Katikati Kindergarten has become the first school in the Bay of Plenty to be awarded the prestigious Enviroschools 'beyond Green-Gold' status, recognising its commitment to the environment.
It's a feat almost a decade in the making and ECE teacher Cushla Scott was there from the very beginning.
"It was a bit of a blank canvas," she said. "There weren't many trees and we had a very aging playground which was brightly coloured, garish boxes that were starting to rot.
"We thought to ourselves how we could create a more sustainable playground - that was first thing we really started to do."
Scott and the team worked with building experts to draw up plans for an environmentally-friendly playground made entirely of mud and other sustainable products.
"We were all so passionate, we'd all bounce off each other and aim to keep each other honest with always having a sustainable lens," she said.
"I might say we should buy a new digger for the playground, and the team would say where will we buy it and what is it made out of?"
Scott says staff immediately began teaching their growing roll about worm farms and composting.
"They learn to love their environment, they learn to care for each other, it just tends to stay with them," she said. "We don't want to load them down with all the woes of the world so we do it in a fun way. We always give them answers to solve any problems."
Over the last decade, the kindy also helped create the Katikati Kaiway community initiative, which saw an unused part of the town transformed into a 'garden of Eden' filled with fresh produce.
Teacher Donya Feci, who came on board four years ago, believes wholeheartedly in what they are teaching their kids.
"Not putting food waste into Papatūānuku, into the ground where it will create methane gas," she said.
"They know that we can gather water from our roofs as water harvesting, to take care of our water. They know we can reuse and plant our seed, we don't have to always buy, we can plant our vegetables to engage in a more sustainable way of life. Our children are learning that."
The national Enviroschools programme recognises schools which are leading the way across a number of categories including Te Reo Māori integration, diversity, student empowerment and community engagement.
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