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Eye on Nature School Days find silver linings online

Updated: May 17, 2022

With the outbreak of the Covid-19 Omicron variant in Auckland at the end of January 2022, things were looking grim for Eye on Nature School Days.

The Beautification Trust usually hosts the free, annual event at the Auckland Botanic Gardens in March. The event brings 1,400 tamariki from 48 South & East Auckland primary schools to the Auckland Botanic Gardens for four days of hands-on environmental education. But with the high likelihood that Auckland would still be under red traffic light restrictions, the prospect of bringing so many people together seemed far out of reach.

We were still motivated to deliver an engaging and meaningful environmental education experience. So, with the safety of the tamariki, teachers, volunteers and staff at heart, we made the call to commit to the first ever online and teacher-led Eye on Nature School Days.

Planning for Eye on Nature School Days is usually about eight months in the making. But with some hard work and creative problem solving from our team and our incredible education partners, we managed to pull together a brand new, covid-safe format in under two months.

This included creating an online education portal, curating a programme of Zoom workshops and webinars for tamariki, and sourcing, assembling and delivering goodie boxes full of hands-on learning activities for each school.

At the workshops, our education partners were paired directly with schools over Zoom. This gave tamariki the chance to interact one-on-one with environmental experts. It was fantastic to witness the interest and engagement in the classroom and hear the clever questions and sounds of surprise and excitement as the tamariki learned about Incredible Kai.

Webinars allowed multiple schools to tune in to live video sessions about a wide range of fascinating topics while interacting in the text chat. They could also access the recordings later for further learning.

The free activity packs were a hit with schools, providing exciting, hands-on activities for the tamariki to apply what they had learned online. Some of the highlights included growing (and eating!) their own native oyster mushrooms, creating seed tape from toilet paper and making beeswax candles.

Although nothing compares to engaging with tamariki in person in the natural surrounds of the Gardens, we found some fantastic silver linings from our online approach.

Without geographic or physical capacity restrictions, we could include more schools in the programme and expand our impact. All up, we engaged with over 1,600 participants from 51 schools across five days, including a school from outside our region who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to participate.

With the wonderful success of the online and in-school programme, we’re now considering how a hybrid approach to Eye on Nature School Days might help us achieve even more in future years.

​We're so proud of our dedicated team and extremely grateful to our education partners for their commitment to ensure the tamariki still had amazing, hands-on, interactive learning experiences this year, amongst the uncertainty of Covid-19.

We also gratefully acknowledge the collaborative effort of teachers and school staff to help us deliver a different Eye on Nature experience at short notice. They played the crucial role of coordinating the programme from the schools’ side, leading activities in the classroom, ensuring tamariki had online access and incorporating Eye on Nature lessons into their ongoing teaching. Thank you so much for your mahi, adaptability and resilience during this time and for helping make Eye on Nature School Days an exciting and valuable experience for your tamariki.

A huge thank you to all our partners who made this fantastic programme possible.

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