For Teachers

  • TEACHER TIPS 1: Collecting and growing your own seeds

    Collecting and growing your own seeds
    Growing native trees from seed offers kids a wonderful insight into what makes them so special. Germinating native seeds is not as hard as you might imagine. This is the first in a series of items on how you can incorporate features of the TfS programme into your teaching curriculum.

    How does germinating seeds fit into my teaching curriculum?
    Germinating seeds is a ‘one stop shop’ fulfilling the key achievement aims within the nature of science, living world and environmental education curriculum requirements. Seed germination is a great way to introduce concepts which develop from the study of life processes, ecology and evolution such as plant life cycles, plant structure, flowering, pollination, reproduction, dispersal, growth, biological diversity and interaction with each other and with the non-living environment.

    Upcoming items will review key aspects of the plant life cycle as they fit into the TfS programme and suggest ways for teachers to incorporate these aspects into the teaching curriculum.

    But first, we need to obtain seeds and TfS suggests that you collect your seeds rather than purchasing them from a nursery. You can collect native seeds on a school field trip, or better still from trees planted in previous years on your planting days. Seeds can even be collected from the native trees in your school grounds. There are many teaching and learning opportunities to be gained when students collect the seeds themselves. For example teachers can introduce ideas about why trees produce seeds, why some seeds/fruits are coloured and some are not and what sort of distribution mechanisms plants have developed. The need for care when collecting seeds to ensure plants are not damaged is an important emphasis too.

    Naturally collecting seeds is preferable to buying seeds from a local nursery since unfortunately the ecological integrity of some commercial supplies cannot be guaranteed.

    Some of the issues you need to be aware of when collecting seeds are discussed below (see: What is ‘best practice’ seed collecting?).

    Need some ideas? Go to the Taranaki Regional Council website for a work unit highlighting the value of trees in our environment.

    What seeds are best to germinate?
    Many native plant seeds germinate rapidly and do not require storage or cleaning; so seed availability will determine when you can germinate them. Only seeds which are easy to germinate have been selected for this section.

    You can download a list showing when plant seeds are ready to collect and what they look like when ready. Clicking on the plant image will take you to a page about the plant which includes information on how to germinate its seeds.

    Once you have decided what curriculum themes you want to develop and what you want to do with your seedlings, you can plan your seed collection.

    What can I do with the seedlings?
    Having germinated native tree seeds it is a pity not to give your students the opportunity to grow and care for the emerging seedlings. This can be time-consuming but the results make it worthwhile. Not only will your students learn about growing plants, but they can also use their growing plants to investigate and measure how environmental factors such as sunlight, water, temperature and pests affect their growth.

    TfS schools have a plant growing unit (PGU) or shade house and growing seedlings is what they do. If a school doesn’t have a PGU or shade house there are a number of options available on the market from a small garden cloche to a walk-in shade house. With today’s emphasis on growing vegetables and/or participating in restoration projects schools have every reason to have one.   

    Students can grow their seedlings to plant out so that they can restore and revegetate at risk land just as TfS students do, or they can propagate their plants for sale later on – maybe to fund a shade house.

    What is ‘best practice’ seed collecting?
    If the intention is to grow seedlings and plant them out or to sell them for a profit then there are a couple of terms you should be familiar with.

    Provenance: When harvesting seed from wild sources one of the most important considerations is the provenance of such seeds – the geographical location and altitude at which the seed was collected. For example plant hardiness is particularly important. Seed collected from one locality may be quite unsuited to another.
    Unfortunately, some people in the nursery trade may not realize the importance of provenance and all too often produce plants that may be unsuited to particular conditions.
    Ecosourcing: This involves using only those native plants that have been propagated from the species that naturally occur or grow in the area they are to be planted in. The reason for this is that
    – only plants native to a particular area should be used so that the purity of the local genetic stock is not compromised
    – there is no danger of introducing species that are not native to the area.

    Plants sourced from those of local origin are considered to be genetically more suited to the local climate and growing conditions.

    Provenance is obviously important as some plants are simply not adapted to grow in some areas or localities. Not everyone agrees with Ecosourcing but the concept is supported by most local councils. Where a planting project involves an area that contains existing native vegetation, there is probably no question that only locally sourced material should be used. However, in their enthusiasm, some people tend to adopt a purist attitude and insist that all plantings should be ecosourced.

    Extracted from: METCALFE, Lawrie: The Propagation of Native Plants (Random House 2007)

    Seed germination techniques
    Science Kids provides some very elementary information on how to germinate seeds – using common garden varieties. Try using native seeds!
    DOC recommends the following:
    Fill a clean container or seed raising tray with seed raising mix to within 3 cm of the top.  Press down mix. Sow seeds.  Be patient – some seed take up to ten weeks or more to germinate.

    Fine seeds – grasses to cabbage tree size (<2.5mm):
    – Sow on surface evenly but not too thickly.
    – Cover with a thin layer of seed raising mix and/or fine pumice.
    – Keep damp – do not allow the tray to dry out, keep warm (20°C) and shaded until germination.

    Larger seeds – from trees, bigger than cabbage tree seed (>2.5mm):

    – Place seeds evenly spaced on the surface.
    – Push seeds into the surface.
    – Cover with a thin layer of fine pumice. Keep damp, warm (20°C) and shaded until germination.

    However,  METCALFE, Lawrie: The Propagation of Native Plants (Random House 2007), pp28-31 gives more detail. The TfS Primary School Resource Lesson 10 provides teacher guide material.

    How to grow on your germinated seeds
    For seeds sown directly onto a seed raising mix they can be ‘pricked out’ once they have grown to between 5-10cm high. Consult information on ‘pricking out’ or view a short video on the TfS website.

