Climate Ambassador for a better future

Secondary school students are contributing to a better climate future, thanks to a University of Waikato initiative aimed at fostering the next generation of climate ambassadors.

03 Jul 2023

Tay Ririnui, a student at Mount Maunganui College, joined the Climate Ambassador Programme because he wants to work towards a brighter future for people and the environment while incorporating kaitiakitanga principles.

The students who took part in the first Climate Ambassador Programme.


“I’ve really enjoyed building my foundation of climate change and its wider impacts on the environment in society. It’s been great to do with other students my age, collaborating with them, working with them on these on-campus days and weekly workshops,” Tay says.

He appreciated the manageable structure of the programme, which includes an after-school two-hour workshop and 30-minute mini-lectures.

The University launched the pilot programme this year with 25 Year 13 high school students across the Waikato and Bay of Plenty regions.

Tay Ririnui says the paper has affirmed a future career in environmental and earth sciences.

On Friday, students from 12 secondary schools came together at the Hamilton campus for the second in-person event where they presented their final assignments on the first-year Introduction to Climate Change Science paper.

Working in groups, students completed their case study that looked at climate issues from various disciplines including science, environmental planning, economics and art activism. The 15 points they earned will be put towards a future undergraduate University qualification.

Glenda Rowlands, Deputy Principal at Tauranga Girls' College, says the programme is a valuable opportunity for students to gain firsthand experience of what a tertiary-level course looks like.

“Students have said it’s a very interactive programme that gives them a wider understanding of climate issues,” Glenda says.

“From a teacher's perspective, it’s been really easy to oversee. The students have worked very independently throughout this whole programme.”

Lauren Wilson gives a presentation on the first-year Introduction to Climate Change Science paper.

The University, known for its leadership in sustainability research and as the home of the world’s first Bachelor of Climate Change degree, is committed to inspiring and empowering students, enabling them to gain knowledge and become ambassadors for positive environmental change.

The three-year degree offers a diverse range of majors including Environmental SciencesData AnalyticsEconomicsEcology and Biodiversity and Environmental Planning, among others. Graduates from this programme can pursue various career paths, such as biodiversity managers, economists, media advisors, politicians or planners.

Dean of Science, Professor Margaret Barbour says climate change requires a collaborative effort involving a diversity of perspectives.

"Through this programme, we aim to equip young people with the knowledge and skills needed to effect positive change, regardless of their chosen career path. They are the future leaders who will shape a sustainable world,” Professor Barbour says.

Dean of Science, Professor Margaret Barbour joined students at the in-person campus events.

In March, the students joined together for the Summit Day where they participated in workshops, interactive sessions and worked in groups to produce an idea that would help improve emissions in Hamilton City.

Schools interested in taking part in next year’s programme, please email Eligible students will have their fees covered by the Unistart scholarship.

Waikato schools who took part in the pilot: Hillcrest High School, Sacred Heart Girls' College, Hamilton, St Peter’s Cambridge, Hamilton Boys’ High School, Cambridge High School and Fairfield College.

Bay of Plenty schools who participated: Mount Maunganui College, Tauranga Girls’ College, John Paul College, Pāpāmoa College, Trident High School and Bethlehem College.


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