Students keen to go green

Issue: Volume 98, Number 2

Posted: 11 February 2019
Reference #: 1H9r2N

Students at one New Plymouth school are leading their own learning by following their passion for protecting the environment.

Members of the rain garden team deciding which stones to use in their rain garden designs.

They call themselves ‘Kaitiaki of Ngāmotu’ and each week students from the Montessori class at Moturoa School voluntarily clean up Ngāmotu Beach.

Teacher Zoë Robinson says the interest of the Year 1–6 class in the environment was piqued when students saw the amount of litter left on the beach after an event.

The children approached the council to find out whose responsibility keeping the beach clean was and were unsatisfied with the lack of accountability.

“A couple of years’ worth of learning now based on the environment has come from that,” Zoë says.

The students’ interest in the environment does not end there, however.

“The children have pretty much become completely plastic-free in their lunchboxes and what they put in their lunchboxes … just recently, they built a rain garden outside our classroom as well, which has been really cool,” she says.

“What they do is they purify the water. You use rocks and certain plants to filter out the rain water so what’s coming out is cleaner.”

Eco-friendly options

Rubbish collecting and sorting into categories.

The class also worked to minimise the amount of stationery used by the whole school and to change any still required to more eco-friendly options.

“They suddenly realised we wrap our books in plastic, we use these pens that are plastic. They did a whole lot of experiments on glue to see if we could use different types of glue instead of glue sticks. They did experiments on pens and we use eco pens now. They changed to wooden rulers after experimenting to see whether plastic rulers or wooden rulers were stronger. They also needed to consider whether it’s actually better to use wooden ones, when they’re made of trees. It’s been a whole process of all different and exciting learning to try and get to the point of deciding to make a change.”

The aim is to teach students to be part of a sustainable community, Zoë says, “but the learning also includes many other aspects of the curriculum”.

“They’ve done science experiments, they’ve written letters to the council, they’ve written letters to people to find out how to build a rain garden, it’s actually been overarching.”

‘Kaitiaki of Ngamotu’ collecting rubbish at Ngamotu beach.

Aligning learning to the curriculum

To ensure the learning aligned to the curriculum, Zoë met with co-teacher Rachel Ammundsen to cross-check each area covered.

“We just literally sat down and considered what work the children were doing, where they wanted to go next and which curriculum areas the work fitted in to. We could see that we were covering all curriculum areas and that everything was so integrated and purposeful to their goals,” Zoë says.

Zoë’s children will stay in her class until Year 6, which means they can continue to pursue their interest in the environment throughout their time at the school.

“I suppose often in lots of classrooms you wouldn’t actually have the same class; we’re lucky because we get to keep the children the whole time that they are at primary school and so we can carry on work for longer than one year. This journey has trickled over two years so far and is not finished yet,” she says.

“Our whole school has a ‘big idea’ each year. The environment just linked in so easily; even though our school-wide overall focus changed, our classroom focus still fitted into that and so we could still follow what the school was doing.”

Both she and the children have learned they can make a difference.

“It’s been completely student-led. It’s amazing what children can do when they are allowed to put their heads to it and follow their own inquiry,” she says.

“Trust them to lead their own learning and go with what they want to do, because they do have the power to make changes and do good things for our world.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:35 am, 11 February 2019

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