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On Friday 15th March, prior to the tragic events of Christchurch, thousands of New Zealand school students participated in the global School Strike 4 Climate.

Here, in this special edition of our newsletter we would like to honour the energy, commitment and passion that went into the events held across Te Upoko o te Ika a Māui.  

We would also like to highlight for teachers and principals the learning and leadership opportunities that this movement presents for students as they engage with an issue that matters to them. Such significant real world learning contexts are at the heart of the Enviroschools Kaupapa and the New Zealand Curriculum.

Ka mau te wehi ngā rangatahi o Aotearoa!

Thousands of young people in this region showed they care about climate change by participating in rallies in Wellington City, Kāpiti, Lower Hutt City and Masterton.

Thousands of students and their whānau marched through Wellington City.
(Rosa Woods/Stuff)
To get a sense of the extent of the energy and passion of the young people in our region check out this video clip shared live by Wellington City Mayor Justin Lester.   Around 5000 people marched from Te Ngākau Civic Square to the Beehive calling on our leaders to do more to help make the changes that are needed to respond to climate change.

Although prior to the strikes some suggested striking was really just an opportunity for students to bunk school, we met and interacted with students who care passionately, and had thought deeply, about climate change. Many had put significant research and thought into what they had to say. Some students had forgone aspects of school life that really mattered to them in order to participate, others had dedicated hours of their time to organising meaningful events for their peers. It may have involved time off school but there was no time off from education.

17-year-old Watene Campbell of Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Mokopuna, who marched in Wellington, was quoted in the NZ herald as saying his generation would "breathe, see and feel" the effects of climate change.

"I believe every person, be that student, teacher, or elder, should have the right to fight for what they believe in - especially on such an international scale."

Wairarapa students shared some of the things we can do as a nation to address climate change.
Gemma Bennion (14) Hutt Valley High School, spoke at the Lower Hutt Strike event.

"The science says that we need to be most of the way to zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.  That's when I am 25. So by that time there has to be a significant change. There can't be petrol cars.  Air travel has to be a rare thing. All our transport has to be electric and powered by renewable energy. So as someone who looks forward to being 25, can we do this together?  Can we do it for my little sister?" 
These students from Sacred Heart College of Lower Hutt are aware that our actions here in Aotearoa will impact people around the world, including their friends and whānau in Tokelau and Kiribati.
Thorndon School students came both to learn and to express the need for urgent action around climate change.  They all thought it was important that students of all ages had the opportunity to learn and say what they think about climate change. 
At the heart of the Enviroschools Kaupapa is the principle of empowered students. The School Strike 4 Climate events were organised by young people, for young people in an outstanding example of what it means to be empowered.

The national organisers have come through the ranks of Enviroschools. Sophie Handford was part of the Kāpiti College Enviroschools Eco Action group since 2015 and Head Girl in 2018 and Raven Maeder was the 2015 Head Girl at Nelson College for Girls where she started the school's environmental group.  These young women have:

  • spoken articulately multiple times on national television and radio,
  • motivated and supported organisers across the country to run events by setting up the Schoool Strike 4 Climate NZ website and facebook page
  • made available resources and information for student leaders wanting to facilitate climate action across Aotearoa
  • participated in a panel discussion with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister for Climate Change James Shaw, securing a future meeting with the PM later this month to update them on progress being made to safeguard our future. 
University student Isla Day who spearheaded the phenomenally successful Wellington march has also come through the ranks of the Kāpiti College Eco Action Group.  She says young people can not wait until they are older to take action on climate change.

"We need to take more action on climate change now and a lot of that action is not going to come from trying to use the train rather than driving your car. We need to drive systematic change."  
Carys Gibbs and Belle Willemstein took the initiative to run an event in Masterton with only one week to prepare.  Within that week they:
  • organised multiple speakers, sound equipment, and a student photographer
  • set up a facebook page, and 
  • attracted hundreds of students to participate in the Masterton Strike.

Eulie Norton (8!!!) and Marcus Wong (15) organised around 30 students and supporters to march to  the Hutt City Council.  Children and students spoke of their concerns and the action required, and signed a letter to present to the Council.  The Mayor and councillors present shared what the Council was already doing.  Since then, some of the councillors have been engaging in further debate about what real action by the Council looks like.

Kāpiti College Head Girl Francesca Griggs and Paraparaumu College Community Captain Maha Fier worked together with Eco Action stalwart Bree Renwick to bring people together outside Kāpiti Coast District Council buildings.

The strike organisers not only provided outstanding examples of empowered young people themselves, they also empowered many other young people to express themselves and have their voices heard in a wide range of ways, eg:

- conversations at the events,
- placards,
- chanting and making public speeches, or
- simply participating.
South End School students share with the community why they have chosen to attend the strike.

Zoe Carew (8) and Ida McFarlane (8) from Belmont School heard about the Schools Strike 4 Climate and approached their teacher and principal to take part.  The principal was supportive of the students using this as an opportunity to learn about climate change and to bring their learning back to the school. Through the process students discovered there are limited up to date books for children about climate change in libraries. They spoke at the Lower Hutt Strike event:

"We think that everyone in Aotearoa needs to work together to fix climate change.

Our Principal asked us what we will do.

Here’s what I (Zoe) will do: I go on a Walking School Bus, and will talk to my class about climate change.

Here’s what I (Ida) will do: I will turn off lights when I leave a room, and I will start a worm farm.

Please decide what you will together we can succeed.

Mā te mahi tahi, ka piki kotuku

Although led by young people, and with the voices of young people at their core, the strikes were not only for young people and drew support from across generations as parents and the wider community joined the students to rally for a better future. 
Donna Awatere Huata, Maori Climate Commissioner, has been a staunch advocate.  In her media release she claimed that  'Everyone who loves their children should march with students this Friday against climate change'. 
On-going inter-generational relationships have been forged  as a result of these strikes. In Masterton, the students have organised follow up meetings, inviting adults they met at the strike event to participate wit them.

An issue that galvanises young people in this way provides a prime opportunity for learning.  You will have seen some of these in the above stories. Read on for more!
The community radio station crew from Paekākāriki School interviewed the Head Girl of Kāpiti College about climate change.
Students showed real creativity in coming up with ways to express their climate change messages.
This School Strike 4 Climate padlet contains some teaching and learning ideas to use with students as well as background to the strike. 
At Enviroschools we believe strongly in the abilities of young people to create the changes needed in our world.   We hope that the School Strike 4 Climate events catalyse additional learning and action in schools, in communities and at the policy level to respond positively to the challenges of Climate Change.

Ki ngā rangatahi o tēnei rohe, kia manawanui!
Nā te whānau o Enviroschools te Upoko o te Ika a Māui
Thank you to the following partners for their ongoing support of the young people in 
Te Upoko o te Ika a Māui / The Wellington Region through
the Enviroschools Programme
Copyright © 2019 Enviroschools Wellington Te Upoko o te Ika a Māui, All rights reserved.
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