One of five schools selected to win a $10,000 grant, Te Uku School has transformed a neglected area of its grounds into an all-new outdoor learning zone.
A video application created by students Ezra Ruka, Matthew Roughton, Riley Evans and Iyla Scott to TREEmendous, a joint initiative between Project Crimson and the Mazda Foundation proved to be the winning formula for the school.
“Mrs Clarkson told us about the competition and asked us for volunteers to apply so we decided to do a video application. A month later that we found out we were in the top 11 and then we made the top five schools to get the garden makeover,” Ezra says.
The school plans to use the area to teach students how to identify native plants, birds, lizards and insects and educate them on disease, weed and pest control and other issues surrounding the conservation of fauna and flora in New Zealand.
Teachers, students, the wider community as well as Mazda Foundation Trustees and the Project Crimson team participated in a weekend working bee recently that saw more than 800 native trees planted.
Te Uku School principal Pip Mears says the school is committed to helping its students learn beyond the walls of the classroom.
“We see our outdoor learning space as an extension of the classroom where we can provide a rich environment for children to learn everything from science and technology to drama and music.
“Developing our grounds will allow us to provide a range of learning opportunities and help students to make connections to the world outside the classroom,” she says.
Students who dug in for the garden makeover enjoyed getting dirty for their beloved school.
“It was fun because we were doing it for the school,” six-year-old Hannah Prince says.
“My friends and I got rid of this really huge vine. It was so thick and we were standing on top of it. My second favourite part was the sausages and baking,” 11-year-old Matta Daniel laughs.
“I enjoyed planting and it was fun planting and mulching,” eight-year-old Remy Grant says.
“I liked helping out and climbing up the trees,” seven-year-old Maia Neems says.
The Friday before the makeover, Mazda Ambassadors marine scientist Riley ‘The Sharkman’ Elliott and Ruud ‘The Bugman’ Kleinpaste visited the school.
Riley, who was taught by Pip in primary school, spoke to the students about the importance of taking care of nature.
“Pip was one of the people who inspired my love of the outdoors from an early age, so it was cool to be able to return the favour to her students,” he says.
Ruud spoke with both teachers and students about the important role bugs play in maintaining our ecosystem and says it was great to see the Raglan community turn up and lend a hand to help the school transform its outdoor area.
“From the number of people who showed up on the day it was clear that this is a community who care about their environment. It’s important that we pass this passion on to the next generation and educate them about the importance of taking care of our ecosystem, and hopefully this new outdoor learning area will do just that,” he says.
Te Uku School is the fourth school to be visited by the TREEmendous team this year marking the 48th school to get the TREEmendous treatment in the last 12 years.