Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Biodynamic prep at Glendhu Bay

My friend Su Hoskins has recently started doing some work for John McRae out at Gelndhu Bay Station. I'm a big fan of both of these people and really support what they are doing in our town in terms of organic growing. Su asked if I would like to take the Wanaka Young Change Makers down to Johns place to learn about the biodynamic prep she is making and applying to his land. How could we say no?

After what seemed an age we eventually managed to leave a warm and dryish town only to drive down the road into what looked like a pretty thick purple rain cloud. Thankfully the rain bated.

Su did an amazing job of explaining to us about how you use a combination of poo, plants, water, cow horns and human energy to make this liquid inoculent. What really stuck in my head was her description of why weeds appear. She explained that when a plant grows it is the lands way of providing the nutrients it needs. After the plant has died it will compost into the ground adding the nutrients within it back into the soil. What these preps do is speed up this process a little. Soil it seems is not only amazing, but also very clever.

We helped stir the prep, a very important part of the process to develop the right constituency. Once it was right we applied it to the land in two different ways.

Throughout the afternoon Su and Si had been plating potatoes and armed with buckets full of the inoculent we threw it all over the potato patch. Once this was done we refilled the buckets, found a brush and took a walk around the paddock. The process was pretty simple, dip the brush into the liquid then with a flick of the wrist distribute it around the paddock.

We had a ball, thank you so much Su and John for making this happen for us!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Waste Audit at MAC

The Regeneration Otago Quaranteen Island weekend inspired Meg & Violet to start plans to get some kind of level upon their school recycling system. One of the actions that came out of producing these plans was to do a waste audit at school. We needed some data about what exactly Mount Aspiring College were throwing away before we could design a system to direct it to the best stream and then reducing it.

Megan has done a fantastic job of motivating Luke, Rob and Jarrod into helping out with the waste audit which we did after school. Massive props to you all, it's one of the stinky jobs and it's real impressive to see you all step up to get it done in your own time.

We had a conversation with the property manager the week before and found out that we could easily get access to a weeks worth of waste on a Thursday. The blue bags come from classrooms and the black bags are from communal areas and bins outside.

I brought along a stack of crates with labels to sort the waste into, a tarp, some scales and most importantly a box of latex gloves. With everything we needed it was time to empty the waste, bag by bag onto the tarp and get measuring.

The thing that struck me was the amount of plastic bags that were being used. Inside each of these blue bags could be up to 8 other blue bags. I'm not so much a fan of plastic bags as it is, so this seemed something that we needed to get on top of. How could a collection system change to stop the use of literally hundreds of plastic bags every month??? I'm sure it won't be that hard.

I was expecting lots and lots of food and paper. I certainly got what I expected. Again, all this requires is the correct easy to use and collect system in place to ensure this waste goes to the appropriate stream. It looks like we need a pretty big worm farm / bokashi / compost system. Or in fact we could just finish the food we bring to school rather than throw it all away.

There were a lot of food wrappers, although they are light and take up relatively little volume it is still a significant problem. It seems that MAC is like most other communities in NZ, they love their pies.....mind you, so do I. When you see the empty pie wrappers on mass it really shows you what a problem it is. Does a pie really have to come in a plastic wrapper? I'm not sure it does. I always thought the point of the pastry was to be a wrapper of some sorts.

We noticed the issue of having all the waste muddled up together. The food scraps had contaminated everything else in the bags. It was certainly yuck, and so easily avoidable. The bag of dog poo, and it was a massive bag, that Kim found was certainly the most yuck thing I've experienced for a long while. It also didn't really fit into what I expected to find in the school bins.

A small ish pile of 'oh my god I can't believe they threw that away' started to accumulate. A full can of coke, unopened instant noodles, a bunch of bananas, some badminton rackets, a football......I'm sure there was a reason why they got biffed but perhaps we could encourage that they were biffed in a more productive reusable way?

Something we also have to remember is that Wastebusters collected on wheelie bin (240l) of paper and a wool sack of cardboard (480l) from MAC this week. So it's happening in some places, we just need to get the same thing happening everywhere.

Next steps? Meg and the rest of the crew will be analysing the figures and will have details of what's to follow soon.

Whoop whoop, amazing work from these young change makers!

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Outlook for Someday

Wanaka Young Change Makers have been making a short film to enter in the Outlook for Someday film challenge this year.

We've spent the last few Tuesday sessions at the Crib working on this as well as Megan's MAC waste audit. Last night filming was done! It's gonna be SICK!!!!!!

Monday, July 5, 2010

What happens when you get all the Enviroschools together in one place?

