> Environmental and social benefits
The Learning in Nature project has been a catalyst for several environmental and social benefits. We have accomplished:
Greater regional collaboration: Several organisations now work together on regional-wide Learning in Nature projects including Ngāti Pārau, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, Department of Conservation, Biodiversity Hawke’s Bay. This has extended the awareness, credibility and leverage of the project. We lead environmental-education initiatives which positively impact communities.
Increased nature literacy in schools: Embedding nature literacy within EITs own Bachelor of Teaching Primary and Bachelor of Early Childhood Education programmes and professional development workshops have resulted in the increased reach and longevity of nature literacy within our region’s schools. There is sustained use of the ŌOLC by local schools.
Localising the curriculum and spiritual health: There is a desire for the local curriculum to be unique and responsive to preferences and issues of the community. The project supports schools to link with local iwi and places of local significance to support better connection to the environment increasing a sense of belonging and taha wairua (spiritual health).
Behaviour changes within EIT: increased engagement with nature through teaching and learning outdoors, provision of nature spaces, and the development of the ŌOLC have been a catalyst for significantly changing the ways sustainability is considered within EIT including: establishing walking tracks, enabling people to take a break in nature; making more informed decisions about procurement and waste management, including an overhaul of recycling. An integrated land management plan focusing on enhancing the ecology, spaces for health and well-being, acknowledging the history and cultural significance of the area, has been written in consultation with Ngāti Pārau.
Working across curriculum subjects and levels: the nature spaces, resources and working alongside kāhui ako (Communities of Learning established by the Ministry of Education) has enabled the education community to work across different subjects and levels, from Early Childhood to Postgraduate level, for the benefit of all learners.
New nature-based tertiary programmes: In 2020 a two-year Diploma in Environmental Management was launched. The final year of the degree is offered from 2022 in collaboration with a tertiary Institute in Auckland, with students working on projects in the local region, and in 2021 a one-year Certificate in Outdoor Education and Adventure Education was offered.
Enriching learning in a contemporary space: Several EIT programmes regularly use the ŌOLC, including: Nursing, Māori Studies, Business, Health and Sport Science, Hospitality, Horticulture and Environmental Management, Hairdressing, Creative Arts, Music, Architectural Technology, and Wine Science.
Connecting with cultural history: The ŌOLC has provides many opportunities for EIT and school students to connect with the cultural history of the local landscape. Traditional Māori knowledge is shared, enhancing belonging and ensuring (hi)stories are kept alive.
Developing sustainable teaching practices: External partners provide specialist advice enhancing our teaching, research and best land management practice.
Leading a national ‘Learning in Nature’ community of practice: Conferences, policy think tanks and research forums have enabled project findings to be shared and a roadmap for Learning in Nature spaces to be incorporated into the campuses of all 16 NZ Institute of Skills and Technology subsidiaries (Te Pūkenga), to create nature learning opportunities for students studying a wide array of disciplines.
Research: Several LIN studies have been undertaken including a photo voice exhibition in collaboration with the University of Waikato, to showcase how learners have experienced the ŌOLC and Learning in Nature spaces.
Student Leadership Programme: Aimed at practicing teachers, three EIT students were chosen this year to attend a prestigious residential Learning in Nature leadership programme with the Blake Inspire Trust and Ministry of Education – the first student teachers to be accepted.