Climate Action Campus, Ōtautahi - Shifting young people’s sense of climate anxiety to climate hope
One of the biggest mitigators against climate anxiety is to take action.
Climate Action Campus, Ōtautahi recently shared their kaupapa in a panel discussion for Ōtautahi Learning Days 2023, an Ako Ōtautahi Learning City Christchurch festival.
Read on to uncover the grounds of hope this learner-centred community action campus brings our young people.
How are young people being impacted by climate change?
Grow Waitaha’s report, Climate Anxiety and Young People - Supporting Coping and Resilience, shared the findings of a study of 10,000 young people: “45% of young people indicated that their feelings about climate change affected their daily life and functioning, indicating a significant impact on overall wellbeing”.
The Office for Climate Education (2022) suggests strengthening connections to nature and the outdoors to ease climate anxiety – it can be therapeutic and improve wellbeing.
Grow Waitaha’s climate action infographics support whānau, caregivers, kaiako, and school leaders with top tips to channel climate anxiety into action. These include individual actions such as composting and recycling, and more visible community-based actions such as activism, protest, and engaging in local politics.
Wilkinson & Wray (2021) suggest that people cannot focus on action alone to alleviate anxiety. Resources and support are vital, including building community. The Climate Action Campus has created a community for 5–18 year-olds with more than 8 different schools learning at the campus.
A group of anxious learners from Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery recently spent a whole week at the Climate Action Campus and now return regularly for one day a week.
“[We foster] creativity in their thinking [and they] feel empowered in some way that what they do will make a difference.”
Rachel Cummins, Climate Action Campus, Ōtautahi
Taking action gives them hope.
“As long as they feel like there is something they can do, it’s not so overwhelming”.
Rachel Cummins, Climate Action Campus, Ōtautahi
Focussing on the local environment and local initiatives engage young people in climate action as it makes the problem, and solutions, more tangible.
What is the whakapapa of the Climate Action Campus?
Spearheaded by former Mayor of Ōtautahi (1989–1998) Vicki Buck, the first climate action campus in Aotearoa was set up in 2020.
Passionate about young people, the climate, and climate education, Vicki negotiated with Toitū Te Whenua | Land Information New Zealand and Christchurch City Council to lease 4.5 acres of red-zoned land.
Coralanne Child from the Ministry of Education agreed that Ao Tawhiti Unlimited Discovery would be the lead school managing the campus on behalf of the collaboration. Coralanne was really supportive and identified the former Avonside Girls’ High School site as a dedicated climate education campus for the collaboration. The site is also currently shared with Te Aratai College Technology Centre.
This has sown the seeds for other schools to engage in climate education.
How do you acknowledge mātauranga Māori?
We don’t just grab whatever seeds we can get our hands on, throw them around willy-nilly, and hope for the best. We need to understand the soil for a healthy garden.
The Climate Action Campus is committed to honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi and mana whenua. It has learned about the whakapapa of the Ōtākaro/Avon River to establish a strong relationship between the campus and the whenua it sits on.
Guided by Matapopore, the Climate Action Campus cultivates growth and regeneration in everything they do.
The flora, fauna, and manu/birds specific to the area are incorporated into their design. Karakia and waiata support learners to be present and alert to the climate, preparing learners for a planting or harvesting task.
What does a day at the campus look like?
No day is the same at the Climate Action Campus. That’s because the learners lead the learning.
The Climate Action Campus is certainly reaping what they sow; learners' recent learning days included a fire festival, planting for the tūī corridor, and a lot of chicken love!
Learners recently held a fire festival, combining literacy with food foraging and wood foraging for the fire pit. The day ended with a celebration for the community.
More than thirty Year 5–6 students from Ao Tawhiti spent a day at the campus planting trees alongside Meridian to support the tūī corridor.
Learners verified under the Ongoing Resourcing Scheme (ORS) recently visited the campus, spending a lot of time with the chickens. They had never been up close to chickens before. They also harvested kai from the gardens, using the kai to make and enjoy soup.
Reconnecting young people with nature and the outside world produces a bountiful harvest.
The Climate Action Campus:
- works with schools and their communities, and interested children and young people groups
- connects with the national and local school curriculum
- partners with relevant providers and experts
- provides place-based opportunities to learn and act
- supports learners to take their experiences back to their school, where they can extend their ideas, and encourage climate change understanding and resilience in their wider community
- visits schools and engages learners before they attend the campus for a topic-based unit of mahi and exploration, followed up by a kōrerorero back at their kura to reflect on their workings.
