News and stories

Giving tamariki the space to “fall in love” with nature


30 October 2020

A finalist in the 2020 Biosecurity Awards Kura section, this innovative programme based on a native bush block is teaching Kerikeri Kindergarten children about the importance of kaitiakitanga and what they can do to care for the ngahere.

Biosecurity Awards banner advertising the awards

Based in the Bay of Islands, the Silver Enviroschool kindergarten is using the ngahere to connect tamariki with nature at an early age (four to five years old) and give them the knowledge they need in order to become guardians of the bush. Each week the oldest children go to “their” ten-acre native bush block on private land for the day.

The programme was launched in 2018 after six months of training, planning and consultation with the local community. It’s brought together tamariki, a local environmental Trust, the Kiwi Coast conservation initiative and the generous owner of the bush, in a unique collaborative partnership that is benefitting everyone involved. They learn by experience and discover the joy that can be found in nature.

The ngahere gives them a gift – the opportunity to fall in love with their bush and reconnect with Papatūānuku through their play. The programme extends out into kindergarten families, making this initiative a real community affair.

The teaching staff have provided some useful advice for others looking to put ngahere programmes in place.

What motivated you to start this project? As an extension of the Enviroschool Kaupapa – connecting to Papatūānuku, we wanted to give the children the time and space to fall in love with their natural environment and see themselves as part of nature. We are also passionate about developing the next generation of eco-warriors to meet the massive environmental challenges of the future.

What was the biggest challenge in getting the project underway? Getting all required risk analysis and procedural paperwork together and finding appropriate land within our area.

Who were your best allies and supporters along the way? Or local community, the land owner who gave us access to the bush, Northern Regional Council Enviroschools Regional Co-ordinator, the kindergarten community including Northland Kindergarten Association and other kindergartens with nature programmes.

How did you get others to support you? We asked them! As a kindergarten you have to be good at asking for help. So we planned a presentation about what we wanted to do, why and how that we presented to our community along with a request for help.

What else kept you going to succeed? We truly believed that opportunities to be in nature would provide great outcomes for our children.

What was your most important learning/s from the project? If you work as a team and are motivated then you can achieve anything you want. Problems that initially seemed insurmountable were overcome by doing this.

What else do you think would be useful for people to know?

1. Get parents on board from the outset.

2. If there is any way at all to get access to established native bush, it will be well worth the effort.

3. Have strong policies in place. It can be scary taking children into the ngahere but if you have discussed everything as a team and put strong policies in place for any eventuality, then fear is mitigated.

How did you go about sourcing funding and other resources you needed? Fundraising and targeting moneys as well as donations from whānau.

Would you be happy for people to contact you for advice and support for their programmes? Yes, of course.