Bush classroom brings youth back to nature

School Principal Michaela Phillips shows students how to use harakeke (flax) during their Monday morning bush classroom.

Te Miro School students will get stuck-in during this year’s Conservation Week planting native trees in their school’s “bush” classroom.

Running September 14 – 22, Conservation Week encourages people to get involved in nature and help take care of it. That’s exactly what Te Miro School students have been doing for the past school year, spending each Monday in a grove of kahikatea, manuka and other native trees just down the hill from their rural school.

The bush classroom concept started in Term 1, and since Term 2 it has been a regular weekly retreat for the school’s 31 students.

“The best part is just seeing them in nature and seeing them embrace stuff,” said school principal Michaela Phillips. “When we first came down they couldn’t identify the trees, and now they recognize them and know what they are.”

Phillips said the big focus for the bush classroom was on environmental sustainability and learning about nature. “There’s so much learning that comes from their natural environment,” she said.

“These days kids don’t spend as much time outside, once they’re home there’s stuff to do inside, and we just don’t want them to miss out on that. I’m a firm believer in nature feeding kids.”

Eli Burd and Cameron Bell work on a class task – making a chair for a teddy bear using flax.

Members of the community are getting involved too, with a former science teacher doing a unit with the students next term, and the local Ngati Haua Iwi Trust teaching the school how to eco-source and produce saplings from the native trees on site.

“During Conservation Week we’ll be putting the plants in here,” said Phillips, exploring the bush classroom with the students.

“They’re so comfortable down here, it really is like our classroom. It’s just a time to observe.”

When the warmer months arrive the school plans to have an overnight camp, and already staff have secured funding for a learning enquiry based in the bush classroom.

“They’re getting more and more curious, so we’ve started an enquiry of how to nurture curious learners, it’s going for a whole year, and we’re really trying to make them curious about their environment,” said Phillips. “It’s not just about being curious about your natural environment, but being curious with everything.”

What do the students think of their new bush classroom?

Jim Hall – It’s less electronics and a lot more peaceful.



Nina Hogg – We get to play and learn during class time.



Cameron Bell – I just like being away from the classroom and down in the bush.



Jake Helleur – I like exploring and finding new places.



Eli Burd – We get to run around and do stuff.



Taya Truscott – It’s calming and fun and we don’t always do the same thing.

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