The environment is something our school and wider community values very highly. Our students are very lucky to enjoy such closeness to nature.
The school has made a point of developing our children’s appreciation of their local environment. Thanks in large part to the effort and commitment of our teaching staff the school is both an Enviroschool and a Schoolgen school.
Teacher Jill Holmstead coordinates these two programmes. Please don’t hesitate to contact her if this is an area of interest.
The purpose of the Enviroschools initiative is to create a generation of people who instinctively think and act sustainably. Our next goal is to achieve silver Enviroschool status.
Some of the initiatives that have helped Houghton Valley School maintain an Enviroschools Bronze status include:
- Rainforest – from 2004 the annual planting of trees from the WCC nursery and ‘Paper for Trees’ has changed the neighbouring land. New students plant their own tree with our Caretaker Dave McArthur. Dave organises tree orders and help from volunteers to clear the invasive blackberry. The ‘outdoor classroom’ is a relaxing place to visit and the tracks are popular for the southern zone schools cross country running.
- Worms – from 2004 – recycled tyres were the first home for worms using our food scraps and we have newer model ‘hungry bins’
- Compost – from 2004 – food scraps, paper tissues, weeds and mulch go in layers into the compost bins. Pests can be a problem so we have some new ways to reduce this happening.
- Butterfly garden – from 2008 – our youngest students enjoy weeding and planting flowers to bring in the butterflies. In summer the watering and keeping a supply of swan plants is a challenge as we watch the amazing changes of the Monarchs.
- Vegetable garden – from 2010 – on a sunny bank we are learning to grow our own vegetables and small fruits. Preparing the soil by adding compost, digging in weeds or adding them to the compost is a regular activity. Deciding on recipes and cooking the harvest is always fun. The nearby Community Garden inspires us and we are lucky to be given seedlings from time to time.
- Chicken farming – begun as chicken raising with one class, the children could not part with the hens and now we are chicken farmers. The eggs are sold to help with the feed costs and we gain manure for the gardens and lovely pets to feed.
- Lizard garden – created with help from Wellington Zoo ‘Bush Builders’ the garden is next to the rainforest. We have a weta motel to trial once we decide on a suitable place for it.
- Paper recycling and reducing waste – Senior classes collect paper from all classes in exchange for trees with ‘Paper for Trees’. Food scraps go into buckets and can be sorted into worm farms, compost bins, and a little is kept for the chickens.
- ‘Experiencing Marine Reserves’ – the senior students visit the nearby Taputeranga Marine Reserve to learn how this helps many species of sealife. After the students learn to snorkel and they help survey the different groups along a transect line.
- Wider community involvement – We invite people to talk about other ways to help the environment e.g. ‘Sustainable Coastlines’ have made presentations and lead clean-ups in our school, reducing rubbish getting into the sea. The ‘Southcoast Beaches Cleanup’ is an annual event that we support in Houghton Bay, this year with help from a record number of families. In 2014 we helped WCC and weavers from Whitireia, with dune planting Pingao at Lyall Bay to help against storm erosion.
- We are supporting the local community interest in ‘Lifting the Creek’ in Houghton Valley to harvest water run-off at ground level instead of seeping through the old landfill into the bay. We also support fund raising for people in need further away such as the Christchurch & Nepal Earthquakes.
- School Community as Whanau Group – The school uses whanau groups so our older students support the younger students for challenges and special event days. Our students gain confidence in problem solving during lunchtimes with help of ‘Peer Mediators’. Our senior students help with ‘Road Patrol’ so that students can enjoy walking and crossing to school safely.
- Parent and Community Support – We are thankful for parents helping our students with many trips and activities promoting our sustainable environment and good health. Many parents help senior students create ‘Healthy Burgers’ in Terms 2 & 3 on Fridays. Others attend working bees to make running repairs and improvements to the school grounds, sandpit and maintain the forest areas. Parents skills as story-tellers, musicians, builders, artists, sports coaches, cooks and making crafts are appreciated in class discovery times, school productions, after school and are much valued members of our sustainable community.
In 2015 Houghton Valley School became a ‘Schoolgen school’. The school was supported by Genesis Energy and Wellington City Council to install solar panels. The board took advantage of the opportunity to make a little more investment and double the number of panels that were installed. Long term this will save the school money, and it’s great for the environment.
Click here to find out exactly how much energy the school has been generating and how much less CO2 the school has used as a result. This is a great thing to monitor and discuss with your child.