Weta homes and ladybird motels are just some of the things you’ll find in the new outdoor classroom at Nelson Central School. With the help of teachers and the Nelson community, the students transformed an unused area into a sensory outdoor learning space.

The area features a sound wall built using recycled materials as musical instruments, a section dedicated to textures that the children can enjoy with their bare feet and jumping posts for balance and motor skills, as well as a giant hammock for relaxation. The space is surrounded in native shrubs, an edible garden and bird houses.

Nelson Central School was one of many primary and intermediate schools around the country to embark on a TREEmendous makeover, an initiative driven by the Mazda Foundation and Project Crimson to encourage children to think about sustainability and their environment. The school was selected as one of the winners from 2016 becoming a TREEmendous School last year.

Now Mazda is looking to grow the number of TREEmendous Schools, with $10,000 ready to give away to the winning primary or intermediate schools. By the end of 2018 there will be 44 TREEmendous Schools around New Zealand – and Mazda is on the lookout for more.

Entries are now open. Schools just need to get creative and complete the Stage 1 Application Form. They can submit as a class project through a short essay of around 500 words, a picture storyboard, or even make a short video saying why their school should be chosen.  A teacher or principal or parent can also enter and write to say why we should select their school.

Ten schools will then be selected to submit more information.  Four will then win $10,000 and become a TREEmendous School the following year and six will receive a $500 grant from Mazda to spend however they wish.

The TREEmendous team with pupils, teachers and parents at Nelson Central School

Mazda will hold a TREEmendous Event at the school on a mutually agreed Saturday which will turn an area on the school grounds into an outdoor learning area and they will be recognised as a TREEmendous School.

As well as this, on the Friday before the TREEmendous Event, the pupils will hear from TREEmendous Ambassador Ruud ‘The Bugman’ Kleinpaste, and Mazda Ambassador Riley ‘The Sharkman’ Elliott. The pair will talk about the importance of bugs and marine environments, respectively, before leading a session with teachers on how environmental learning and conservation can be built into the school curriculum.

According to teacher Lynley Walters, the entertaining duo held the Nelson Central School students captivated last year.

“They had the children eating out of their hands – it was incredible!”

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