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Students design their own sign

By the time Makaraka School students put in their latest application for a grant from the Enviroschools Eastland Port Action Fund, they had already put a huge effort into earning it.

When students spotted a problem with the adjacent bike track that winds its way through the school grounds, they decided to use Enviroschools concepts and processes to find a solution.

“Every year we ask students to identify an issue they can address across a big range of learning opportunities,” says Makaraka’s Enviroschools lead teacher Mihi Hannah.

“In this case they noted that there was a challenging spot on the bike track that could be improved with the installation of an illuminated sign.

“They got stuck in, using their classroom work on alternative energy to work out how that could be done.”

The resulting application requested funding for a sign lit entirely by the use of solar energy.

“To articulate their idea, the students had to do a lot of inquiry across subjects from maths and science, to environmental studies and English,” she says.

To make sure they were on the right track, the students went to Mind Lab to carry out extra research, learned about solar circuitry, and designed their own prototype.

“It tied in with the work they were doing about renewable energy and they managed to turn all that thinking from theory into practice.

“They did an amazing job.”

With its fleet of 50 bikes and extensive Bikes In Schools-funded pathways, cycling is a big deal at Makaraka, so the Enviroschools sign project benefits the whole school, she says.

Not averse to jumping on a bike himself, Makaraka principal Hayden Swann says nurturing the environment with things like plantings and recycling are ideals woven into the school’s everyday practice.

“The Enviroschools concept encompasses everything from cultural identity to caring for our surroundings, so it’s very important to us,” he says.

“It helps keep our students interested and engaged, as they have context, meaning and purpose in their learning.”

Enviroschools lead teacher at Makaraka, Mihi Hannah has supported her students in researching and designing an illuminated safety sign powered entirely by solar energy. Ten-year-old cyclist Tayla Thompson whizzes past as she makes use of the cycling pathway. Picture by Brennan Thomas