In November, Kihikihi Kindergarten held a celebration morning tea to celebrate attaining the Enviroschools Green-Gold milestone.
In recognition of this milestone, the kindergarten was presented with an official certificate by Michelle Daley, senior education adviser Enviroschools and resource use, of Waikato Regional Council.
Representatives from community businesses and organisations, along with parents and Central Kids staff, were invited to celebrate alongside the children and teachers.
This day was preceded by the planting of a peach tree, which was used at the kindergarten’s reflection afternoon with teachers and Enviroschools facilitators.
The planting was an intimate occasion involving the kindergarten children, teachers, supporting staff, and kaumatua Kane Rangitonga.
“A peach tree was chosen as it acknowledges the history of this area. Pre-1860, Rangiowhia had bountiful market gardens and orchards with peach trees. We know that in times past, peach trees have provided sustenance for locals and visitors to the area, and it is in keeping with our dream of a sustainable future, that this peach tree will also provide sustenance now and in the future,” says head teacher Naomi Peterson.
In preparation for the presentation and reflective afternoon with Enviroschools facilitators, children drew cicadas, which were added to the wall display tree and included the children’s voices as to how they see themselves implementing aspects of the Enviroschools programme. Teachers then thought of next steps, where they would like to further develop as a kindergarten, and these ideas were added to the cicada nymph pictures the children had drawn. A living peach tree was also included as part of the presentation display.
The symbolism of all this is to acknowledge the Kihikihi area. The kindergarten playground has well-established trees on which cicada nymphs hatch. Kihikihi is the Māori word for cicada, and teachers wanted to acknowledge this. The nymphs are the emerging ideas; just like a nymph they are still emerging and are yet to fully develop.
When Kihikihi Kindergarten joined the Enviroschools programme, it committed to a long-term sustainability journey. The Enviroschools kaupapa is about creating a healthy, peaceful, sustainable world through learning and taking action together.
Horticulture is an integral part of the kindergarten environment. Gardens/māra kai continue to flourish with the assistance of children. The environment is more vibrant and healthy; it feels like a living ecosystem that can support the community towards sustainability. Kai grown is utilised within the kindergarten programme, and available for whānau to take home. Empowered students are active contributors, deciding what will be planted in the māra kai and helping to nurture these plants. They are not only planters but now seed savers, saving seeds from plants/flowers for future plantings. By acting now, they are creating sustainable communities, nurturing nature now and in the future.
Kihikihi Kindergarten families now contribute to what will be planted in the māra kai as they gift seeds and seedlings, offer to help, and are involved in the two-way sharing of garden produce.
Children participate in caring for the animals within the environment. Noticing our environment is an important step in caring for our environment. Children nurtured and provided sustenance for the birds during winter by making bird feeders.
Children have a strong sense of mana whenua, of belonging. This is their place. They are kaitiaki. Teachers value the concept of kaitiakitanga — guardianship. This is the practice of caring for the environment. Guarding our taonga, tikanga, and natural resources. Ensuring that the grounds/facilities are left in the same condition or better.
“Only about 13 per cent of all of the early childhood education centres in New Zealand are committed to the Enviroschools programme. What’s really exciting is that Kihikihi Kindergarten is the first kindergarten within the Central Kids organisation to reach this Green-Gold Milestone,” says Naomi.
“Our journey started in 2016 when the teaching team had a shared vision about teaching the children about sustainability. Around this time we had the opportunity to participate in the Enviroschools programme being offered by the Central Kids Enviroschools team.
“We embraced the Enviroschool principles with enthusiasm, passion and a willingness to learn,” says former head teacher Sue McCandlish.
In July 2018, it obtained Bronze Enviroschool accreditation.
In the same year as achieving the bronze reflection, it joined the Para Kore Zero-Waste programme with Paul Murray.
“This partnership complemented our commitment to Enviroschools. Both programmes worked perfectly side by side to achieve our goal towards a more sustainable future through the reduction of waste,” says Naomi.
Their programme gained momentum and the next minute they celebrated silver reflection status in November 2020.
“Approaching author Sharon Holt to write about the commitment we have to Enviroschools and Zero-Waste came so easy because of Sharon’s enduring relationship with Kihikihi Kindergarten.”
The book, Taihoa E Hoa, photographed here at Kihikihi Kindergarten, features its tamariki and is based on its sustainability practices. Taihoa E Hoa has been published, bringing to not only our local community and Aotearoa, but globally, the message, “Wait my friend, think again”, encouraging everyone to think about reusing what could normally be considered waste. It also supports our vision to embed further our growing use of te reo Māori and tikanga Māori.
We believe this book showed the world how committed we are to promoting sustainable practices and on October 26 we received our Green–Gold accreditation status. I can tell you it was a very emotional experience having worked so hard for 6 years. I am so proud of the teaching team, and children, also, a big shout out to our community for their continued support,” says Sue.
Naomi ends with “Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini”, meaning, “my strength is not mine alone. It comes from the group”. The strength of Kihikihi Kindergarten comes from everyone connected with us. Children, parents and whanau, staff, and our supportive community.