Secondary Education: Inspiration and Support

Secondary Education: Inspiration and Support

Empowering rangatahi to engage with authentic learning and actions in their local community and environment.

If you're lucky enough to work with adolescents you know how complex and creative they can be, while navigating social pressures and frustration if they are underestimated by adults. As educators we have an important role to play in their lives, by modeling and nurturing respect and connection with nature, while providing them with opportunities to develop a sense of belonging and agency.

We know that the wellbeing of our rangatahi is interconnected with the wellbeing of our environment.
- Children and Nature Network research summary

This Spotlight is full of stories featuring passionate kaiako and ākonga, with the aim to celebrate and support sustainability, nature connection and climate education in Aotearoa secondary schools and wharekura. Based on our webinar held in March 2023, we have pulled together resources, case studies and environmental education providers who can support you.

Time to Listen: Rangatahi Voices

Hauora | Wellbeing in Nature
As a collaborative project with tauira from the Manaaki Tāpoi programme, the team at Whenua Iti Outdoors have created a series of simple activities and videos to share that are designed to provide a wellbeing boost for rangatahi.

Activities include: Sit spot, Koru art, Puoro | Music, Outdoor workout, Photo challenge.

Young Leaders Programme: Empowering youth action | NZAEE conference 2022 - 30 mins
Kate Laughter (Marcellin College) and David Vailala (Ōtāhuhu College) share their experience as part of Auckland Council’s Young Leaders Sustainability Programme.

Teaching and Supporting Climate Change Resilience | NZAEE webinar - 20 mins
Listen to young people from the Next Generation Conversation in Ōtautahi, reflecting on their experiences as learners and climate activists, with advice for educators.

High Tide Don't Hide | Documentary
This engaging film follows the School Strike for Climate leaders and "reveals the inner processes of teenagers mobilising record-setting numbers of children and adults…while dealing with the looming threat of climate change, interpersonal politics, and the need to just be teenagers."

The Importance of Connecting Youth with Nature | TEDx Nelson, Nate Wilbourne - 8 mins
Nate is a 14-year old who believes that by connecting youth to nature through education and inspiration, we can change the world.

Resources for Teacher Guidance

We have a range of teaching resources in our Resource Catalogue, where you can filter by Education Level to find resources relevant for ākonga in Years 9 - 10 and Years 11 - 13.

The Education Outdoors NZ website also has a wide range of resources and publications relevant for Secondary teachers, including a focus on Te Ao Māori, articles about research and case studies in the current and past issues of Te Whakatika. They also have resources to support gender equity in the outdoors and the Revisioning School Camps resource.

Here are some other key resources we recommend checking out:

Sustainability Education guidelines for Teachers,
written by Andrea Soanes and Lynnette Rogers.

This essential resource includes templates to use with students, case studies from schools and advice for integrating specific Achievement Standards.

You can also watch this recorded webinar for an overview of the guidelines from Andrea and Lyn.

In 2021 Andrea, Lyn and teacher Kate Rivers discussed the integration of Education for Sustainability standards in an NZAEE webinar: watch it here (58 mins).

TKI: Education for Sustainability curriculum resources and guidance, including an excellent diagram of a whole-school approach by Toby Morris.

Te ao tangata | Social sciences refreshed curriculum 'Progression in Action'
Yr 9 - 10 context: We are not drowning, we are fighting
How can we achieve climate justice in the Pacific? This case study is part of a broader unit exploring environmental justice and ways that groups are responding locally and internationally to address unjust impacts of environmental policies and practices.

Science Learning Hub - Mātauranga Māori resources and teacher PLD, including videos and articles. We recommend watching their webinar about Science competencies, with Rose Hipkins from NZCER.

Te Whai Toi Tangata, University of Waikato, recently held a series of webinars focused on Teaching and Learning at the interface of Mātauranga Māori and Science, with educator Stephen Ross.

Inspiring Case Studies from Schools and Kura

The content below includes short videos from the Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards (PMEEA), along with NZAEE, Enviroschools and Te Aho Tū Roa webinars and recordings. We've also included articles and websites with more information about these inspirational schools and kura.

Click on the bold titles to watch the videos or read the articles.

Spotswood College: The Designery
Inquiry, creativity and enterprise are a key part of the Impact Projects at this college. The short video below, from Taranaki Regional Council, gives a quick overview.
For more information, read this Enviroschools story or watch the full recorded webinar here.

Morrinsville College: Waikato Taniwharau programme | Finalist PMEEA 2021 - 6 mins
This cross-curricular programme centred on wellbeing connects ākonga to their river, and to iwi and hapū, with subjects focused on the natural world, and hikoi along the awatapu to the maunga.

English Curriculum for Te Taiao | NZAEE Spotlight by Nicola Easthope
Nicola is an English teacher and poet, and her article includes a range of practical examples from her time at Kāpiti College, along with ideas for embedding environmental learning within English and across learning areas.

Marlborough Girls' College: Environmental Sustainability course | Ed Gazette article
Cross-curricular (Science, Social Science) programmes at the junior and senior levels connect ākonga with their local environment and promote student-led actions, including marine, freshwater, farming and viticulture projects.