    Good luck!                 Back to Te Māra a Tāne


  • Teacher Tips

    The following items have been published in the Trees for Survival Newsletter

  • Installing your water timer

    The Pope Easy Set automatic tap timer is the timer installed on most Plant Growing Units. This is a timer which requires a high pressure water supply and is not suitable for use on water from a tank supply. Click on the Owners Manual to download instructions on how to use it.

    A splitter on the tap can be used to allow the water supply to be shared between irrigation of the growing plants in the unit and some other use.

    The Pope timer is designed to fit to a tap fitting either directly at the tap or to a tap fitting at the end of a length of hose. The latter option allows for the timer to be installed securely away from the PGU. A standard hose fitting adaptor links the timer to the hose providing water for irrigating the plants. Note that it is wise to include a filter in this portion of the hose.

    It is important that the timer is mounted the right side up (as shown) otherwise water drips into the battery casing causing it to malfunction.

    Make sure, when installing the timer away from the tap that is securely attached to a support by ties, one above the unit and the other below, Do not attach the ties directly to the unit or the battery casing will be blocked which makes the batteries difficult or impossible to remove.

    The image below shows the basic setup.

  • Native Plant Information

    • Information about Native Plants
      Click on the plant names below to find out more. Those marked with an asterisk have work sheets prepared by Trees for Survival.
    There are a number of websites which provide useful information about and identification tips for native plants. They are

  • Apply

    The first step to becoming a Trees for Survival (TfS) school is the completion of the Application Form. The Application Form also contains information about the responsibilities expected of the school.

    If there are any queries please contact the National Manager.

  • Awards

    There are several awards made annually. They are the Kowhai School Awards, the Holyoake Award, the Accor Teacher Award, the NZ Steel Student Award and the McKay Award. See below for more information.


    Each year Trees for Survival schools are invited to apply to retain or attain their Kowhai School status.

    Being awarded the Kowhai School status is an acknowledgement that the school is successfully acheiving the aims and objectives of the Trees for Survival programme.

    The top Kowhai school/s will receive the Holyoake award (see below).

    List of Kowhai status schools.



    A total amount of $1,000 is generously donated annually by Holyoake Industries to the school or schools which have best achieved the aims and objectives of Trees for Survival in our schools nationwide.

    It is usual that the value of the prizes are
    1st Prize:   $600
    2nd Prize: $400
    but the  awarding committee may decide to vary this at their discretion.

    Applications for this award close no later than the beginning of Term 4 and the winners will be announced by early December.

    List of Holyoake Award winners.

    For further information  contact the National Manager.


    THE ACCOR TfS TEACHER AWARDAccor_Hotels+accroche-CMJN

    Each year a teacher nominated by a TfS Field Officer will receive a voucher for 2 nights’ accommodation with complimentary breakfast at a designated Accor Hotel.

    The Field Officers nomination will include a Teacher assessment and a 200 word statement by the TfS Field Officer describing why this teacher is deserving of the award. Also included will be a photo of teacher engaged in a TfS activity which may be used for promotional purposes.



    Each year TfS teachers are invited to nominate a student for this award. The nomination is to include a

    • 200 word statement by TfS teacher, describing why this student is deserving of the award.
    • Photo of student engaged in TfS activity is taken, as a record and for promotional purposes.
    • The statement and photo is to be included in a single A4 page PDF and emailed to the TfSAdministrator by due date.

    The prize will be a book or another tangible item with an approximate value of $100.



    This award is given to a student in the Auckland region who has
    – Shown a high degree of competence in the task of pricking out and potting seedlings on.
    – Ensured that plants were watered regularly and were kept weed free.
    – Ensured that pests and diseases in the seedlings were detected early.
    – Helped keep the growing unit area neat and tidy.
    – Attended a planting day and planted a good number of trees correctly
    – Set a high standard of behaviour and responsibility during the year and on planting day .

    The award has a value of approximately $100 and the decision is made by Auckland Council staff in consultation with Trees for Survival. The winner is announced early in December.

    For further information about this award  contact the National Manager.


  • Orders

    Daltons Potting Mix

    Schools receive equipment to maintain the efficient functioning of their Plant Growing Unit or Shade House. Also provided as part of the programme are supplies required to grow the plants to the planting out stage.

    Equipment provided includes an irrigation system and Pope water timer, wire baskets to hold the root trainers and crates to hold the potted up plants upright. Supplies include root trainers, PB3/4 plastic potting bags, Nitrosol fertiliser and Daltons Premium Potting Mix.

    On becoming a Trees for Survival school all the equipment required will be supplied but over time due to wear and tear these items can be replaced. Any replacements should be discussed with the National Manager first.

    Trees for Survival schools are served from distribution centres in Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Wellington.

    Orders can be completed as follows:

    • If you require your Plant Growing Unit to be maintained, please discuss with your local Field Officer or the National Manager.
    • If you require supplies such as potting mix, root trainers, plastic bags, fertiliser or Nitrosol fertiliser please email an Order Form. The Order Form applies to all regions.

    Points to note:

    1. If you have any queries about seedling supply please consult with your Field Officer or Regional Coordinator in the first instance.
    2. Trees for Survival teachers should ensure that equipment and supplies at their school are sufficient for their needs. Please keep a supplies register.

  • Teacher Resources

    Apply to become a Trees for Survival school

    Resources available to teachers involved in the Trees for Survival (TfS) programme fall into the following categories

    1. Teacher guide and classroom support material which is made available free of charge to TfS schools as either the Primary School Resource (suitable for Intermediate Schools) and the Secondary School Resource.
    2. Materials produced by TfS as useful resources for implementing the programme. Read more about these >>
    3. Information about native plants.
    4. Website links containing ideas for use in the classroom or links to sites containing useful background material.
    5. Teacher Tips

  • Resources