From year 1 students at Aranui School to year 13 students at Wanganui High School, high quality, innovative sustainability education is reaching learners throughout the city. With financial support from the District Council, the Sustainable Whanganui Trust and the ECO School have been working together since January of this year to develop an adaptive approach to sustainability education that is responsive to the needs of both teachers and students. A principle aim of this effort is to respond to teachers' needs and to design educational projects that compliment - rather than compete with - The New Zealand Curriculum. Three projects have been implemented so far and another is currently in development.
Aranui School opened its doors to a week long project for the years 1 and 2 classrooms, which used a cross-curricular approach to teach about solar energy, recycling, composting and growing vegetables. Each lesson explored these issues through science, maths, social science, English, health and physical education, technology and the arts. The lessons engaged students' minds, hands, and even their feet - in the form of relay races, dance and educational games.
Wanganui Intermediate School's needs, however, were quite different. "We expressed our need to have sustainability issues linked to science curriculum requirements in the run-up to the Science Fair," said Keith Beautrais, Head of Science and environment Keith Beautrais. The approach that was designed in response was a 40 minute interactive presentation called "The Science of Sustainability" based on the types of science - primarily biology and physics - involved in a demonstration eco-renovation project in Castlecliff called the Eco-Thrifty Renovation. The presentation, said Beautrais, "made the link in a clever way - linking ideas with a narrative style. Many staff spoke to me about how useful the session was."
And finally, the approach at Wanganui High School was different yet again. Sustainability teacher Matt Carroll was interested in exposing his senior students to local sustainability initiatives. Two appropriate projects were identified: the Sustainable Schools Programme and the Eco-Thrifty Renovation. Lessons were designed to link these initiatives directly to the students previous learning and their understanding of the aspects of sustainability. Two classroom presentations were followed by a field trip to the Eco-Thrifty Renovation where the passive solar design was performing perfectly on a sunny, June afternoon.
Feedback from both teachers and students has been excellent for all three programmes, which has provided impetus for the development of another one called "Eco-Maths." The project has been developed in the form of a professional development session for teachers. Dates and locations will be announced soon. For more information contact The ECO School at: firstname.lastname@example.org.