The Climate Action Fund supports students who have an idea/passion/project that takes action against climate change. The first successful applicant was School Strike 4 Climate.
Who is on the team?
Rachel Cummins – full-time Learning Advisor. With over 25 years of experience in education, Rachel came to CAC from Lyttelton Primary School. She has taught in Auckland, Wanaka, The Catlins, Vanuatu and Tonga. She enjoys engaging with ākonga and kura who collaborate with CAC as well as whānau and community groups interested in taking action with the climate crisis.
Catherine Leeper – part-time Learning Advisor. Catherine is a secondary school educator passionate about many aspects of climate-related art, cooking, gardening, and aligning NCEA credits with the mahi at CAC. She enjoys facilitating both kura groups and individual students, from early childhood right through to secondary age, to be creative on campus.
Sian Carvell – part-time Learning Advisor. Also with over 25 years of education experience, Sian has worked within the climate change education sector for over five years. Alongside climate change learning, she has supported low-lying schools on coastal hazards, sea level rise and adaptation. She also has a keen interest and experience in supporting children and young people’s right to be heard on all issues related to climate change.
Sandi Bobkova – horticulturalist and educator. Sandi teaches all aspects related to gardening, soil, planting, harvesting, seed bombs, mulching and much more. Sandi is passionate about food sovereignty and regenerative agriculture.
Harry (Harriet) Baitz – horticulturalist and educator. Harry works part-time at the campus and is passionate about youth advocacy and encouraging young people to become engaged in horticulture and nature.
Kat Jer – resident bee-keeper. Kat runs Clever Little Bees which combines her two passions, teaching and beekeeping.
Niki Stephenson – Director. An educator with over 25 years of experience, Niki has taught in Thailand, the UK, Spain and Ōtautahi. She has been in Aotearoa for 15 years and is passionate about students following their passions. As well as looking after the campus, Niki is Deputy Director at Ao Tawhiti, the lead school for the campus.
Climate Action Campus, Ōtautahi also works in partnership and/or in collaboration with Learning Through Action Christchurch City Council, Orchards in Schools, and Te Waka Unua (kaitiaki of the orchard).
It’s 2040. In your wildest dreams, what do you hope is happening?
“It’s humming, [there’s] native planting, food for Africa, and students are running the show.”
Rachel Cummins, Learning Advisory Climate Action Campus, Ōtautahi
“Lots of action and innovation, food security, producing food, a community hub that people can go to if things go wrong...a community energy hub so people can access energy from the solar panels at CAC.”
Niki Stephenson, Director of Climate Action Campus, Ōtautahi
“Learning is a lot more fluid, and the timetable doesn’t have to be a barrier [to learning at the climate action campus] if we change the way we do things.”
Cheryl Doig, Chair of Climate Action Campus, Ōtautahi
In the near future, CAC plans to:
- participate more in global, national, and local decision-making, planning and action
- a collaborative student council involving passionate students from all over Ōtautahi
- run a hub for student networking, giving them opportunities to work together across the region on climate action goals.
How you can take action
Contact the Climate Action Campus for special learning opportunities in:
- harvesting and cooking kai
- putting on a suit and becoming a beekeeper (gumboots a must)
- learning about food forests
- creating art with an environmental message
- writing letters, poems and so on to decision-makers about the urgency to act and the importance of children’s participation
- climate education
- and much, much more!
- https://www.facebook.com/ClimateActionCampus Contact the Climate Action Campus via Facebook. A website is in progress, coming soon!
- Tūī Corridor Project | Christchurch Foundation Tūī corridor - Bringing the tūī back to Central Christchurch.
- Red Zone | Christchurch
- Advocating for the Ōtākaro Avon River & Red Zone http://avonotakaronetwork.org/
- Project Early
- Clever Little Bees in Christchurch offers hands-on apiculture courses for children and adults, taught by a trained teacher and beekeeper.
- Kia Kotahi Ako
- Learning Through Action: Christchurch City Council
- Orchards in Schools - Canterbury Horticultural Society
- GW Saving the longfin tuna
- Grow Waitaha Climate Anxiety top tips for whānau and caregivers infographic
- Grow Waitaha Climate Anxiety top tips for kaiako and school leaders infographic
- Grow Waitaha Climate Anxiety and Young People report | Supporting coping and resilience
- From Tokenistic to Authentic Inclusion cheat sheet