Pupils become environmental champions

Riverina School pupil Eliaz Tofa, left, is given a close up look at a weta by entomologist Rudd Kleinpaste. Times photo Wayne Martin

An east Auckland school has won $1000 and 200 native trees to plant on its grounds as part of an environmentally-focused initiative.

Riverina School in Pakuranga is one of five schools from around the country chosen to be part of the TREEmendous Education Programme run by the Mazda Foundation.

As part of the prize each school receives a visit from Mazda ambassadors, insect scientist Ruud Kleinpaste, known as ‘the Bugman’, and shark scientist Dr Riley Elliott.

They talk to pupils and teachers at each school about sustainability and the importance of looking after the environment.

Kleinpaste helps each school develop their own chosen environmental project and works with teachers to identify ways to incorporate the environment as an “immersive part of the curriculum”.

The winning schools also receive $1000 to go toward their project, as well as 200 native trees from Trees That Count for their grounds.

Kleinpaste and Elliott visited Riverina School on May 12.

The Bugman gave the pupils the chance to look at and hold a number of insects, including a large weta.

As part of the initiative the school is creating an outdoor learning space in an area that previously contained a classroom block.

They’ll transform the blank space into a vibrant learning space that will serve as an area for growing fruit and vegetables.

Principal Carol Dickinson says native plants and trees will be planted to ensure the project has a strong connection to the natural environment.

“The school provides students with knowledge and tools to help develop their understanding of the natural ecosystem.

“We encourage students to connect to the wider community and understand the role every individual plays in building an eco-friendly lifestyle.”

Mazda NZ managing director and Mazda Foundation chairman David Hodge says he’s delighted the TREEmendous Education Programme is continuing the fantastic work the initial project undertook in schools around New Zealand for over 10 years.

“We look forward to seeing the results of the work the schools will be doing with Ruud and Riley.”

Applications are open for primary and intermediate schools to apply for the programme for 2022.

Go online to www.treemendous.org.nz for more information and to enter.