SCHOOL

Whangarei Heads School gains top enviro status

Tuesday 4 December 2012, 4:30PM
By Northland Regional Council
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WHANGAREI

Whangarei Heads School has become just the second school in Northland to achieve prestigious ‘Green-Gold’ status through the national Enviroschools programme.

The 120-pupil school is the 51st school in the country to become a Green-Gold Enviroschool since the awards began being offered nationally in 2004.  Its success follows that of Mangakahia Area School, which last year become the first Northland school to reach the milestone.

Sixty-eight Northland schools – more than a third of the region’s schools - are now in the Enviroschools programme, which is a whole school approach to sustainability.

The programme – which the Northland Regional Council played a key role in bringing north in 2003 – is about student-driven action for designing and creating sustainable schools, ecosystems, local neighborhoods and beyond.

The Green-Gold – officially presented during a ceremony at the school yesterday – (subs: Mon 03 December) is a huge milestone in Whangarei Heads’ journey as an Enviroschool, which began in 2007.

Regional Enviroschools Co-ordinator for the Northland Regional Council, Susan Karels, says Enviroschools recognition comes in three bands – from the most-often awarded Bronze, through to Silver and the rarest Green-Gold.  Since 2004, there have been 395 bronzes awarded nationally and 193 silver.

Mrs Karels says one of Whangarei Heads School’s key strengths is the strong connection between the school and the local community.

She says its principal, Lil Ruffell, has led from the top, ensuring the Enviroschools’ kaupapa (philosophy) is woven into all aspects of school life.

“Their lead Enviroschools teacher Sally Prince –  together with other teachers, families and the wider community – has also been instrumental in driving the school’s evolving vision.  Their combined energy and passion is really supporting the students to create positive change.”

Mrs Karels says sustainability is firmly embedded within the school curriculum, while  Lil Ruffell says ideas for change are discussed, designed and managed by the students, with strong support from teachers, family and the community.

“A lot happens at Whangarei Heads School to keep us vibrant and healthy; it feels like a living ecosystem where everyone is encouraged to work towards sustainbility.”

Mrs Karels says the students also combine business savvy with their sustainability endeavours.

“They hold a market day each Friday to sell the things they produce including eggs and food from their edible garden with profits going back into benefits for students.”

She says a recent addition to the school is an Outdoor Education Academy, where Year Seven and Eight students are encouraged to achieve ‘excellence through action’ by engaging with the learning opportunities their local environment provides.

One of the academy’s student-driven projects has been possum-trapping in the native bush that surrounds the school.  As well as helping protect the bush and the life it supports, possum-trapping is hoped to generate a small revenue stream through fur sales.

More information on the Enviroschools programme in Northland is available from: www.nrc.govt.nz/enviroschools