“Place based education; begin where your feet are, where you are standing. Get to know this place first and then spread out into the world.”- Professor Wally Penetito
Deirdre van der Linden, a teacher at Weymouth Primary School, is using the above quote as inspiration on her sustainability journey. After attending BLAKE Inspire for Teachers in July of 2021, her action plan was set up to try get her community and kura connected back with nature. However, when she returned home after the programme, she realised she needed to start in her own backyard before she took on the world.
“After attending BLAKE Inspire last year and seeing how passionate I was about environmental issues and environmental sustainability, the school offered me a role working three days a week leading environmental sustainability across the school. I have been very lucky with the buy in/support from senior management to be able to do what I am doing. They obviously think it is a very important issue to be investing specific education into it”
This year, Deirdre has started a series of initiatives at her school to continue their sustainability journey. As part of her role, she looks after the school garden which has two pigs and some chickens, and she takes tamariki from throughout the school through the garden. As part of their curriculum, Deirdre wants tamariki to understand the journey from garden to table. From composting, to planting of seeds, watering and maintenance of beds to finally benefiting from the produce that their hard work has created.
“Our mandarin tree was just going crazy. So, I found a mandarin cake recipe that used the whole mandarin. We had five classes over two weeks, they all made the Mandarin cake and at the end our Mandarin tree was used.”
Her other focus was tackling the schools waste management system. Being a teacher within the school, she noticed that the entire schools waste was ending up in landfill and she wanted to change that. She received sponsorship from Bunnings and used their plastic cubes to create a waste management system that separated out soft plastics, recycling, and general waste. In term two, the school diverted 13 bags (7.5 kg) of soft plastic from landfill and recycled two to three wheelie bins worth of waste.
When asked what some of her challenges have been that she has faced, her immediate response was “people”. Both in the sense of having the number of hands required to get the large amount of work done and in the sense of changing people’s mindsets to become more sustainable. For Dierdre, creating the community buy-in is important because it gives her the opportunity to share her passion and knowledge for sustainability and in the end, doing a small part in leaving a better environment.
Her next steps are to realise her original action plan in getting her community connected back with nature. To start, she wants to lead ecological surveys across the Weymouth peninsula (through marine metre squared and counting shorebird populations) and engage the community to help with these surveys. She also wants to clean up the local waterway.
“There are plans to go down and clean up our waterway that comes past the school. My own children discovered that school rubbish can get from our school to our Moana … they’ve identified it themselves, so I really want us to take ownership of that”
What Deirdre is looking forward to most though, is catching up with like-minded people and being able to see how other change makers, like herself, are improving their communities. Till then, there is still a lot to do where her feet currently are.