About TBK

Town Belt Kaitiaki is a student-led education programme for Dunedin schools and early childhood centres, which aims to help young people develop knowledge about the environment, values that reflect environmental stewardship (kaitiakitanga), leadership skills and overall hauora.  

Town Belt Kaitiaki (TBK) supports teachers and students to use the Dunedin Town Belt as an authentic, real-life context for place-based learning and teaching – e.g. as an outdoor classroom or space for nature play. Students grow to value and understand the significance of the Town Belt and its mauri (life force) and learn how to sustain and care for our natural environment. TBK helps them to make a positive difference in their local environment and community, as part of their schools’ curriculum.  

The programme’s development, coordination and leadership are delivered through the following individuals / groups:  

  • The Student Leadership Team – consisting of student representatives from participating schools who act as ambassadors for the programme, share a vision and goals for the Town Belt and lead by example. 
  • The Strategic Leadership Group – with representatives from the Dunedin City Council, Department of Conservation, Te Rūnaka o Ōtākou, Kāti Huirapa Rūnaka ki Puketeraki, Dunedin Amenities Society, Otago Natural History Trust, University of Otago, Chamber of Commerce and Toitū Otago Settlers Museum. 
  • The Education Coordinator – who acts as a supporter, networker, and connector between all partnering groups and schools.

TBK’s Five Guiding Principles:

These are based on the Collaborative Community Education Model (CCEM), a framework developed by the Department of Conservation and University of Waikato using key elements from the successful Kids Restore the Kepler and Kids Greening Taupō projects.


Students are given opportunities to apply their learning and take on leadership roles to help solve real-world problems and create positive change in their community.

Schools and community collaboration

Community is a core focus of the CCEM, and the TBK programme encourages students and their schools to work together, alongside local community groups, businesses and organisations.

Children learning about the town belt


Unlike typical top-down approaches to learning, students are encouraged and supported to make their own learning decisions. Schools listen to their students and incorporate projects into their school curriculum. The wider community provides expertise and resources. But it’s the students who are firmly in the drivers seat, they are at the heart of the model!

Children walking in the town belt


The learning opportunities provided cover all curriculum areas, giving students of all ages the opportunity to showcase their different strengths and find unique ways to contribute.

People in a garden having a meeting

Teacher professional development and support

On-going professional development opportunities and support are provided to help empower teachers to utilise the learning opportunities that nature and the Town Belt can provide in their teaching. Some examples of TBK professional development opportunities include workshops related to monitoring biodiversity in the Town Belt, plant propagation, and controlling pests.

To find out more about the Collaborative Community Education Model (CCEM), you can download the CCEM Teacher’s Guide or watch the video below.