By Victoria Metcalf 02/03/2016

In this guest post by Thea DePetris, a Masters student at the University of Waikato, she outlines why the world’s wicked problems demand a transformation of our teaching systems and showcases one example, the Kids Greening Taupō community restoration education programme.

The issues of the modern world aren’t getting any simpler as ‘wicked’ problems pervade our societal structure and environment.

In response, educational scholars have made a compelling case for transformation of our education system towards a 21st century approach; an approach to better prepare young people to become active and capable citizens in our increasingly complex world.

Although this is all positive theoretical stuff, the practical side of reshaping teaching and learning practice is fraught with difficulty, resulting from an array of system-wide constraints and barriers.

For someone as impatient as myself, one great leap to transformation would definitely appease, but the likelihood of this happening is pretty low. A pedagogical movement is brewing as a mass of inspiring and effective events, programmes and connections is emerging around the world, which given enough time, will lead to a “redesigned, connected and coherent learning-system” (Bolstad et al., 2012).

One such programme is the ‘Kids Greening Taupō’ conservation education initiative (Kids Greening).  In 2014, when it became time for me to find a topic for my master’s thesis within the field of environmental and sustainability education, the stars aligned as a decision was made to pilot this project in my hometown.

Greening Taupo

Kids Greening is based on a ‘collaborative community education model’ as shown in the diagram below. This term was coined by the Department of Conservation to describe programmes based on the following key components:

  • Kindergartens and schools partnering with the wider community;
  • An authentic teaching and learning opportunity;
  • A ‘students in the driver’s seat ethos; and
  • An integrated learning journey.
Kids Greening is based on a ‘collaborative community education model’.
Kids Greening is based on a ‘collaborative community education model’.

The Kids Greening initiative is based on the work of Greening Taupō, a community organisation with a mission to increase the native flora and fauna of the town for the benefit of its people, businesses and the local environment. Kids Greening provides the link between local schools and Greening Taupō, where students are actively involved with collaborative projects working towards achieving this mission.

Kids Greening in practice.
Kids Greening in practice.

The programme was born from an equal partnership between Greening Taupō, the Department of Conservation and the Tūwharetoa Māori Trust Board. This partnership is represented by the Kids Greening strategic leadership team whose role is to oversee the strategic direction of the programme, including the distribution of real money from a ‘Take Action Fund’. This ethos of students as leaders essentially puts young people into the ‘driver’s seat’ as active citizens in their own community, rather than waiting for the opportunities that come with adulthood.

Through involvement and participation in Kids Greening, students from kindergarten to Year 13 have opportunities to interact with each other as well with local industry professionals in order to create positive change within their community. Through this collaboration, the young people of Taupō are empowered to make a difference, bringing greater environmental, social, cultural and economic benefits to the town.

The Kids Greening pilot initiative commenced in October 2014 and will finish in May 2016. My research focuses on the perspectives of the stakeholders about the processes used to design and implement this initiative within Taupō as well as the resulting formative outcomes. At the conclusion of the pilot, Kids Greening will continue operating as funding for the coordinator role has been secured until 2018. In addition, the Department of Conservation will evaluate the feasibility of upscaling the collaborative community education model to other locations around the country.

The programme name says it all: Kids Greening.
The programme name says it all: Kids Greening.


Bolstad, R., Gilbert, J., McDowall, S., Bull, A., Boyd, S., & Hipkins, R. (2012). Supporting future-oriented learning & teaching – a New Zealand perspective. Ministry of Education.

Greening Taupo children in action
Greening Taupo children in action

0 Responses to “Kids Greening Taupō: A Step Towards Transformation”

  • What a great overview, Thea, and you raise some challenging stuff – the project highlights so much about what’s possible, but also reinforces so much about what we know is needed for collaborations to be successful. This project is particularly interesting in that it was community-initiated (rather than school-initiated), but it has a very strong student-driven / school-driven ethos. Having your research sitting alongside this project and informing it is another example of a positive collaboration that results in a win-win. Now what we need to work on is a learning system to capture what projects like this teach us, and ways to use this to inform future developments.