Napier Central School has sown the seeds for a better future after joining the Enviroschools programme last year.
"Enviroschools is an environmental action-based programme where young people are empowered to design and lead sustainability projects in their schools, neighbourhoods and country," says Enviroschools' lead teacher, Heidi-Ann Phillips.
The school is already well on its way up the awards ladder, gaining a bronze in December last year after hosting a celebration of their achievements since signing on the previous year. As an Enviroschool, there are three levels a kura or centre can reach: bronze, silver and green-gold. Heidi-Ann says there was a lot they had already done environmentally before becoming an Enviroschool, and found it a good fit for the school.
"All classes are involved in their unique way. It could look like a junior room acting as kaitiaki of our bug hotel, or a middle school classroom learning about the set up and continuation of a worm farm/compost unit."
Earlier this month, the school recognised Seaweek and has begun to re-look at their stormwater drains around the school.
"Sally Chandler, our regional co-ordinator for Enviroschools, helped us with our Only Rain Down the Drain unit a few years ago, so it is good to reflect on what we have achieved in that time, and what more there is for us to achieve. At the moment, we are looking into the possibility of installing Littatraps on a number of drains to prevent litter reaching our moana."
As well as classroom learning, the school has a student-led environment team of around 20 senior students, who meet at the beginning of each week to discuss what has been going well, what needs some attention and what is planned for that week.
"They really enjoy the hands-on and varied experience."
With growing vegetables a big part of being an Enviroschool, the vegetable garden has grown from being one garden bed at this time last year, to three.
"The two new garden beds were built by our caretaker, Mr Thompson, after the success of our term one gardening experience last year."
Heidi-Ann says fruit and berries were also planted around the school last year, including mandarin, orange, feijoa, raspberries, boysenberries, blackberries, passionfruit and strawberries. "A number of these were donated to us, or were swapped in exchange for something we had grown at school. The passionfruit plants we received were exchanged for some capsicum seedlings, and the raspberries were exchanged for basil seedlings. These swaps were made possible through the Facebook page, Magic Beans."
This term, students have been busy sowing winter-ready vegetable seeds to supply the garden. They have also started saving seeds from fruit and vegetables so they have seeds for sowing in spring and have also begun the process of growing a rare white kākābeak.
The seed pods were donated by a member of the community.
"When the seedlings have reached a good height, we will plant them out in our community."
Napier Central School has also signed up for the Garden to Table (GTT) programme. Lead teacher for the co-ordination of the programme, Liz Penny, says GTT is a perfect fit with their work as an Enviroschool.
"It offered a programme within which we could engage more students, staff and whanau in real-life, meaningful learning and experiences around sustainability."
Liz liaises with GTT regional coordinator Jo Moorhead, with the garden and the kitchen having their own specialists.
"Glenn Thompson has established a flourishing garden and he has students working in the garden almost daily. Nat McKenzie has just started in her role as kitchen specialist, equipping our kitchen and teaching knife skills to students. Heidi-Ann Phillips and her enviro group are an integral part of the whole initiative."
As part of their GTT session a fortnight ago, senior students taught another group of students how to start a worm farm, so that they can collect more food scraps which would otherwise go into landfill. They also started a separate compost bin which will be filled with the fallen autumn leaves from the top half of the school, and any extra food scraps.
This term there will be more than 100 Year 2, 3 and 4 students getting hands-on in the kitchen and garden, with one GTT class each term.
"They will be engaged in lots of learning, including using a chef's knife and working daily in the garden. Then twice a term we run sessions which see half the class working in the garden, half in the kitchen and coming together to share the kai they have prepared from the garden. Last week it was herby cheese puffs with spinach followed by rock melon with honey and sunflower seeds." Parental involvement is essential and encouraged.
"We invite parents and whanau to join us at these sessions and they provide supervision for small groups while allowing the students to do the work. Then they stay for the karakia and sharing of food."
Liz says they are very excited about progress so far.
"This will grow into being a regular part of the school day which sees students across the school working together and learning from each other."
Napier Central School envisions its students as kaitiaki of the environment, that they would feel a deep sense of belonging and care for their place - wāhi.
"For this to be achieved, we are taking steps to ensure that we have a shared knowledge of our local, unique history and an understanding of Māori tikanga when interacting with our environment."