Become a Kowhai School this year!

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Last year the Kowhai Awards were introduced to acknowledge schools which effectively implement the Trees for Survival programme. Each year all schools will be invited to apply for the first time – or to renew their Kowhai status which only applies for the year it was awarded in and will lapse if the school does not reapply and achieve the expected standard.

Why Kowhai status?
Taking on the TfS programme is a commitment by the school, its teachers and students. Others such as sponsors, landowners, councils and communities are involved too. In recognition of the time and resource invested in the programme it is essential that best practice is applied to ensure successful restoration to control erosion, improve water quality or to increase biodiversity is achieved. The Kowhai Awards initiative recognises schools which are successfully restoring local habitats, as well as achieving effective environmental education outcomes.

What’s in it for our school?
Recognition that a school is successfully achieving the goals of the TfS programme results in positive feedback and increased support for the school from its community including sponsors and supporters.

Pakuranga College students Georgia and Paige Eyre with their school’s Kowhai Award.

Schools attaining Kowhai School status are recognised on the TfS website ( and local media are made aware of this achievement.  See list of current schools with Kowhai status.

In addition, the most successful Kowhai Schools become eligible for the prestigious Holyoake Award, the winner receiving a $600 cash prize.

What do we have to do to apply?
All TfS schools are eligible to apply. Uncertain if you are a TfS school? See the full list of TfS schools.

An application should be made by the Teacher-in-charge of the TfS programme at your school. There is plenty of time – applications will open in July. From the beginning of Term 3 all applications will be made online, with the closing date after your planting season at the end of Term 3.

But what you need to do NOW is to make sure that you keep good records of your school’s TfS activities (including photographs) in the classroom, within your growing unit and at the planting site. Also be sure to keep copies and record mentions in your school newsletters or local media, visits by environmental personnel and contacts with landowners and sponsors, as well as any other relevant material.

What can we learn from last year?
The application: Once again applications will be completed online. However, this year only one application will be allowed. Last year some schools completed a number of applications, one different from another and the judges selected the best application. This year the first application will be the only one considered by the judges.

Therefore it is important the instructions are read carefully; especially note that documents are to be submitted in .PDF format with images no larger than about 1MB. The .PDF format is required since it better protects the integrity of the content and website software limitations require smaller rather than large files.

What the judges will be looking for:  Last year most teachers and students interpreted TfS programme involvement mostly as the school planting day. Actually there are a number other components necessary to implement the programme successfully and teachers may find the following interpretation of the objectives of the TfS programme helpful.

The objective of the TfS programme is to encourage children to experience the three dimensions of environmental education: education IN the environment, education ABOUT the environment and education FOR the environment by –
*      Learning to care for and grow native plants, gain basic horticultural skills, identify native plants and appreciate the factors involved in maintaining ecological sustainability
*      Understanding the part trees play in the ecosystem and the importance of controlling erosion, improving stream flow and water quality, as well as the significance of biodiversity and the need to mitigate carbon emissions
*      Experiencing working in the field to preserve the environment, and the benefits of teamwork and involvement with their local community to achieve habitat restoration.

In addition, the TfS programme provides teachers with many opportunities to relate TfS activities to other curriculum areas such as mathematics and English.

Start planning now to be a Kowhai School!

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