Eco-Schools: charting your school’s environmental journey

Andrew Corney is Head of Faculty (Inquiry Learning) at Tauranga Boys’ College, a year 9-13 school with a roll of just over 2,000 students that has recently implemented the Eco-Schools programme.

As the largest global sustainable schools programme, Eco-Schools is designed to take classroom teaching to the community by engaging the next generation in action-based learning. The programme, operated internationally by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) and managed in Aotearoa by Keep New Zealand Beautiful, encourages young people to engage in their environment by allowing them the opportunity to actively protect it.

Andrew is no stranger to environmental education, having started the school’s Sustainability Committee about four years ago, but building it from scratch meant he wasn’t 100% certain that the content he was developing was fully hitting the mark. “I was never quite sure what you should be doing, or what you could be doing,” he said, “or how to structure it effectively.”

So when Andrew came across the Eco-Schools resources, the step-by-step processes – which can culminate in a Green Flag Award for the school – helped click the pieces into place:

“When I came across the Green Flag programme, I thought – man, I wish I’d found this four years ago!”

Eco-Schools features Seven Steps designed to make environmental actions student-led, and because every school is different the Steps fit around the teaching at each school. The programme also doesn’t dictate the environmental actions or projects that a school should work on, allowing students to take control, local problems to be tackled, and empowering students to work on the issues they are passionate about. Andrew also mentions that the resources are inclusive for all levels:

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a primary, intermediate or high school, there are enough options to put it together for your context,” he says.

Whether you’re a school that’s just starting out with environmental education or whether you already have an current committee (such as environmental perfects or a school council, for example) already in place, it’s easy to adapt Eco-Schools to an existing structure. “If you’re wanting to start out, it’s all there” says Andrew. The content “can be ‘paint by numbers’ and has all the steps for you to get started.”

The work embarked upon as you move through the Seven Steps is recognised by the Green Flag Award – a visible indication of your school’s commitment to learning for sustainability, and an internationally recognised accreditation for excellence in sustainable development education.

Like most teaching staff nationwide, Andrew juggles many hats and is often bombarded with resources, many simply forwarded to him with good intentions. Support is available when registering for Eco-Schools, which for Andrew took the form of an online call with Keep New Zealand Beautiful Education Director Rebecca Hampton.

The half-hour chat was invaluable for him, and he reckons it’s what swayed him to implement Eco-Schools:

“I had links to resources, but there’s all this other stuff we’re trying to keep on top of too. Until you’re walked through a resource like this you don’t realise how useful it is – it really is, like, ‘oh wow, that’s awesome’ ”.

Better yet, implementing Eco-Schools hasn’t cost Andrew needless time and effort. “I haven’t felt like it’s been more work, as though I’ve got to do these extra things; instead, it’s made what I currently do a lot easier with the resources and templates there to grab and go.”

Overall, the Eco Schools Programme is an excellent resource for schools looking to implement sustainable practices. Its step-by-step approach, tailored resources, and ongoing support make it easy for schools to make progress towards sustainability. Andrew concludes by saying that the Eco-Schools programme is “a really great resource, I’m sure there are other teachers and schools who, once they know about it, will have a similar reaction to what I’ve had.”


If you’re looking to begin your journey with our Eco-Schools programme, register here and or contact our Education Director Rebecca Hampton at rebecca@knzb.org.nz to learn more.

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