“We want these students to aspire to the Year 12/13 course, but they need to have the knowledge to apply the knowledge. You can’t just get Year 9 and 10 ākonga to plant some trees. They’ve got to understand why they are planting the trees: What’s the science behind it? Why does this area need replanting? What was it like before? They have got to understand the past and the present to go forward to the future,”
- Teacher Melynda Bentley

Te Kura Taumata o Panguru: Noho Taiao programme | Winner PMEEA 2021 - 5 mins
From mountains to sea, Panguru is collaborating with regional and national agencies to support learning in te taiao. Iwi organisations and science providers are partnering on regeneration projects in their forest and their awa.
Read more in Mātauranga Māori nurtures love of land, Education Gazette article from 2021.

This inspiring mahi has led to a wider noho taiao programme which you can learn about in this short video:

Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Ngā Mokopuna: Tihei Rimurimu | Te Aho Tū Roa - 5 mins
Immersive, place-based marine and seaweed education experiences in Te Ūpoko o te Ika, a collaboration between Te Aho Tū Roa and Mountains to Sea Wellington

Ao Tawhiti: Āhuarangi Climate Course | NZAEE webinar 2022 - 18 mins
Teachers Kate and Brent discuss this new course which incorporates Social Studies, Science and Philosophy, including NCEA assessments, with the direction led by student interest and local opportunities.

After watching the climate webinar you may be interested to learn more about the recently opened Climate Action Campus Ōtautahi, an exciting project for student-led learning.

Photo credit: Kate Rivers

Rangi Ruru: Integrated, Student-led Learning
NZAEE conference 2022 - 30 mins
Art teacher Kate Rivers and students discuss examples and processes that have enabled authentic student projects to evolve, across multiple learning areas.

Read more about sustainability initiatives at Rangi Ruru on their website here.

Kate is also part of the Eco-Action Nursery Trust, working with schools across Ōtautahi to grow and plant native trees. Read this article from Stuff to find out more about this project that empowers rangatahi to take local action.

Taitā College: Ahi Kaa
Nadine Anne Hura explores the rich place-based learning in this article on the Spinoff: Taitā College students peel back layers of postcolonial destruction.

“Ahi Kaa isn’t a class, it’s direct climate action. Students are working to change the environment, but the environment is also changing them. They’re working to liberate the natives from the pine and the pests, and at the same time, they are also being liberated. I can see it.” - Matua Hirini, Taitā College

Western Springs College | Ngā Puna O Waiōrea
A People-focused Systems Approach to Sustainability

Niki Harré and Charlotte Blythe, School of Psychology, University of Auckland, have published an article featuring Western Springs College – Ngā Puna o Waiōrea’s sustainability journey in the American Journal of Community Psychology. Read the summary here, which highlights the importance of a people-focused approach to incorporating long-term and successful sustainability initiatives in schools.

Curriculum and Assessment Updates

The curriculum refresh and review of NCEA achievement standards both offer opportunities to embed local, relevant and engaging environmental education in our programmes. We know this is a lot of work for teachers and educators who don't always have the luxury of time away from the classroom or your programmes.

Sign up here to receive email updates about curriculum support from NZAEE during Terms Three and Four, with resources and short videos to help you unpack the changes and feel inspired by other schools and kura. We will look at integrated and cross-curricular learning opportunities, along with subject specific changes to assessment and learning.

Read our Curriculum updates here:

Update #1: Te Mātaiaho and Mātauranga Māori

Update #2: Secondary Education changes (curriculum and NCEA)

Watch these videos from the Ministry of Education NCEA website highlighting the opportunities for sustainability and place-responsive learning within NCEA Level 2 subjects:

Environment and Societies (name provisional):

Outdoor Education:

Support from Providers and Programmes

Our Providers catalogue allows you to filter by region to find local support and opportunities relevant to your area.

Organisations that work specifically with secondary schools and wharekura include:

Education Outdoors NZ

Photo credit: Papa Taiao


Te Aho Tū Roa

Para Kore

Papa Taiao Earthcare

Sustainable Coastlines

Marine Metre Squared

Mountains to Sea

Love Rimurimu (Wellington)

Whitebait Connection 

Whenua Iti Outdoors

Learning Area Support: Networks of Expertise

Networks of Expertise provide professional learning, resources and support for teachers.

Education Outdoors NZ


Aotearoa Social Studies Educators' Network

NZ Association of Science Educators

Science Learning Hub

Technology Education NZ

NZ Association for the Teaching of English

Find a full list of subject-specific Networks of Expertise here.

Discussion Forums

Facebook group: Education for Sustainability - Discussion group for educators

Have we missed any resources, programmes or stories that you think we should profile in this Spotlight? Get in touch and let us know.


Thank you to Kate Rivers from Rangi Ruru for providing images to use in this article.

Main Image: Eco-Action Nursery Trust planting day in Ōtautahi Christchurch, Kate Rivers.

Thanks also to EONZ and Sophie Watson for your involvement with our Secondary Education webinar and associated resource list.