Connection is a founding principle behind education initiatives run by the Predator Free Hawke’s Bay Ako team.
Why? Because the environmental and social outcomes of developing positive nature connections are immense. A recent ad summed it up quite well - “Raise an outside kid. A curious kid. A barefoot kid. Raise a kid who falls in love with the wild – because if they love it, they’ll strive to protect it. And when you raise this kid, know that you are not doing it for you or for them, you’re doing it for all of us.” This ultimately is what PFHB is all about.
We provide training to teachers and future teachers, helping them develop the confidence and skills to use the environment as a resource or context for learning no matter what part of the curriculum they are teaching. The aim is to show an alternative setting for teaching, that adds value rather than just trying to add something to an already full-to-bursting curriculum.
School-based environmental education programmes have been running under Cape to City and Poutiri Ao ō Tāne since 2012, two collaborative projects which have recently been come under PFHB. These two programmes use inquiry-based learning and support the class or school to take on their own projects and journeys. Read an evaluation of the programmes.
By working with schools, it became obvious that teachers were eager for support, to develop skills and confidence to continue their journey with students and be comfortable using the environment as a context for their teaching. Students also clearly thrived in this learning environment where this style of hands on exploratory learning gives relevance across multiple areas of the curriculum. Over the last five years the team, including Ruud Kleinpaste (bug expert and project ambassador), have worked with Enviroschools and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council to create professional development workshops for teachers. These bring together teachers from Early Childhood Education (ECE) through to Secondary level, all learning with and from each other.
In 2017 Cape to City and Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) signed an MOU to support their teacher training degrees. Now the team work closely with lecturers of both the ECE and primary education degrees to co-plan and deliver modules of these programmes, so that when the students graduate they have the confidence and tools to incorporate connecting with nature in all that they do.
Developing spaces for teachers to become confident in teaching in the outdoors, was the next step and in 2018 we received a grant from AirNZ Environment Trust (AirNZET) to develop a collaborative project. AirNZET wanted to maximise their investment by putting the majority of their funding into developing outdoor learning spaces and ‘teaching the teachers’ programmes up the East Coast, mainly through EIT with support from the other partners including Enviroschools, Cape to City, Wildlab, Ngāti Pārau and Mangarara.
First cab off the rank was a space at EIT’s Taradale Campus, in the shadow of Ōtātara Pā. Developing the Ōtātara Outdoor Learning Centre has been a collaborative and organic process, which has led to not only EIT’s School of Education developing and using the site, but many other EIT schools getting on board - nursing, primary industries, and Māori studies have teamed up to create a Rongoā garden, and primary industry students are developing a planting area and planning sustainable land management projects. All this before the site officially opened.
From small beginnings, working together and dreaming big, these collaborations have delivered outcomes beyond our wildest dreams to a place where a Tertiary Institute has shifted the way they educate and is leading the way to connect their students and others with nature – how cool is that!
The Environmental Education for Sustainability Strategy and Action Plan 2017-2021 asks us to “Imagine growing generations of New Zealanders who understand environmental issues and actively contribute to a healthy and sustainable future for us all.”
These collaborations will provide a great case study to see if through a co-ordinated, multi-pronged, teaching the teachers approach we find that we no longer have to “imagine” a community who understands environmental issues and positively contributes to them – it becomes a reality.
8 July 2020
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