The theme was chosen through discussions last November involving Avarua Primary School principal Engia Baxter and Dr Teina Rongo, executive member of local non-government organisation (NGO), Kōrero o te `Ōrau, because climate change is a topic that is cross-cutting and can link to multiple disciplines within the school’s curriculum (maths, science, IT, social science, Maori and English, culture, etc.) for all grade levels.
“The project was developed because it was identified that climate change topics, environmental issues, and basic science knowledge specific to the Cook Islands are not incorporated into the core primary school curriculum as well as it could be, said Dr Rongo
“In addition, though climate change resources are available through various government ministries that teachers can access (eg EMCI geoportal), the challenge lies in the capacity of teachers to translate the highly technical information into teachable units and materials for the primary school level. “Therefore, there is a need to have technical expertise to help teachers in this process.”
With funding from the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme, Kōrero o te `Ōrau partnered with Avarua Primary School to pilot the development of primary school teaching units focused on climate change issues, with the support of the Cook Islands Ministry of Education and Climate Change Cook Islands of the Office of the Prime Minister.
Kōrero o te `Ōrau is providing technical support for teachers with the help of government ministries including the Cook Islands National Environment Service and the Meteorological Service, along with other NGOs such as Te Ipukarea Society.
According to Dr Rongo, who is an expert in climate change issues in the Cook Islands, this approach helps both students and teachers learn more about climate change and how it relates to various issues of concern within our country.
“When people think about climate change, the first association is to the weather. But it is so much more than this. Climate change affects culture, people’s livelihood, the economy, availability of resources, the movement of people, health and social issues, the transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next, and so forth.
“When people have a good understanding of these linkages, it will certainly help us tackle the issue of climate change in the Cook Islands.”
“Targeting our children at the primary school level is a long-term effort to educating and raising awareness on climate change and associated environmental issues. For example, planting gardens in school will connect children to their environment and foster appreciation for their natural resources over time. If carried out effectively, this appreciation will instill the correct attitude in our children that will carry forward into the future and effect good policy and community practices in managing our resources properly, which ultimately strengthens our resilience to climate change,” Dr. Rongo says.
The project includes relevant field activities complementing classroom learning to help students understand the various topics covered.
Brian and Dawn Baudinet from Stationery Supplies helped Avarua School in 2018 with a first donation of 120 large A2 pads with a value of $1,100, to assist students in using their creative minds to explore the topic of climate change. Though the Year 1 students received the donation, the art supplies will be used by the entire school at junior, intermediate, and senior levels.