Case study on establishing a Trees for Survival programme

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Story and photos by Dianne Patterson, outgoing Field Officer Auckland South


Point View School is a large urban primary school in Auckland, New Zealand. Staff member Mrs. Page approached Trees for Survival in 2009 to find out how to become a Trees for Survival school. She was bringing together the Principal, staff, parents and children to transform a wild, weedy southern back corner of the school into “…an extensive outdoor learning environment called The Hive, with a native area, a propagation house and planting areas..”

By June 2009 site preparation was underway and by July the new plant growing unit was set up. On a mission with great vision, Teacher Aide Helen Page discussed details with Mr John Allatt of Multistrut Industries who manufacture the steel Plant Growing Units in Penrose, Auckland.

From the start, Trees for Survival was given status of great importance. Having heard and learned about it in assemblies from when they started school, children would finally get a turn in Years 5 and 6. Trees for Survival Programme Manager Peter Mundell, Rotary Club of Somerville liaison person James Lee and Principal Judy Parr formalised the opening in August 2009; Trees for Survival Patron, Bugman Ruud Kleinpaste, inaugurated the prestigious programme six years ago, when he also brought some of his pet wetas to school.

In 2010 with Rotary support the first planting day was held; initially seedling work was done on tarpaulins beside the plant growing unit; children with parents participated in a Trees for Survival community planting at Musick Point.

Since 2011 various Enviro-Day assemblies highlighted and recognised the work of the planters and celebrated Trees for Survival in artful posters, music and screened presentations.

Teachers found opportunities to incorporate Trees for Survival into the curriculum; children would be practising public speaking and IT skills (PowerPoint), visual communication (slide shows, art), maths skills (counting, measuring, comparing, classifying), literacy (writing reports), and, of course, science (horticulture, botany, environmental studies, sustainability, biodiversity). Trees for Survival also helped to strengthen bonds with the broader community (the local Rotary Club, the Auckland Council, other Trees for Survival teachers, parent participants and volunteers).

In 2012 the plant growing unit was shifted and the Beehive outdoor classroom built.

The outdoor classroom allows a class to work on potting on and pricking out in all weathers, dry and shaded. The tarpaulins are laid on top of the benches and the potting mix bags opened on top. Children now work at waist level and it is easy to fold the tarp around the soil afterwards.

Point View School shares this excellent venue on many occasions in support of Professional Development. They have hosted Trees for Survival staff and teachers and Enviroschool Facilitators visiting from the Waikato (above). The 2013 Planting Day was held on the nearby Eaglen’s property in Howick; after planting there the Auckland Council Planting Day Coordinator Sue Crawshay took the opportunity to show the visitors the beehives and teach everyone about the secret lives of bees.

In  2014 teachers helped trial a Growing Champs Game (an exercise created by Dianne Paterson) which integrates a broad range of learning skills into the Trees for Survival practical sessions and seeks to empower children to take responsibility for running the programme and caring for their plant growing unit.

In 2015 Point View School Trees for Survival Teachers Karyn Bower and Sherri Rhodes invited the Trees for Survival Field Officer Auckland South to introduce the new group of Year 5 children to the programme by way of a slide show attended by 60 children. This was followed by a hands-on learning activity matching native leaves. Pupils learned the characteristics of leaves and how to identify them, honing research skills in the process. Leaf rubbing helped them to focus on the size, shape and textures of their particular leaves.

Children were seen teaching adults their skills: how to pot on seedlings! A real sense of community and team effort exists here at Point View School around Trees for Survival.

Principal Judy Parr’s supportive and enthusiastic leadership impacts directly on how others perceive the programme. Writing about their Environmental Programmes, she says, “At our school we endeavour to weave an environmental perspective through all learning. Our involvement in the Trees for Survival and the Enviro Schools programmes provides support and key learning opportunities in this environmental work. 

“We focus on the Beautification and Enrichment of our Environment in a Sustainable manner from which arises the acronym BEES and associated imagery. We have student, teacher and parent BEES teams who work towards a sustainable future… Our Environmental Education Lead Teacher drives development of environmental projects with the help of a team of dedicated teachers.

“These teachers also actively promote an environmental perspective at syndicate level during curriculum planning sessions. We are indebted to support people outside the school whose encouragement and teaching is pivotal. These include the Trees for Survival facilitator Dianne Patterson, Somerville Rotary Club representative James Lee and the Enviro Schools facilitators.”


A student’s view

In 2014, Y6 student Esther Oh, produced the following report: 

Point View School started the Trees for Survival programme in 2009, and has been going for five years. The Year 5s took part in caring for native seedlings, planting them a year later (Year 6) in an erosion-prone area. Then I was only a junior and hardly knew about it. But as years passed, I grew to learn bits of the programme and when I finally became a Year 5, I got to participate in the enlightening, enjoyable Trees for Survival.

The project is an environmental education programme for students. It’s up to them to grow and water NZ native trees from little seedlings and then transplant them in an area that is prone to erosion; with the owner’s permission, of course. This year the Year 6s that grew the seedlings in their previous year travelled to a farm in Ararimu and planted over seven hundred and fifty plants!

In the Hive; our outdoor classroom

While caring for trees we also learned about their extensive role in nature. Before I started Trees for Survival I knew that trees took in carbon dioxide – what we breathe out – and supply us with life-sustaining oxygen. Now I understand that they are useful in other ways, including their roots that hold the earth so it doesn’t tumble down to soil bodies of water.

This would mean that NZ has a chance to be cleaner and more attractive. With the proud feeling of having accomplished something, pupils can soon co-operate in a more improved environment. Families can grow up in the better environment they deserve and enjoy the fresh, glimmering streams and the brilliant sunshine under New Zealand’s famous trees.


Planting day at Ararimu, August 2014


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