It is not often a bronze award is classed as a first, but Maheno Kindergarten has proved it is possible.
On Monday afternoon, the early childhood education centre was awarded North Otago’s first Enviroschools bronze award in recognition of its commitment to sustainable practices.
Through the Enviroschools programme, Maheno Kindergarten pupils have been learning that what is good for the environment is also good socially and economically.
Even before becoming one of 12 official Enviroschools in Waitaki, Maheno Kindergarten had been on a “journey of sustainability”, head teacher Karen McCutcheon said.
But achieving bronze status was an important milestone in the kindergarten’s practice and a “step in the ongoing journey of being kaitiaki (a guardian) for our environment”, Miss McCutcheon said.
The children have been learning to recycle paper, card and plastics, as well as taking care of a “thriving” garden and building up an orchard, she said.
“We get eggs from our hens and make sure our little piece of paradise is kept clean and free of rubbish.
“They love taking care of our hens and local bird life. They are wonderful gardeners and great finders of any pieces of rubbish in our local community.”
The programme has involved the whole kindergarten and the children enjoyed being involved in all activities and experiences, she said.
“The children had a great sense of agency around our sustainable practices.”
The wider community had also embraced the programme.
“Most of the activities that we have adopted have been child initiated through discussion, stories and interests from home.
“Many of our whanau have contributed to our journey through sharing ideas and resources for our ever-changing kindergarten environment.
“Our neighbouring school, Maheno, is also an Enviroschool and we share many ideas and initiatives.”
the Enviroschools kaupapa has also been incorporated at Maheno Kindergarten.
“Caring, kindness and respect is woven throughout the programme.”
Miss McCutcheon said it was important to help children learn to love and care for the environment and their efforts at Maheno were based on the Maori proverb that reads: “Toitu te marae a Tane-Mahuta, Toitu te marae a Tangaroa, Toitu te tangata”
“If the land is well and the sea is well the people will thrive,” she said.
“In the future, when they become familiar with the wider world, their empathy will guide them to be kaitiaki for the future.”