Ka mihi ki a Ranginui, ki a Papatūānuku
Ka mihi ki te ngao o te wheiao
With a kaupapa of creating a healthy, peaceful, more sustainable world, Toimata Foundation supports inter-generational learning and action by running two main programmes in schools and communities:
- Te Aho Tū Roa: a programme in Te Reo Māori, working with kōhanga/puna reo, kura, wharekura and communities that embrace Māori culture, language and wisdom. It seeks to strengthen connection between people (including past, current and future generations) and from people to place
- Enviroschools: an action-based education programme run through early childhood education centres, primary and secondary schools, where young people explore and connect with their place and then plan, design and implement sustainability projects, becoming catalysts for change in their families and community.
Aspects of Toimata’s exemplary approach could guide further educational efforts to support sustainability education and action in schools, including:
Taking a holistic and empowering approach
The number of environmental issues is growing – plastic pollution, deforestation, biodiversity loss, dying rivers, climate change – all symptoms of unsustainable ways of living. This can be a depressing and immobilising situation for young people and adults alike. Focusing on a long list of complex problems to fix can bring feelings of despair and hopelessness. Toimata’s educational approach is to explore our interconnection with nature, the roots of sustainability and the abundance of human creativity. Students tackle specific issues that they see in their world from a place of connection with their community and environment, and with confidence in their own identity and abilities. Many programmes tackling specific issues – such as waste reduction, stream care and saving species – work synergistically with Enviroschools and Te Aho Tū Roa, finding fertile ground in schools, kura and communities where sustainability is being woven through the practices, physical places and curriculum.
Learning as a real-life adventure
The Punaha Akoako in Te Aho Tū Roa, and the Enviroschools Action Learning Cycle, are two tools that support learners to explore and take action together in their environment. Toimata want learners to go on an adventure – to discover how things once were; the indigenous stories and ancient wisdoms and ways of living; and the connections that people have to maunga (mountains), awa (rivers) and many other aspects of their place. They want learners to find out how things came to be the way they are now, what they want to change, and that there is no one ‘right answer’ but a multitude of solutions – some already out there and many more yet to be co-created by them.
The deep and authentic ‘education for sustainability’ happening in kura and communities reflects real world community-led action. It is people of all ages connecting and working together in nature. It is people growing and cooking healthy kai (food) and caring for each other as they restore the ecosystems that they belong to. It is people laughing together as they build structures and play experiential learning games, developing their brains and bodies, with materials from nature. It is young people coming alive to their own particular passion, and feeling confident to contribute it to their communities and the world.
“It is cool because it is not just western science, it is Māori science and it is hands-on… Our ancestors were experts in science”
Collaboration, networking and sharing
Through Te Aho Tū Roa and Enviroschools, Toimata is supporting over 1300 schools, kura, and early childhood centres – this is around 10% of early childhood centres, 40% of primary and intermediate and 25% of secondary schools. Programmes are also engaging with hundreds of whānau, hāpu, marae and communities, in both English and Māori settings. Toimata Foundation works in partnership with over 100 organisations nationally and regionally. Poutautoko (regional Te Aho Tū Roa people) support learning and action through a highly collaborative approach. Enviroschools Regional Coordinators are generally employed by Regional Councils and they support teams of Enviroschools Facilitators who are in turn supported by a range of agencies, including councils and community organisations. Toimata believe in the power of human networks, bringing people of all ages together to share and learn is an essential part and strength of these programmes.Creating sustainable, resilient communities involves bringing together many different skills, perspectives and resources. The complex environmental, social, cultural and economic challenges facing us today call for a holistic response from a range of different people and organisations working together.
Combining wisdoms, practices and technologies
Toimata believe that through combining wisdoms, practices and technologies, both ancient and new, that truly sustainable ways of living can emerge. The foundation is guided by values of aroha, manaakitanga, whanaungatanga, Te Reo Māori and restoration; building loving relationships and caring for each other and our world underpins their mahi (work). They work with founding partner Te Mauri Tau, an educational, environmental, and health organisation drawing from the wisdom and knowledge contained within traditional Māori understanding to enhance the wellbeing of the individual, whānau and community.
Educational programmes like Toimata can embed a deep connection to environment and an understanding of sustainable living in the next generation, empowering this group to protect their environment. The strong foundation created by these programmes is reflective of the understanding people need to have to address our plastics issue. There is no simple fix, rather people need to understand the complexities of our current unsustainable lifestyle and recognise the importance of protecting our environment from a range of environmental impacts. This is exactly the kind of holistic thinking we need to conquer our maunga (mountain) of plastic waste.