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“EnviroKids” Offer Hope for the Future

“EnviroKids” Offer Hope for the Future

“When young people are empowered to do something meaningful, something they can be proud of, it can do wonders for their confidence and respect.”

As reported in MiNDFOOD, a New Zealand “smart-thinking” magazine, New Zealand schools are training a new generation of ecologists. School-aged children across the country are learning how to lessen their ecological footprint and help to clean up the natural world around them. From banning over-packaged snack foods to cleaning out polluted riverbeds, the “Enviroschools” program is teaching Kiwi kids how to “think green.”

Beginning as a partnership of city councils, environmental groups and schools, Enviroschools was born in Hamilton, a small city south of Auckland, and has now become a well-respected, nationwide program, complete with a professional development plan to train facilitators. In 1998, the Hamilton City Council employed Heidi Mardon, a sustainable architect, as director of the program.

“Enviroschools is all about empowering kids to live sustainably… It’s about young people exploring and connecting with their environment,” says Heidi Mardon. “What’s amazing to see is that kids who started Envirogroups in intermediate school (Junior High) are initiating projects in their secondary school (college). Sustainability is just part of their life.”

At one participating intermediate school, students studied ecological buildings, which empowered them to participate in creating ecological features for the retrofitting of classrooms. At another school, students rallied their whole community to participate in cleaning up the pollution in their local river. A participating kindergarten introduced a “litterless lunch” policy. One primary school actually transformed a polluted gully into an environmental trail, including an amphitheatre, paths, boardwalks, terraced gardens and more than 4000 species planted by the students themselves. The school’s curriculum has now been re-designed with special emphasis on environmental science.

Besides the obvious environmental benefits of the program, schools are also finding that they experience financial savings due to reduced resource consumption and waste. The program also helps to transform the way the students think and learn, with participating schools reporting an increase in student motivation. And perhaps most interesting, the program also has an effect on the children’s behavior, with improved social conditions in schools, and reduced bullying and vandalism.

“Enviroschools is not just about planting trees,” Mardon says. “It’s a sophisticated way that young people are thinking, which then has an impact on things they are doing. A mother was recently telling me she was in the supermarket with her son when she reached for a heavily packaged snack food. Her son said, ‘Are you serious, Mum? That stuff is a killer for the environment,’ and he made her put it back on the shelf.”

The Ministry of Education has recently granted the foundation a four-year funding contract. More than 20% of New Zealand schools participate in the program and the number grows every year. Some early childhood centers are even signing up.

This is the kind of program that could really change the world. Humanity is so out of touch with the fundamental principles of respect for the Earth and its inhabitants, that it’s hard not to wonder whether we will ever be able to climb out of the mess we have created. Teaching our children basic respect for the environment and how to live accordingly seems to be one of the most important things we could do right now.

The Enviroschools program offers children the tools with which to become caring stewards of their environment. If these are the children of the future, then I believe there is hope after all.

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Photographer: Daniel Guffanti

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1:33AM PST on Mar 6, 2009

i can say without a doubt that it is our duty to educate young humans properly....it is easy for them to make intelligent choices when they are aware of them...lets make it very aware to all humans the choices that result in the highest benifit to all...thanks to angel...

6:36AM PST on Mar 2, 2009

The school i work at in the u.k. are very eco-minded.We have attained our 1st "green flag" and going for our 2nd.We have a nature garden,a marsh area with newly planted shrubs and trees,raised beds for growing vegetables and flowers.We recycle papercardboard boxes,old fruitpeelings. The kids from primary 2 & 3 have a rota system for picking up litter.Most primary schools in our area try to do the same and are helped by the local council.It is an excellent way to introduce kids to the environment.We also have bird boxes, bug boxes,and butterfly boxes in the raised beds areas' as well, making the kids aware of wildlife.

6:34AM PST on Mar 2, 2009

Mine is not apathy but reality...the "something can be done" is insufficient when the food you eat is tainted...I grew up at a time when there were still plenty of farms w/in very short driving distances where we were able to buy untainted foods, including dairy & meat products...I'm not saying don't do anything, I think it's pushing back the tsunami with a plastic toy shovel

5:41AM PST on Mar 2, 2009

This policy should be taken not only by schools in the U.S but in every country to have a real impact. I will start an ecological revolution in my son's school in México city. Thanks for the great input. Lili

5:40AM PST on Mar 2, 2009

Yes, it is VITAL that children grow to take responsibility for the environment and nature. THEY are the future. What we can do as adults is leave them as good a planet as possible so they don't have to do all the work or inherit a piece of crap.
I feel it should be mandatory to have environment responsibility and nature studies in the curriculum of every school on the planet.

Erika, I know it is frustrating but APATHY never does any good whatsoever. And apathy is 'what's the use' 'what does it matter anyway, it won't help' 'it can't be fixed' 'might as well just give up' 'nothing can be done about it' etc. SOMETHING CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT. And people are doing it every day. And the more that do, the better. One can do everything he/she can do and to hell with any excuses or 'reasons why' for failure. In the end, help every way you can and as much as you can and that's all that can be expected of anyone. But remember, in this case regarding the condition of the planet, failure might not be an option.

4:51AM PST on Mar 2, 2009

We need to and have to make changes to our environmental impact for future generations. Energy alternatives, reducing our carbon footprint and water savings. If only we could realize that simple little changes could make a tremendous difference. And there's a lot of inexpensive ways to do it.

4:48AM PST on Mar 2, 2009

what's the point....with the number of people on the planet, AND GROWING, needing to consume just to stay alive, resources will be depleted anyway.

I taught my children about respecting our environment & we do what we can but until people also accept that clearing MORE land for MORE houses for MORE people is a BIG part of the equation, applauding vegetarianism, less packaging etc is just not enuf...what about the "polluted" water from all the drugs that get flushed down the toilet...respect for the living planet won't work if people also don't accept responsibility for keeping themselves healthy & not seeking the magic pill for all their ills...that in turn makes the rest of us sick.

4:36AM PST on Mar 2, 2009

Check out my petition under education--Called "Compassion 101" having to be taught in schools--same basic concept that sustainable vegetarian lifestyles be taught in schools, recycling, community projects,global communities etc--did forward my petition to alot of environment, educational and government groups. Inspired and excited this has already started in New Zealand!! This program should be mobilized all over the planet for kids to have the opportunity to turn global warming around and to live a more conscious lifestyle.

5:02PM PST on Mar 1, 2009

Let us get organized and, try to accomplish somekind of smart goal oriented program! Whatever I can do to help I will try. there are many resources w/can we do? {()}

8:13PM PST on Feb 27, 2009

This is the only way the humanity will evolve to gain a respect for the living planet. We need to teach our children something other than consumerism.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches and writes about ancient Greek and Latin and is Online Advocacy and Marketing... more
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