Kids Greening Taupo is an environmental education programme which involves kindergartens and schools working with community partners on conservation projects. It has benefits for children, adults and our beautiful country, so let’s explore the programme in more detail.
What is the thinking behind Kids Greening Taupo?
Kids Greening Taupo follows the vision and work of the Greening Taupo community conservation initiative and it aims to:
- Provide children with hands-on learning experiences in the natural environment;
- Increase the biodiversity of the Taupo district; and
- Bring people together to do community-based, culturally-aware conservation work.
This programme is based on the Collaborative Community Education Model, which means that education coordinators help kindergartens and schools to develop real-life restoration and conservation projects on their school grounds or within walking distance. Schools are encouraged to adopt a nature space or restoration area and then create a long-term plan for it, with input from students.
The education coordinators also help kindergartens and schools to collaborate with government, businesses, organisations, local experts and iwi to achieve their conservation goals.
There are professional development workshops for teachers, leadership opportunities for students, online resources for families and lots of fantastic projects underway in Taupo. So far, more than 6,000 trees have been planted, 450 seedlings have been propagated by students, and there are five kindergartens and 10 schools participating in the programme.
What activities are on offer for different ages?
Kids Greening Taupo provides opportunities for all children to connect with nature and make a positive difference, whether they’re an under five or an over 15.
There’s a focus on student-led conservation change, and education coordinator Thea DePetris says the age of the children, the location of their school and their interests and passions will influence how they use the natural environment as a learning context.
At early childhood centres, she says nature-based play and sensory activities are great ways to connect with nature and see the world in new ways.
She explains that, ‘When we look inside a compost bin, initially many children want to ‘smoosh’ the worms and slaters, but once we talk about the worms as living creatures and hold them in our hands it’s incredible how quickly the children’s attitudes change. I believe early childhood is a really pivotal stage of development, so it’s important children have plenty of access to nature.’
As they get older, Ms DePetris says children absorb information with enthusiasm and ‘really get stuck into the practical restoration work,’ whether they’re weeding, planting, mulching or surveying.
At primary school, the Ranger Programme extends children’s conservation skills and knowledge, and there are opportunities for older children to guide younger ones in joint activities.
Later on, students in Years 6 to 13 can apply to join the Student Leadership Team. This is a great opportunity to work on collaborative community projects and gain leadership and governance experience along the way.
The Ranger Programme and Student Leadership Team are both coordinator-led, not teacher-led, and children are involved in activities like:
- Setting tracking tunnels to detect introduced predators;
- Conducting bird surveys;
- Planting native trees; and
- Carrying out biodiversity surveys.
How can your family get involved with Kids Greening Taupo?
Kindergartens and schools sign up to the Kids Greening Taupo programme for three years under a ‘rolling model,’ but you can take part in their greening projects even if your child isn’t enrolled at a participating kindergarten or school.
Kids Greening Taupo holds:
- Community planting days between the months of March and October that you’re welcome to attend.
- They also run whãnau nature days throughout the year, which teach families how to take action for biodiversity in their backyards.
You can volunteer with Kids Greening Taupo or Greening Taupo, and there are lots of fun and free ways to connect with nature in your local green space, school or backyard.
To give you some inspiration for art, scavenger hunts and more, Kids Greening Taupo provides a collection of simple ideas and activities called Nature Connectors.
They also provide the Online Nature Classroom which teaches children about the flora and fauna of Aotearoa, with five days of activities based on each conservation topic. These resources have a strong inquiry and observation focus, and themes range from ‘Kiwi Conservation’ to ‘Funky Fungi of Aotearoa.’
Is Kids Greening Taupo the only programme like it?
Kids Greening Taupo was inspired by a Te Anau conservation education programme called Kids Restore the Kepler and it was the first programme to test the Collaborative Community Education Model, back in 2015.
The model has now been rolled out to other programmes, and Ms DePetris says there are ‘Five other projects around New Zealand, including Townbelt Kaitiaki in Dunedin, the Healthy Opawaho project in Christchurch and another project emerging around the Porirua Harbour.’
Back in Taupo, kindergarten teacher Gina Livingstone is a big fan on the Kids Greening Taupo programme. She says, ‘We love [the programme] because it grows kotahitanga/unity within our community, kaitoro/curiosity towards living things and kaitiakitanga/guardianship toward the land we belong to within the Tuwharetoa iwi. We are showing manaaki/care and making a difference for our generation and generations to come.’
These are all important lessons for little people, and it’s great to see the community banding together to make a difference through conservation. By connecting with nature and with each other, we’re not just planting trees, but sowing the seeds for positive change, so let’s see how we can shape the future of our place now.