Hey everyone! I’m Andrea Mertens and I represent Tauhara College. I’m the Assistant Principal here and also a science teacher.
I was brought up in Germany on a farm that has belonged to our family for around 600 years. My father always said to me when I was young, “I’ve planted these trees for you.” Nothing was done in a hurry. My ancestors’ foresight made sure that generations to come would be able to form a connection to the land too.
I strongly believe that if you make a connection to a piece of dirt or a tree or something natural, you start building an emotional bond, start caring about it but also inform your actions and opinions. What you do in life and what you do with your children will be influenced by your connection to a place. That place might change as you move on into adult life. But its important to feel connected to the earth because it nurtures us and we need to be connected to it.
I was part of the original group of six that went down to Te Anau about three years ago. Kerryn Penney and I had initially talked about this idea on the phone a few months beforehand. Because I have a background with conservation, Kerryn rang me and she said, “Look, with the hat of a teacher and knowing about conservation projects, how would you like to be involved,” and I jumped at the opportunity straight away, I guess, and the discussions flowed from there. We were really excited about students making a connection to a place where they grow up, because maybe they’ll come back and feel part of it. I’m highly motivated to make that connection between people and their land.
Tauhara College contributes to Kids Greening in many ways. Most importantly, some of our year 9 and 10 students are part of the Student Leadership Team. However as a school our students have accomplished many other things. Amy Wake is really the driving force behind this here at the college. For example, some of our students formed a cultural group which facilitated a workshop at Waipahihi Marae a couple years back.
In the Strategic Leadership Group, I represent the teachers from all schools but also bring insight in terms of strategic leadership and management of schools. I have the strategic overview and direction that these projects need. Because of my experience, I can bring a different lens to the discussion. I can come up with plans as to how ideas can be implemented but also what challenges we might face, that others might not have thought of.
I think that Kids Greening has morphed into something pretty exciting. We didn’t know exactly what was going to happen. We loosely based it on the Te Anau project, but we always knew it was going to have a local flavour. Having Thea in the co-ordinator role is fantastic as she can provide her perspective as well as her drive and energy. She has brought in ideas that are new. I really like the direction its going in. As long as we have people being active and getting involved instead of just talking about it , thats what we want.
It’s very exciting how our student specialists have taken their roles. For example I remember back when Jack and Hannah were in my science class and I told them we need someone to work on our website. We didn’t know how it was going to go for them, But I’m really excited how opportunities have continued to open up, and every time something has been complete, something new has come along. I’m really excited how they’ve taken hold of those opportunities and given things a go. Even if they knew things weren’t perfect, they became perfect. And I think that’s really exciting and I want to continue to be involved in that.