Teacher Tips 6 – New Year 2014

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Welcome back and we hope the planning for your 2014 TfS programme has begun.

At the end of last year Teacher Tips focused on your growing unit and the care of the plants in it. We hope that you have returned to a PGU full of healthy growing plants!

Here are some hints on what you and your students can do over the next month to ensure that your TfS year gets under way with a bang!

Students can sort, count, measure and care for their native plants

1. Check your plants in the school growing unit
On returning after the holiday, some of your plants may need special attention. You can involve students to:

  • Carefully remove any weeds from pots/trainers
  • Check for insect and fungal pests infestation. Teachers should guide students on how to control insect or fungal pests which may be present (see Teacher Tips 4).
  • Check also that the soil is moist throughout the pot since some plants may not have received sufficient water during the recent hot weather. The best way of doing this is to immerse the pots to the rim of the pot in a tub of water for an hour or two. This will return the soil moisture to optimum level quickly.

    Equipment should be kept clean and stored in a safe place

  • Pot on any plants which are still in root trainers

2. Check your supplies
Before beginning potting on you need to make sure you have sufficient materials to complete the task. You may need to order plastic potting bags or potting mix.

This is also a good time to make sure any school equipment used in your TfS programme is available and has not been removed or ‘lost’ over the holidays.

3.  Prepare your TfS calendar of events
Download the TfS Calendar. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to arrange a date for your planting day. Talk to your field officers and landowners to set the date. There are other key days to think about such as weeding schedules, pricking out and potting on, etc, as well as special activities for example on World Forestry Day (21 March), Earth Day (21 April) Arbor Day and World Environment Day (5 June ), Matariki (from 28 June), Conservation Week (8-15 September), Keep NZ Beautiful Week (14-20 September), World Habitat Day (6 October tbc), Rainforest Week (October tbc) or a planting day with Living Legends.

And don’t forget to plan your application for this year’s Kowhai School Awards! (See below)

4.  Count your plants in February

Plants in root trainers or pots can be counted more easily if they are sorted into rows first

Maintaining an audit of the plants in your growing unit, and after planting, is a key component of any successful restoration programme. In addition to counting the plants, it is useful to gather plant height information at the same time. This creates ideal opportunities for student involvement as they ’will gain confidence and competence in the use of numbers, and will develop the skills of measurement, construction and spatial interpretation. They will learn to collect, organise, and interpret data, to use apparatus, to generalise from patterns and relationships, and to think abstractly’. (NZ Curriculum Framework)

A good place to start is in February of the planting year, as well as when you receive your seedlings to prick out.  You can download a sample PlantCountSheet or make one of your own. As a result you will not only know how many plants you have, but also whether you will be able to meet your yearly planting target (>600-800) and also you will have information on how well they are growing. You can allocate small groups to different sections of your growing unit or allocate by plant type – the children can analyse and synthesise the material in class later.

5.  Kowhai Award
Include in your annual plan making an application for obtaining Kowhai status for your school. Obtaining Kowhai status shows that your school is achieving the aims and objectives of the TfS programme.

As a reminder
The TfS programme aims to include all three dimensions of environmental education:

  • Education IN the environment
  • Education ABOUT the environment
  • Education FOR the environment

By growing and planting native trees students will:


  • Basic horticultural skills
  • How to care for living things, in particular plants
  • To identify native trees and the role they play in the environment
  • The importance of ecological sustainability


  • The part trees play in sustaining the environment
  • The impact on the environment of:
    – Erosion
    – Stream flow and water quality
    – Biodiversity
    – Carbon emissions
  • The importance of mitigating
    –   Erosion
    –   Poor stream flow and reduced water quality
    –   Loss of biodiversity
    –   Increased carbon emissions


  • Working in the field to preserve the environment
  • The benefits of teamwork
  • Being involved with their community in environmental restoration

Applications for the Kowhai Awards will be called for in August but in the meantime teachers should make sure that they take the opportunity to gather relevant material throughout the year, and have it available to include in their school’s application.

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