From our Chair: Participation through nature-based education

One of the things that I am most excited about is our Council’s recent commitment to nature-based youth education and engagement.

Chair Jenny Hughey

Jenny Hughey, Chair, Environment Canterbury

This is part of our commitment to the community under our recently adopted Long-Term Plan 2021-2031 to continue with programmes that improve Canterbury’s environment and tackle climate change for future generations.

What we're doing

In the plan, we have promised to support children and young people by providing resources to schools and early learning centres.

We have also agreed to continue developing programmes that empower young people to design and lead sustainability initiatives. This includes enabling them to engage directly with Environment Canterbury staff and Councillors as advocates for the environment.

The value of nature-based education

A nature-based education is good in itself – it gives children and young people practical knowledge that makes a real difference, and it is something they can apply beyond the school gate. It helps develop a holistic understanding of how things are ecologically connected.

A shining example of this is the highly successful Enviroschools programme, where students connect with and explore the environment, then plan, design and take action in their community.

Environment Canterbury has been coordinating the programme for more than a decade, and, with the support of partner organisations, we aim to further develop and grow this great initiative across Canterbury.

Benefits to community

The value to the student of a nature-based education is obvious, but there are benefits for society too. It cultivates a mindset that ensures environmental issues are recognised, understood, and engaged with now and into the future.

It’s no secret that Canterbury has its share of environmental challenges. By taking a nature-based approach to educating our youth, we help maintain the momentum in society for addressing issues such as rebuilding ecology, enhancing biodiversity, controlling pests, improving freshwater outcomes, and adapting to climate change.

It ensures that our youth remain invested in the issues in their adult years and pass their experience and wisdom on to their own children.

Promoting participation

Our commitment to this kind of education, as well as supporting youth voices and their engagement in participatory democracy, aligns to the social, economic, environmental and cultural interests of the region’s communities – the four well beings under the Local Government Act 2001, of which community participation is a big part.

By supporting youth and reinforcing the value of participatory decision-making and collaborative action, we help fight against an apathy that can often creep into our adult years, which can be unhelpful for getting the very best environmental outcomes for Canterbury.