had a blank canvas to work with in trying to rejuvenate the traditional ecosystems that used to exist there.

BLAKE seemed to offer a great pathway to help us understand how we could achieve that.

What is the most memorable part of the programme for you?

So many. I could mention the stardome with Rereata Makiha; but the trip to Tiritiri Matangi Island sanctuary was without doubt the most memorable journey.

The bird life was pretty special. Being so close to almost be able to touch tieke (saddleback), kororā (little blue penguins) or takahē was pretty breathtaking. We even managed to capture video of the kōkako.

Seeing the possibilities for what a protected and rejuvenated ecosystem could look like coupled with the learning that took place with the BLAKE team and their specialist scientists made it a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Reflecting on the time when you were engaging with the scientists and experts, or other teacher participants at the programme, what experience still inspires you? 

Biomimicry – learning from nature. This resonated with me on many levels. In addition: how crucial the interconnectedness of nature’s elements are, and how vital ecosystems are, but how easily overlooked this interconnectedness can be.

This led to the development of my project of integrating environmental micro-systems within larger projects that our kura had already undertaken, be it in the planting of ngahere Māori (native trees) or maara kai (vegetable gardens) to add to their diversity and experiences for our tamariki.

How did it help your teaching practice?

Confidence in moving forward with environmental issues was the biggest outcome for me within my practice, and in providing encouragement and guidance as a tumuaki (principal) for my kaiako and whānau.

Thankfully, we have many green fingers and other environmental champions within our whānau that continue to make our progress engaging and exciting.

I have started developing a model (see below) as a consequence of the BLAKE programme to apply to our enviro-developments.

Image not found

What is your advice for other teachers who are thinking about applying to the BLAKE programme?

A must do. And to all other principals who have an inner eco-warrior, don’t hold back. As small as our kura is, I believe my experience as a team leader means the impact schoolwide, beyond the classroom, department or syndicate, will have a far greater influence in creating a contributing citizen and long-term impact for the community.

Tips: record everything (video, write notes, take pictures), report back daily to your colleagues and whānau, and make a friend in your first session who will make sure you’re on the bus before it leaves!

Ka nui te mihi me te aroha ki te whānau o BLAKE – autaia!

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 8:49 am, 8 April 2021

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