Learning in a local context: Connecting ākonga to environmental challenges in Marlborough

Marlborough is home to many industries that rely on the land and sea, such as viticulture and aquaculture. An environmental sustainability course at Marlborough Girls’ College gives students an opportunity to take a hands-on approach to environmental challenges in the region.

The cross-curricular environmental sustainability course at Marlborough Girls’ College has been taught as a combined Year 12 and 13 course since 2018. Since then, a teaching team has seen the programme go from strength to strength.

The Year 12/13 course is based around five areas: conservation, farming, marine, school and viticulture. 

“We know that students need to understand what sustainability is. We know there’s an issue with the decline in biodiversity. Yes, there are issues with climate change, but the decline of biodiversity is bigger in my mind; they go hand in hand,” says Melynda Bentley, who leads the course.

Impact and co-construction

Originally primary school-trained, Melynda switched to teaching secondary school science in 2014 and is quite comfortable with a student-led cross-curricular programme, co-designed and co-constructed with students.

“We designed our Year 12 and 13 course so that in the first six to eight weeks, there are guest speakers and field trips. Everything is based around sustainability and the theme of ‘Marvellous Marlborough’.

“The students then choose the sustainability issue they are interested in. We encourage them to go for their passion because it is all student-led. Year 12 and 13s can work in the same group but they work on different assessments for two terms.”

If teaching like this for the first time, Melynda suggests keeping the Year 12s and 13s separate, so you can understand the process first.

“We have a structure for them to work through where we focus on the learning and then we bring back NCEA standards at the end. If you’re teaching that way you’ve got to know your standards and where it fits, because that’s how you can guide them,” she explains.

Group photo

The Marlborough Girls College environmental sustainability course co-teaching team. From left: Melynda Bentley (science), Jenny Pullin (social sciences), Toni Adshead-Borrie (science) and Carol Stanley (science).

More information

See the rest of the article on the Education Gazette website:

Connecting ākonga to environmental challenges in Marlborough – Education Gazette(external link)

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Education Gazette 102.9 – Issuu(external link)

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