If I were being honest, and I aim to be, it’s been a crazy week. With no further details needed, except, on top of crazy week, Isaac our second child, started school. I was so concentrating on what was happening right in front of me, that when the moment came to wave goodbye at the gate as he walked hand in hand with Helena to the bus, well, I wasn’t ready. Maybe you’re not ever really ready, maybe it’s the doing it that makes you ready. Anyway, I am now the mother of two school-age children.
When I was in the early months of mothering, I used to start laughing when a mother of school kids told me that “it goes by so fast.” It’s best not to say such a thing to a new mum who is not getting enough sleep, because night after night passed very slowly and otherworldly at the time. And lo, here I am, where the heck did that 9 years go? Really, 9 years?
How perfect it is that this issue of INAB is about the community called school. I loved doing this one for you, as it reflects the best of all of us. And quite, honestly, that’s my mission, to amplify the best of all of us.
Wishing you a rainbow filled week, with love, Becky
Nature’s First Green is Gold- Enviroschools
It is a windy, grey day, the kind that taunts you that summer is around the corner, but at that actual moment, feels a very long way away. I am meeting with Pauline Stephinson of Oromahoe School to hear about their commitment and success in becoming a Silver Enviroschool. Green-gold is in their sights. When I take a moment to listen to the school’s story, and settle down to look at the details all around me, I see that spring sings out a thousand tiny songs.
“Nature’s first green is gold.” That’s first line of a Robert Frost poem. Somehow, that poem as it relates to both plants and us as humans seems appropriate to this day.
There are three large windows of opportunity to create a child’s understanding of the world and his place in it. The first is a child’s relationship to Mum, the second is the child’s relationship to Dad which leads to the third window, the community beyond “family” or in most cases, school. In each window we give our children what they will encode as their version of love and connection. Once these windows close, it’s not that it’s impossible to change that encoding, but it becomes a much longer process and can extend well into adulthood.
Children are nature’s first green. They are the gold of our humanity, precious, malleable and only children for a moment. How amazing would it be to give them not only their sense of belonging in a family and community, but to the earth as well? The teaching of kaitiaki, earth stewardship, something that many of us have only begun to learn as adults, can be woven naturally into life from the very beginning.
The most beautiful teaching document
The Enviroschools certifications are a New Zealand support system for schools that would like to introduce these fundamental earth principals into their curriculum. In Pauline’s words, “It is probably the most beautiful teaching document that you’d ever find.” Drawing from modern sustainability language and wrapped in Maori respect and acknowledgment of our belonging, Enviroschools supports the school to be the third window of teaching a child his connection, responsibility and celebration of belonging to the earth.
Oromahoe School, located about 20 minutes drive from Kerikeri in Northland has been a sustainability focused school for many years, with The Environmental Guidelines created in 2000 to include the environment in every curriculum area. It was not until 2007 that they decided to join the Enviroschools Program but prior to that they were an environmental pilot school.
Over the years, Oromahoe has made a consistent effort with a shared intention, and the impact is very visible, like spring’s thousand tiny songs, you can see it everywhere. It reflects many years of stewardship, with garden names such as the Bird Feeding Area, Butterfly garden, Fairy garden, Food forest, Sensory garden, and the Shoe garden, each with its own story. There are hens and a rooster, and garden beds for each classroom. Students take care of their patches, prepare food from the gardens, and take the excess produce home. When asked, one student replied that the reason she likes being in an Enviroschool is because she likes spending lots of time outside. That is a simple explanation of a great truth.
A tour through the classroom reflects the care and celebration of the outdoors. There’s so much colour and texture brought in from the outdoors, that the transition through the door is very gentle. On every wall, in every corner, are splashes of gratitude and delight at the natural world.
But the students’ awareness has a second side to it, a sense of responsibility. One student responded that it was important that people understood not to create lots of rubbish or put it in the wrong places. Their roles as stewards are already clear. These kids are developing a friendship with the earth, and as a friend, they want to see it cared for. They are environmentalists in the most clear eyed way, knowing that it is important not just as a theory but as a very real reflection of their own lives.
The Enviroschool Program has 4 levels of certification beginning at Bronze, “we have started work on getting to know our environment better and creating a whole school vision.” The Silver level is described by, “we have a clear, shared Whole School Vision and are working together creatively to make it happen.” Green Gold level, which is typically reached after 5 or more years of working with the Enviroschools framework, states, “we have a living, evolving school vision- process which is celebrated and new ideas added. The Guiding Principles are woven into all aspects of our school life.”
There is a level called Beyond Green Gold which says, “We have surpassed our original visions! We have a deep and holistic feeling for our environment and our place in it.”
“Nature’s first green is gold” speaks of opportunity, a window to witness because change is certain. The first buds of spring quickly become leaves, a child quickly becomes an adult. To see these magic moments is to celebrate all that we are now and all that is yet to unfold.
Nothing Gold Can Stay
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.
I sing alot. I laugh frequently. In between I knit my brows and worry. Then I do some gardening, or watch a sunset and I am back to smiling. Nature is a glorious healer, and I love being witness to that. Oh yea, handmilking our goat (named Grace) every morning is very grounding too. Our two kids and Grace’s two kids are always good for wonder.
Check it Out
“The Enviroschools Foundation is a charitable trust that provides leadership, support, and opportunities that empower children and young people to work in intergenerational ways to create healthy, peaceful and resilient communities.”
Celebrating 10 years and 859 schools, kura and early childhood centres, Enviroschools Foundation has a wealth of experience to support schools through a gentle process of becoming more connected. Their website is a really good place to begin understanding all that they have achieved and can offer.
If you like what this non-profit is doing, I’m sure they are very happy for your support. They have great work to do.
Check it Out Too
Here’s a 3:25 minute tour of Oramahoe School, a story told in texture, colour, and shape. The entire school feels like a garden, reflecting dedication, light and life.
“I like the magazine having a variety of topics which always gives me something to think about. In the coming year I’d like to see more of how to life naturally and happily in this modern world.” Kathryn
“Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.” John Fitzgerald Kennedy
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