Aside from lots and lots of work, it tends to go a little crazy. On the first night of our Wellington national hui the Wellington Team put together an amazing skit / play / thing?????? Who knows what to call it, but it certainly was fun.

Roles were swapped and the story was told of one facilitators plans for a student hui casued himself and his new girlfriend a fair amount of stress on evening.

Listening to the story I couldn't help but draw connections between Charles' hui and the one we had at Rippon. Thankfully the atua were smiling down upon us and granted good weather for the day.

This was a really great way to illustrate how the facilitators and rc's work together, even more fitting running along side the eco-system activity we'd all taken part in during the day where we investigated what the facilitators, rc's and national team all needed from each other in order to create the most amazing ecosystem for us to all live in.

And what better way to end a show than with a gigantic organic people powered machine......wooo hooo!

Raumati South Kindergarten

If anyone tries to tell you that you can't do EfS with kindergarten aged children, tell then to check out Raumati South Kindergarten. Their place is AMAZING! One of the first things you notice are the incredible grounds. There is evidence of reuse everywhere. Which ever way you turn then you'll find some food growing, even at the start of winter. They even have their own aviary, how cool is that?

Inside the walls are plastered with truly inspirational work by the children. You can find out about how Maui tamed the sun. What is and isn't important when you are making houses. Some uber cool water experiments and heaps more.

The staff and students love being part of Enviroschools and haver certainly embraced it into their kaupapa. Well done Raumati South Kindergarten!!!!!

Muritai School - Petone, Wellington

The day before the Enviroschools National Hui for 2010 I went on a tour of some of the local schools. First stop was Muritai School in Petone.

We were welcomed onto the school with an amazing powhiri and listened to some very empowered students talk about their Enviroschools journey. Being seated in the green room, a class room block that has a focus on sustainability, was also really inspirational. At the back of the room you can see the control box for their PVC's that are on t he roof and information about how they are hooked into the Schoolgen programme from Genesis energy, the excess energy they generate goes back into the grid and they can claim it back when they need it. Awesome!

Muritai school is up to year 8 and it is mostly the year 7 and 8's that act as leaders in their enviroschools work. But don't go thinking it is just them that do the work. They have a fantastic buddy system that puts the senior students with younger students, acting as mentors, advisor's and general inspirational young people.

I'm uploading the pictures as large as possible, so if you want to read the displays click on the image and it will hopefully open large enough to be able to read.......If you want to find out more about the ES work being done at Muritai visit their Enviroschool's blog page, it's mean burgers!

Edible Gardens with QPS Seniors

Miss Reed, ex Glenorchy now QPS, asked me to work with a crew of her senior students to help them with their edible gardening inquiry. As seems to happen so often in school it is really hard to get someone to help out doing these things, which makes my job super rad because I can go in and help them out.There are 9 of them in the group and as you can see the other six were busy doing other things. Another thing that happens so often in school, so many things to do, so many things to learn, how do you choose?

We'd already had one afternoon session where we checked out the area that it may go, plus the results of  their inquiry that they'd already done. The principal and property manager were asked about locations and garden types. The location confirmed and then the frame purchased, a very nice kit set from Placemakers.

With the kit set on site it was time for four of us to level the ground and assemble. Even though it's an easy kit set, it still takes time to figure it out. Good job everyone.

Next step, compost!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Central Otago Enviroschools Workshop - June 2010

With the success of the Central Otago Hui under my belt I felt it was time to step up and run the yearly Central workshop too. As usual I was nervous as, I wasn't sure if my programme was going to hit the spot, but thanks to some amazing help I think we got there.

The main subject was action planning. We've been doing things the Enviroschools way in Central for the last 3 years and I thought it was about time to focus a teacher workshop on planning the action. Fresh from the action competence workshops at the national hui the week before I was more inspired than ever.

To try to put things in context I chose the 5% Edible project to act as an example project. If you've been fortunate enough to avoid me prattling on about this submission I've made with some other cool people to our council, you can read all about it here.

After some introductions to new faces and contacts, we got stuck into the work.

We tried something new for the Central crew. Top of the mind. What exactly were you thinking about when you walked in the door, doesn't have to be enviroschools based at all, we're just nosey buggers and want to know what it is that you're all thinking about. And the top three are;

  • Reports! That was the topic of the day for sure
  • A feeling like we've done heaps but are now stuck in a little rut, how do we get out of it?
  • New schools and new staff, how do we manage the transition?

