Southern Institute of Technology | Te Pūkenga has continued to strengthen its connection with Enviroschools in Southland by helping to sponsor the 2023 Enviroschools Regional Hui held at Hedgehope School last week.
Hosted by Environment Southland’s education team, over 120 students from 14 Enviroschools across Southland met together on November 15th and took the opportunity to celebrate the achievements of the past year, gaining inspiration to continue their Enviroschools learning and mahi | work.
Enviroschools is an action-based programme, which aims to empower young people to design and lead environmental sustainability projects locally, in their schools and communities, and across the nation.
The students connected around a fun-filled, educational day of activities under the theme of ‘Living Landscapes’, which helped to showcase the importance of a healthy environment. They were rotated through eight different stations to learn about topics including the impacts of climate change on biodiversity, minimising waste, the importance of soils, and te ao māori perspectives on the environment. Students from James Hargest Junior Campus also participated as mentors for the younger students.
The day was guided by facilitators, Waste Free Wanda (Anna van Riel) and Ruud Kleinpaste, aka The Bug Man, and expert representatives from Hokonui Runanga, AB Lime, Invercargill City Council and Environment Southland. Stakeholders from across the region and Environment Southland Councillors were invited.
This year’s sponsors were Invercargill City Council, Southland District Council, Gore District Council and SIT. Dr Jodie Crane, Environment Southland Team Leader, said it was “fantastic” to have SIT sponsorship. “Their financial support has helped us develop new ways to assist learning in our local community, through developing a teacher workshop and networking event.” These initiatives would support teachers on their environmental education journeys by providing tools and inspiration, she explained. The funding also ensured every student at the hui received a hot lunch to keep them fuelled throughout the days’ activities.
Dr Crane said they were especially grateful to have an ongoing connection with the SIT microplastics project team, who attended the hui with their micro-investigators stall to engage with students. “Having the opportunity to share the knowledge and skills found at SIT is invaluable and gives the children a chance to see science in action and understand the importance of caring for the environment,” she said.
SIT Environmental Management Tutors Karen Luttrell and Jordon Traill, who are both involved in SIT's ongoing microplastics research, attended the hui to run the microplastics information stall. Miss Luttrell believes supporting young minds in learning how to protect and manage the environment through such education programmes is vital to protect New Zealand landscapes and taonga | treasured possessions.
“The hui connected important learning about the environment with practical sessions. Tackling issues such as pollution through ‘learning by doing’ makes it a positive memorable experience for the children. It gives them an ecosystems perspective, putting people and togetherness at the centre of learning,” Miss Luttrell said.
She added it remained important to keep the messages on SIT microplastics research projects at the forefront of everyone’s minds through facilitation and education, as plastics pollution continued to be a significant concern within the environment at every level – locally, nationally and internationally.