Three Candidate Teachers from EIT are excited about the possibilities in environmental education after an intense week of learning and leadership development at the renowned Blake Inspire for Teachers programme.
Talia Hōhua (Tuhoe), Te Kaiirirangi Harmer-Te Ropiha (Ngāti Kahungunu) and Mia van Dulm, who are in the third year of their Bachelor of Teaching (Primary) degree at EIT, became the first Candidate Teachers to attend the week-long course. The programme is normally attended by only qualified teachers.
Blake Inspire for Teachers, delivered by the Blake Trust, is a five-day environmental education and leadership development programme in Auckland, which the EIT students completed last month. The programme, funded by the Ministry of Education, brings together teachers who are keen to develop a deeper understanding of environmental issues and how to apply environmental education across all subjects. The Blake Trust gets its name from legendary New Zealand environmentalist and sailor, the late Sir Peter Blake.
Professor Natalie Waran, EIT’s Executive Dean, Faculty of Education, Humanities and Health Science and Professor (One Welfare), says that EIT is consciously developing their learners’ skills and confidence to deliver education in an outdoor context.
“EIT’s education programmes are distinctive in nature, and this is shown in the development of our Ōtātara Outdoor Learning Centre and how this has been embedded in the curriculum delivery. EIT is committed to growing great leaders with a strong understanding of their personal and collective responsibilities for ensuring a sustainable future.“
“The Blake Trust recognised that our Candidate Teachers were well equipped to take advantage of the opportunity to learn more and to become part of a national community of environmental educators,” Professor Waran said.
The delegates on the Blake Inspire programme were teamed with world-leading scientists, environmental leaders and experts in their fields to learn about environmental issues like climate change, freshwater quality, biodiversity and ocean health.
For Talia, environmental issues and climate change have always been an interest and have, at times, fired her up.
“I have gone on excursions with my children, but I wanted to be able to build on my knowledge to actually apply it in the classroom. That’s a whole different ball game, being able to actually know the knowledge, but how do you teach it?”
Te Kaiirirangi says going into the programme, she believed that climate change was not receiving the attention that it deserved.
“I felt that there was a lot of talk about it, but not a lot of action. But then this course showed that there is action, we just don’t always see it.”
What stood out for Te Kaiirirangi was how the three Candidate Teachers were treated on the programme.
“Even though we were students, we were treated by the leaders of the course, and the other teachers, as teachers. They didn’t talk down to us or anything like that, we were respected.”
Mia also loved the experience and says it was life changing.
“It opened my mind to so many things. I’ve always been aware of environmental issues like global warming and climate change, but I just saw this as an opportunity to get more knowledge. Not only is it something that I can bring into my classroom, it’s also professional development and can go on my CV.”
All three found the programme stimulating with a mixture of activities, from seeing how a company was going on its journey to net carbon zero, to experiencing biodiversity in Auckland’s green spaces, to debating environmental and sustainability policies at a political level.
A highlight for all three was a visit to Centennial Park, where they took freshwater samples from a stream and did various practical activities that they believe they can use in their own classrooms in the future.
Talia says there has been ongoing contact with other participants since the programme ended.
“We’ve got a Facebook page and everybody’s sharing because we had to set up an action plan of what we were going to do afterwards. So, everybody did that and now we are all watching each other’s journeys on Facebook. Which is really cool, because as students, it’s a resource.”
Dr Emily Nelson, Programme Coordinator for EIT’s Bachelor of Teaching (Primary), says she is proud of the three Candidate Teachers for getting selected for the Blake Inspire for Teachers Programme.
“We are delighted that Talia, Te Kaiirirangi and Mia were able to have this experience and in doing so enhance their own capabilities as teachers, role models and change agents as well as showcasing the talent of EIT’s Candidate Teachers and future graduates at a national level.”