Jinty ran an awesome session on linking the global issue of climate change to local projects / issues. Splitting into 5 groups, each group was assigned one of the enviroschools' theme areas. The task was to brainstorm how climate change becomes apparent locally within our theme area. Below are the results. I've uploaded these pics as massive versions, so click on the image to see it full size so you can have a good read.

As we all know the Action Learning Cycle is central to any Enviroschools action project. I've seen it heaps, loved seeing the new blank version but how much have I actually applied it to real life projects? A little but not enough. This is one of the reasons I chose 5% Edible as an example project. As part of me presenting the idea to council I wanted to have a better idea of how the project could develop, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to do one piece of work to fulfil multiple outcomes, that's all good in my book. After describing the project as briefly as possible I worked through the custom ALC I made for 5%.

I also wanted to reintroduce the 5 guiding principals of Enviroschools. If we are to carry out a sustianable action then we should have elements of each of these within the project. Therefore it seemd like the perfect opportuntiy to pull my planning apart and find how each guiding principal is supported within 5% Edible.

After we had some extremely strong coffee, great bread, muffins and dips it was time to get back into it again. Familiar with the theme areas, guiding principles and the ALC it was time to introduce some scenarios. We have 5, one for each theme area. The task now was to look at the scenario and use the tools we've learnt to put together a plan for an action project that could solve the scenario.

Living Landscapes 
A fruit tree near school is overflowing with fruit. The children have noticed that it is a waste having the fruit lying around. It is on public land. What could you do in term 2 to turn this situation into a community action project?

 Water for Life
It has been reported in the local paper that water usage in your community is extremely high. The council is currently looking at installing water meters using cost as a deterrent to using water. This has been discussed with the students as part of their daily news and they believe that they can help reduce their communities water usage.

 Precious Energy
The recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has really brought the issue of oil dependant travel to the students attention. Many of them come to school in their parents cars with a number of the seats empty. They would like to reduce their dependency upon oil based transport but feel it would be so much easier if we could all have a go together, not just for getting to and from school but for all of our short journeys around town.

Ecological Buildings
As part of the new community garden project it has been identified that there is a need for a potting shed. One of your students has been looking at the price of buying one from the local hardware store and believes that they could do a deal with the community gardens to design and build a shed using materials from the local recycling center. The difference in cost will be given to the schools sustainability fund by the community garden.

Zero Waste
After learning about recycling in class your students have identified disposable coffee cups as a problem. They now know that these cups aren’t recyclable as paper or cardboard yet that is where the majority of them end up, causing problems for the local recyclers. They would very much like to tackle this issue and work towards having a disposable coffee cup free town. 

We closed off the afternoons mahi with a session about getting ourselves out of the rut and sharing a few ideas of projects that have been successful in school. 

There was discussion about integrating ES work into more of the other school life. Jenny and Jinty have a document linking the DARE programme and ES for instance. Have you considered learning assemblies where you invite parents along to find out more and want to become involved in action projects.

Glenorchy have had a great success in sending some of their students to community board meetings, what an amazing learning experience that would have been for them.

One great suggestion was to use blogs. I'm 100% into this and also understand the commitment that is needed to keep them going. I think it's worth it and we can start to use the technology we have available to us for free. Perhaps we should cover this more in our next workshop?

As everyone in with enviroschools knows we like to have a process of reflection at the end of everything we're doing, sometimes we have a few in the middle too, just to check we are on track. One of my favourites is the H form. Draw a rugby post on a piece of paper, the cross bar is an overall indicator of how good the event was, above the posts some popcorned ideas about the workshop, to the left the things you don't like and to the right the stuff you loved. Beneath the cross bar all the things you'd like to see happen next time round.

The scoring was extremely favourable with the average being in the 7 -8 out of 10 region, so I reckon we did get the content right. 

Next time we'll keep the introduce yourself session a little shorter and perhaps we can see if we can host the event not in the middle of report writing.

The next workshop should also be accompanied by a tour of the host school. This is making me wonder if you would like another workshop held in mid to late term 4 this year. I doubt I'd be able to get any teacher relief funding for it, but if you were willing to come for free I've a feeling it could be arranged, just please email me and let me know you are keen for it. It would also be useful to know any summer camp dates as early as possible so we can avoid that extra stress.

The activities were very popular, but next time we need more case studies. Do you have time to write one? Would you like some help writing it? Do you want me to write all of it for you? Case studies are really useful not just for us here in Central but also to show the rest of the country and world the fine work we are doing here.

In a nutshell, I think I've covered everything. I'd like to say thank you to everyone who came and made this such a success. Seeing everyone get into the work, network and share their success and failure stories made for an amazing afternoon.

Term 4 next one???? Let me know.......