Since Papatoetoe West School adopted Kohuora Park in May 2021, they have embarked on a remarkable journey, intertwining education with environmental stewardship through the Adopt-a-Park programme. This initiative, celebrated with an assembly and a blessing at Kohuora Park, has not only fostered a connection with nature but also instilled a sense of responsibility in the young minds of its students.
"We officially adopted the park in May 2021, marked by an assembly and park blessing," shares Fiona Lamont, a class teacher at Papatoetoe West School.
Each student at Papatoetoe West School actively contributes to this green endeavor. The entire school's curriculum includes learning about Kohuora Park, with the Year 4 team being particularly active in planting, weeding, and mulching. Their dedication is supported by Whitebait Connection, enriching their knowledge of wetlands and climate change. Additionally, the Year 5 & 6 team engages with the Experiencing Marine Reserves programme, focusing on stream health, exemplifying the school's holistic approach to environmental education.
Fiona Lamont highlights the all-encompassing nature of the programme, "The whole school is involved... our inquiry centered around wetlands and in 2022, climate change. So far, it has mainly been the Year 4 team working with the council in various activities like planting, weeding, and mulching."
This year, the focus is on planting. Aligned with their inquiry into weather, rivers, and wetlands, students have been exploring Kohuora Park's rich biodiversity. Upcoming activities include weeding and mulching, involving Aorere Kindergarten, fostering community connections.
Since the school's involvement, notable improvements in the park are evident, such as increased plant life and eels in the stream. The school is also establishing a record-keeping system for observations to track biodiversity trends.
The pandemic lockdowns didn't dampen the students' enthusiasm. They actively shared photos of birds spotted during park visits, integrating their learning with real-life observations. Engaging in plant exploration and birdwatching has been both educational and engaging.
Fiona Lamont recalls, "During the 2021 lockdowns, the children were very engaged online. They excitedly shared photos of birds they spotted on family walks in the park."
The adoption of Kohuora Park has been seamlessly integrated into the school's curriculum, achieving significant educational outcomes. From understanding biodiversity to recognizing the role of wetlands in handling extreme weather, the students are gaining invaluable knowledge and skills.
As the school community evolves, the next step is to renew and strengthen the school-wide commitment to Kohuora Park, ensuring the ethos of kaitiaki (guardianship) continues to thrive among new students, reinforcing the school's role as a caretaker of nature.
The journey of Papatoetoe West School with Kohuora Park exemplifies more than an educational initiative; it's a testament to community power and the significance of nurturing our connection with nature.