Sustainable schools journals

The "Sustainable Schools Journals" are a reimagination of Yaniv Janson's exhibit "Please Do Touch" and were developed in collaboartion with Te Uku School and the Learning and Innovation Specialist from Te Papa Museum, Donald James.

The principle behind the idea of the journals is for students to have a place to learn about the SDGs and plaster their thoughts, ideas and learnings all in one place, so that they can see the progress in their understanding. The free-style of the journals allows teachers and students to use the journals in whatever way they are inspired to. This project aims to add value to the school program and is meant as a support tool for learning objectives. It seeks to make a connection between what the students learn in their subjects and the global context, raising the awareness that they are active actors in it. As an outcome of the individual and group inquiries, students are encouraged to undertake an action that will make a positive difference either locally or globally.

The Te Uku pilot

Te Uku is a school of approximately 110 students, located in an idyllic country setting, 10 minutes east of Raglan, in the mighty Waikato. Their vision is to “expand the hearts and minds — Whakawhanake I te ngakau I te hinengaro” of their students to become confident, connected, actively involved and life-long learners. Both teachers and students were eager to trial this resource.

School Journals, Te Uku-min.pdf

The above report summerizes the development of the pilot project at Te Uku School.

"This collaboration project has enhanced the understanding of all at Te Uku School about the United Nation Sustainable Development Goals, and significantly, the part we as individuals and communities play in making a difference— now and in the future. This has been a relevant and highly valuable learning experience for all involved.”

-Pip Mears, Principal of Te Uku School


The students were manifestly curious and very enthusiastic about this program. They were very inquisitive and eager to understand the whole context, while excited to have the flexibility to explore whatever they were drawn to, raising more questions along the way. The learning involved a variety of different skills, ranging from literacy and numeracy to research skills, keeping students engaged.

Students showed to be very excited and empowered to understand their role in making progress towards the goals— evidenced by their direct actions such as riparian plantings, donation drives and beach clean-ups. In turn, they also recognised that top-down change is also essential, evidenced by their research of their local council’s plan and letters written to their councillors.

The exhibition at the end of term also provided them with an excellent opportunity to showcase their learning to parents and other classes as well as serving as a leadership opportunity and public speaking.


The teachers of Te Uku School have also thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the Sustainable Schools Journals Program. They report that it enraptured the imaginations of both students and teachers and that they saw great alignments and connections happening between the project and their school— especially the fact that it was supporting a local artist.

Moreover, the teachers themselves derived many benefits from being involved in the project. Te Uku school has a really great consideration for their local community (be it school, families, friends and the wider Raglan area), but they found it valuable to broaden to a more global perspective as well as their role and relevance in the bigger picture. This program also posed an exciting challenge on a personal and professional level. “It was the fist time that I needed to create something from scratch. It was new and daunting, but exciting and different” says Semmone. Seeing the excitement of the students and the ultimate success of their projects gave the teachers more confidence that they can deviate from the ‘norm’ and achieve great outcomes. Teachers also said that they loved working with the Trust, which is passionate about social and environmental issues, and the fact that the fruits of their labour were on display for everyone to see made it even more inspiring.


The impact of the project was also felt outside the walls of Te Uku, permeating into the wider community in the form of beach clean-ups, connections with local organisations (such as Extreme Zero Waste, Food Bank, Salvation Army, Church, Raglan Community House) and conversations that were prompted at home— catalysed by curious students. They even wrote to their local councillors telling them about the importance of taking care of their riparian zones— resulting in a donation of plants from Environment Waikato.

Community relationships were also strengthened by further involving parents in the classroom. For example, 2 parents who are scientists came into the school to talk about water quality, while another explained what poverty can look like in New Zealand and their role in the local community. Some of the artworks, such as the “happy vs. sad streams” pieces were led by parents. Lastly, they also reported to have had a lot of conversations in the home about their learning and that many connections were made by the students on their own— expressing deep gratitude for their lives and how lucky they are to have the things they do, especially their education; a massive life lesson.

A closer look at the School journals

Key Competencies

The educators who collaborated on the Sustainable Journals designed the program with the following key competencies in mind:


Success Criteria: I know I will be successful if I…

· Share my thoughts about the ideas that the artworks bring up

· Share my comments and questions about the connection between the artworks and the actions they can inspire

· Contribute new ideas to discussions as they happen

Participating and contributing

Success Criteria: I know I will be successful if I…

· Take advantage of all the time I have to work on my project

· Listen as others speak for students to group their ideas into different categories

· Take a risk and share my questions or confusions to help my understanding

Using language, symbols and texts

Success Criteria: I know I will be successful if I…

· Respond with words, drawings or music when sharing my ideas

· Connect some of the words already written with my words and thoughts to create new ideas

· Listen and ask questions if I do not understand some of the teacher explanations

Relating to others

Success Criteria: I know I will be successful if I…

· Listen as others speak for each student to share time and take turns when sharing ideas

· Recognise that other students may have different ideas to mine

· Respect other students space and time as we work together

Managing self

Success Criteria: I know I will be successful if I…

· Use my gentle voice when working with other students so that other groups may concentrate on their projects

· Have a ‘can-do’ attitude to answer the questions we ask ourselves in class

· Use class time to think and connect my ideas to the artwork