There was a lot to celebrate at Marotiri School last week.
The school paired a Matariki tree planting with a celebration of achieving Bronze Enviroschool status.
The bronze award is in recognition of the school's sustainability journey, during which the students are being empowered to live more sustainable and environmentally friendly lives.
In a speech given to visitors at the kowhai tree planting, Marotiri School student Caroline Pepper, 12, said being an Enviroschool meant they were working together to create a healthy and sustainable school environment, both inside and outside the classroom, using student voice and visions.
"What could we do to enhance and improve our school? What's not working very well? Where could we be better? We had lots to think about; waste, power, wear and tear, plants, bugs, gardens, empty spaces and so on."
Also giving a speech, Grace Brandao, 10, said to be awarded bronze the school students and staff had journeyed towards learning more about themselves, where they come from and what they would like the school to look like in the future.
"We have observed, listened and thought of everything we love about the school, and the things that make it special. Then we brainstormed."
Some examples of ways the school has sought more sustainable outcomes are growing its own food from seeds, building bug houses to attract more, keeping the school beautifully maintained and looked after with safety and signage, reducing food waste and finding alternative uses such as worm farms, compost and beeswax lunch wraps, reducing power wastage by remembering to turn off lights and power, and turning native plants into medicinal products.
They also have their own fruit trees and are working on building a chicken coop which will allow them to reduce waste by feeding food scraps to the chickens and also collecting eggs for eating.
"Many of these projects are ongoing," Caroline said.
"We won't just stop with one term's work and we'll see the results of our efforts later in the year."
Grace said the goal is to work together to shape a rich, living, vivid and sustainable environment throughout the year, guided by the five Enviroschool principles of sustainable communities, environmental education, student participation, Māori perspective and respect the diversity of people and cultures.
Marotiri School principal Rose Symes said there were many benefits to being part of the Enviroschools programme.
"The students have just been so engaged with our environment, they're noticing a lot more in our environment and taking pride in their surroundings," she said.
"The big thing we've noticed is that ownership. They're also developing great skills like harvesting, planting and learning how the seasons alter. Great life skills."
She said it was nice to see the students receive the bronze award after all their hard work.
"They've worked really hard for it. The nice thing is we really want this to become the school culture, the way of being.
"For the school there are beautification and waste reduction benefits. The tree planting was tied in with Matariki - we started the day with a whole school breakfast, run by our Year 7 and 8s. They planned it, hosted it, cooked everything and served it.
"This year has been really successful and we've great feedback from parents. Today has really fulfilled that culture of Matariki, of reflecting back and moving forward."