Gully restoration earns Raglan educator a top science award

Three years of hard slog managing a gully restoration project that benefits an entire Hamilton community have won longtime Raglan educator Lyn Rogers one of New Zealand’s premier regional science excellence awards.

“I feel really honoured,” Lyn told the Chronicle from her Wainui Rd home last week, proudly displaying the Wintec Secondary Science Teacher/Educator Award presented recently at a Kudos Awards gala dinner at Claudelands Event Centre.

Lyn – who was picked from two other finalists in her category – says she also felt humbled at the accolade which celebrated “amazing people doing fantastic things” in the field of science.

She insists her success as manager and education coordinator of the Fairfield Project – which has transformed a disused gully area in danger of being sold off into a flourishing community garden, orchard and nursery – comes only as a result of teamwork which is backed by funding agencies and supported by the Ministry of Education.

Hamilton City Council was under pressure to increase urban biodiversity in the area at the time, Lyn explains, while NIWA was studying an endangered species of fish spawning in the gully stream.

Bryant Trust has also provided “significant funding” and Waikato River Authority supplied the trees for planting.

Lyn’s role has been to galvanise into action teachers and students from Fairfield College and Waikato Diocesan School for Girls, which both flank what’s known locally as Kukutaaruhe gully (now being developed through an education trust of the same name).

She has also had to engender community support along the way.

The gully took off as an educational space in 2017 with the first plantings by the community and all Year 9 students at Fairfield College, where coincidentally Lyn’s teaching career began. The past two years have seen the Dio girls included in the project, says Lyn, with pest control and planting to improve the ecosystem.

Many local primary schools are also involved, with  Lyn at the helm integrating their  sustainability programmes.

“The Fairfield Project has created education opportunities for anyone connected with our kaupapa,” she says. “It is about the experience.”

While Lyn started out at Fairfield, she later taught at Raglan Area School for eight years where she became head of the science department. After helping implement the Enviroschools programme there, she took up an advisory role in environmental and science education for School Support Services at Waikato University.

Only after a return to Fairfield College as both science teacher and professional development coordinator did the ambitious Fairfield Project come her way, through the university’s Science Learning Hub. The challenge is ongoing and the focus now, she says, is to “engage” the surrounding property owners to further support the gully restoration.

While proud of what’s been achieved so far, she admits at having been hesitant to take up the Kudos Awards nomination for fear of not having done enough. But positive feedback from the schools and the funding organisations “has really affirmed why I said yes to the nomination”.   

The 13th Annual Kudos Science Excellence Awards covered eight categories in all, for which there were a total of 19 nominations.

Edith Symes