'A village school in the city'

Tree Tops' Environmental Programme and Eco-Schools

Tree Tops has at its core a respect and appreciation of the Natural world, and our teaching and learning has always had a strong environmental focus.

In 2011 Tree Tops joined the Eco Schools programme as a way to further grow and extend our commitment to Environmental practises.

We ran three projects in our first year of joining Eco-Schools and, by the end of 2011, we were delighted to be given ‘Green Flag’ Status. Our ‘Green Flags’ hang proudly at the entrance to all three campuses.

Eco Schools in an international programme and is active in 51 countries. WESSA implemented Eco-Schools in South Africa in 2003 and there are now 1 200 schools registered with the programme. Being part of Eco-Schools ensures that environmental programmes are sustainable, ongoing and meaningful, rather than just ‘one-offs’.

Our environmental projects are used as valuable resources for teaching and learning, with strong links between the projects and the curriculum. Tree Tops’ teachers are fortunate enough to have wonderful ‘outdoor classrooms’ – such as our indigenous gardens or vegetable patches – for exciting lessons and activities.

Recycling

Tree Tops sees Recycling as a crucial aspect of everyday living. All glass, cans, plastic, paper and e-waste is recycled. We are constantly conscious of REDUCING, REUSING, and RECYLCING.

‘Anti-waste’ is collected each week on a Thursday where children bring in materials from home, which would otherwise be thrown away. In this way we ensure that the school Reuses.

Tree Tops is part of the 'Breadtags for Wheelchairs' programme and have set themselves the task of collecting 247 kg of plastic breadtags to sell to recyclers. This will pay for a wheelchair for one needy recipient.

We have also joined 'Collect-a-Can' whereby the children bring in food and drink cans which are sold on to recyclers. This earns revenue for the school while doing good for the environment.

All paper and plastic at school is recycled: the children, from as young as three rinse out their yoghurt tubs from snack time, and place these into recycling bins, rather than throwing them away!

We have worm farms on all three campuses and the children throw any fruit or vegetable peels into these worm ‘bins’. Rainwater tanks are installed on all campuses, close to the vegetable gardens and this water is used for the watering of the plants and vegetables.

Grey water, from the rinsing of plastic yoghurt tubs, is used for watering the vegetables.

Nature and Biodiversity – Indigenous Gardening

At Tree Tops we aim to improve our biodiversity and attract nature into our gardens. We have indigenous gardens on all three campuses and are slowly (and sensitively) replacing exotic plants with indigenous ones.

New plants are chosen to attract birds and insects and each new gardening project has the children involved in the digging, planting and watering! Silverton Campus is proud of their wonderful Albizia tree which stands proudly near the entrance to the school. A number of other Indigenous trees can be seen on all the campuses, including a lovely old Essenhout these are all identified with WESSA signs.

Children at Tree Tops are encouraged to notice nature around them and a love for creatures is actively encouraged . Special identification posters of the birds and bugs found in the Tree Tops gardens are up at each campus and children can spot those they may have seen.

Many themes and lessons about the trees, plants and creatures in our gardens are taught.

Healthy Living – Permaculture Food Gardening

Permaculutre food gardens were established at the Windmill campus with the help of trainers from the Botanic Gardens. The gardens are maintained by a gardening club, and harvest is sold on a rotational basis to parents, thus making the garden an ongoing sustainable project.

There is also a permaculture food garden in the centre of the cycle track at the Silverton campus and a charming vegetable garden at the entrance to the Bellevue campus.

Tree Tops children take great delight in watching the vegetables grow – there is always much excitement when they see that one of the plants has started to produce fruit! They are also involved in the planting, watering, weeding and general maintenance of the gardens.

Extra afternoon sessions are held where interested children are involved in various gardening projects.

Our Junior Primary children run a tree nursery – growing both fruit and indigenous trees. We are involved in a number of exciting projects such as Plant-for-the-Planet, which saw a number of our children become ambassadors for this international campaign. Tree Tops ambassadors have hosted ‘planting parties’ and given talks on Climate Change.

By being part of the Eco Schools programme and maintaining our environmental projects, we have added value to the school curriculum, and everyday experiences, of our young children. We hope to nurture their sense of wonder at the natural world and to instill in them attitudes and practises to live in an environmentally sensitive way.

In the words of the WESSA Eco-Schools Assessment Team, “It is evident that the Eco-Schools Programme has contributed significantly to sustainable management and development of Tree Tops School and the community. The school has been active in environmental learning for many years, even before joining the Eco-Schools programme. Well done! Tree Tops is such an inspirational school that we are proud to have as part of the Eco-Schools programme. Please continue to keep flying the Eco-Schools flag with such enthusiasm and grace, you are moulding wonderful little people!”