The popular Enviroschools programme is to trial a new year-long pilot initiative targeting Northland pre-schoolers.
Enviroschools is a whole-school approach to sustainability and the Northland Regional Council played a key role in bringing the programme North in 2003.
Susan Karels, the council’s Enviroschools Regional Co-ordinator, says more than a third of the region’s schools (primary and secondary) are currently in the programme and she is now planning to trial a 12-month pilot specifically aimed at preschoolers.
Dubbed ‘Enviroschools in the Early Years’, Mrs Karels says the programme is customised for very young children (aged two to six years), their families and wider community.
“It’s designed to foster a connection with nature and a sense of belonging to the environment and community.”
Mrs Karels says while the Early Years programme started elsewhere in New Zealand in 2004 and now runs successfully in nine other regions, the upcoming trial – with Matarau’s (Whangarei-based) Comrie Park Kindergarten – will be a first for Northland.
The new kindergarten – which opened in August last year and currently has 42 students – had approached the council about the programme several months ago and as a new facility which is still being developed, is seen as an ideal candidate.
“The pilot could potentially have been run with any one of a number of the awesome early childhood centres we have in Northland, but Comrie Park was basically in the right place at the right time,” Mrs Karels says.
She says the ‘Early Years pilot will include a lot of enjoyable hands-on activity, with exploration and discovery key components.
Aspects of the pilot programme will be showcased at Enviroschools Northland’s ‘Me in My Environment’ Expo to be hosted at Comrie Park Kindergarten on Thursday 08 March.
Mrs Karels says the half-day expo will look at the work of the wider Enviroschools programme in Northland and associated sustainable practises.
About 60 children, their teachers and members of their families are expected to attend, including about 20 new entrants from nearby Matarau School.
Expo participants will be involved in a range of activities from earth building and papermaking to worm farming and puppetry.
Mrs Karels says further information about the Enviroschools programme is available via the regional council’s website www.nrc.govt.nz/enviroschools