Te Huruhi School is buzzing after receiving gold in an environmental program awarded to schools that have achieved sustainability or ‘green’ targets.

Enviroschools is an environmental action-based programme where young people are empowered to design and lead sustainability projects in their schools, neighbourhoods and country.

Remarkably, the result was achieved despite the physical absence of students due to lockdown restrictions, and the school is the first on the island to achieve the status via a virtual forum.

Te tumuaki tuarua o te Kura Phil Wainwright said, “It is amazing. We are very, very proud, especially in these times. Te Haruhi School is the first to achieve green-gold online.”

“(The) Reflection (a zoom-based shared-idea hui) was a fabulous example of just what a committed group of people can achieve collaborating together.  It was so heart-warming to see and hear the evidence flow, the collaborative way staff and students shared, and the revealing of fantastic evidence as the jam boards were populated. “

Te Huruhi School on Waiheke. Photo supplied

In a symbiotic process, students initially mapped the school environment highlighting and targeting improvements to its footprint.

Goals, such as creating and using sustainable cups, walking days, pest control, and clearing moth plants, formed the backbone of the pupils’ efforts.

Outside of school, community initiatives saw Palm Beach benefit from dune planting, and the Awa at Puritahi Marae was cleaned.

School Kaiako Marie-Anne Theuerzeit, affectionately known as ‘Mrs T’, has been the lead environment teacher at Te Haruhi since 2006. Marie-Anne said the program involves all students and that by “working together, students are empowered to shape how they want the environment to look.”

There is a policy of zero waste at the school, with pupils and staff encouraged to take their rubbish home with them. The management of that waste within the children’s households, and its disposal, becomes the focus.

Marie-Anne said the schools’ children are kept on track during lockdown via posted activities to keep them “environmentally focused”.  

The next steps involve a new annual plan, which, according to Marie-Anne, will see students building “Insect hotels, and new vege beds, as well as increasing involvement in the community”.