"To inspire a nation of kiwi kids to become environmental leaders for Aotearoa-NZ, through education and action."
Here in Aotearoa-NZ we have over 7500 native species threatened with extinction  and some of the greatest carbon emissions per capita in the OECD . This is just a snapshot of the critical situation globally. It's now more important than ever that schools are properly supported to give kiwi kids the very best start to life possible and to prepare them for the future's challenges.
Young people are beginning to understand the enormity of these challenges - that's why 100,000's of students worldwide are marching in streets demanding climate justice.
The unfortunate reality of our education system is that teachers want to help but are often over-worked and under-resourced, despite their very best efforts - simply demanding more from them doesn't serve them or their students.
So how are we answering the calls of our environment and young people?
Squawk Squad exists to inspire the next generation of environmental leaders.
Squawk Squad was recognised as one of 2020's "Top 100 Most Impactful and Scalable Educational Initiatives Worldwide" (Hundred.org) - we are a world-class provider of environmental education.
We empower primary teachers with videos, online resources, interactive programmes, competitions and prizes to take their students on engaging "environmental adventures". These are designed to encourage kids to get outside and immersed in nature - by exploring their backyard, school grounds, or local 'wild place'.
What creates environmentalists?
Many hours spent outdoors in a keenly remembered wild or semi-wild place in childhood or adolescence, and an adult who taught respect for nature.” David Sobel
Our mission is to help kids to fall in love with nature. Our tech-enabled approach is not an end-goal in itself, but rather we simply use technology as the tool to scale our impact. Thus, we aim to empower teachers to teach their students in-person about their local environment by providing them with adaptable, relevant lesson plans no matter where they are based within Aotearoa-NZ.
Students watch engaging videos for motivation and inspiration, dive into topics like "Brilliant Biodiversity" via online lesson plans to learn, and then take real action on the ground with their classmates & wider community to make a difference. They become part of a passionate nationwide movement - 1000's of kiwi kids taking part simultaneously - each contributing a small amount to something that collectively makes a big difference.
Over the last 4 years, alongside teachers, Squawk Squad has delivered quality environmental education to 50,000 primary school students across Aotearoa-NZ - Cape Reinga to Bluff!
Squawk Squad makes it easy for teachers, fun for students, and impactful for communities.
Squawk Squad started back in 2016 to address the crisis of our native birdlife (80% currently endangered, ~54 species already extinct) through a unique solution involving high-tech introduced-predator trapping systems. We engaged the public in real-time as to the direct impact they were having towards saving our native birdlife - via remote monitoring systems attached to self-resettable traps, that notified trap sponsors every time they caught an animal. Over time, this resulted in establishing successful trapping systems in four bird sanctuaries nationwide (Ark in the Park, Thames Coast Kiwi Care, Te Rere Penguin Reserve, Cape Kidnappers), trapping upwards of 4000 introduced predators, and channelling additional funding directly to sanctuaries around NZ.
During 2017 we wanted even greater impact. We realised that the critical state of our birdlife was an issue far greater than that which we could solve via our trapping solution alone. We were excited by the possibility of inspiring others to come up with their own solutions - “How do we get every New Zealander to support our unique birdlife?” ....and our innovative educational outreach was born!
In 2017 we released a series of viral social media videos encouraging teachers to sign up to our first ever "Conservation Week Programme". Within three weeks we had 1500 teachers (40,000 kids) enrolled and ready to participate! This gave us all the confirmation we needed that teachers were eager and willing to incorporate environmental themes into their classrooms - and we were determined to help them.
Here's a video from our first ever "Conservation Week" programme!
Each year from 2017-2020 we produced a new programme, each time being higher quality and more impactful than before. With over 50,000 students engaging with our content over four years, we significantly helped to popularise environmental education in Aotearoa-NZ. We collated the very best environmental educational resources we could find, or created new ones, and provided these to teachers in a way that was engaging, digitally enabled and lots of fun. These resources link to the core NZ curriculum.
We focused on inspiring our 'Squawk Squad Rangers' (kiwi kids) to form a deep connection to nature - they are the ones who will be living with the results of our actions today. Once inspired, kids then influenced their whānau, friends and community 🎉🎉 We believe that the NZ educational system should be holistically centered around our inseparable connection to the natural environment - we hope we have played a key part in making this a reality.
As we developed we learnt a lot - check out the increase in quality, resources and style via our yearly education programmes below!
During March 2020, after running out of money in late 2019 and due to the lack of available options to acquire traditional funding (grants etc), we launched a public financial appeal to back our vision for environmental education. It was an ambitious target we set ourselves (minimum $100,000), and we were blown away to raise a total of $138,728! We are extremely grateful to all those who contributed. This enabled us to create a new custom-designed teacher online portal (this site), and to develop our "Climate Change - An Expedition to Antarctica" programme. Find original details of our crowdfund here, or watch our campaign video below:
In March 2020, we were lucky to be able to send a member of our team to Antarctica after being awarded a prestigious scholarship thanks to the Antarctic Heritage Trust!
We used this unique opportunity to film for what we had planned to be the first of many of our envisaged "environmental adventures" - this expedition formed the basis for our highly successful "Climate Change - An Expedition to Antarctica" programme.
In recognition of our efforts we were honoured to receive multiple awards, recognition and media coverage throughout our four years. This culminated in us being recognised as one of 2020's "Top 100 Most Impactful and Scalable Educational Initiatives Worldwide" by Hundred.org, a globally-leading Scandinavian educational organisation.
Each year, participating classrooms would send us videos of themselves in action to compete for prizes and ever-lasting Squawk Squad fame! This was always an extremely rewarding part of our mahi, as we connected with classrooms all around the country and got to see the amazing work they were doing. Highlights of the incredible mahi below:
We had a unique approach to everything that we did with Squawk Squad. We were driven by purpose and passion, and although it was challenging at times, we always made sure that we had a lot of fun along the way! A few highlights are below, and check out our Facebook page for more:
Throughout our journey, we were committed to finding a sustainable financial future for Squawk Squad. Unfortunately how we had had to operate with minimal budgets, small teams and national demand for our work had been far from sustainable. Our challenge was how to make our environmental education accessible to as many kiwi kids as possible, whilst also finding a sustainable long-term financial model. Over our life, we explored new business models, different means of partnerships (government, corporate, philanthropic, NGO) and further opportunities for funding. It was with sadness that we had to announce in April 2021, that we were unable to find a just solution.
With closure came much missed future opportunity, however we are determined to take our first-hand experience to better help innovation, non-profits, and valuable ideas thrive in Aotearoa-NZ.
We also donated the remaining funding that we'd raised from our predator trapping efforts (~$10k) directly to Coast Road Dawn Chorus as a departing gift to the Predator Free 2050 kaupapa.
Full closing down comms here.
Squawk Squad was a family to many and our success was owed to our talented team. Many of whom gave their time above and beyond their tech/aerospace/conservation/ education/volunteer day jobs. We learnt a lot, and couldn’t have been more genuine in our efforts - for that we’re extremely proud to have been part of such a passionate group of individuals and friends as we took this journey together.
We’d like to reiterate how thankful we are for all the incredible support we received over our four years in operation. We will be forever grateful to all of our supporters, donors, teachers, friends, mentors, volunteers and all the other relationships we developed along the way.
Finally, we have been enormously impressed by the amazing teacher cohort who engaged with our content. We are blown away by the incredible mahi and passion that NZ teachers commit to their schools everyday. It is truly inspirational.
Until next time, ka kite anō
Squawk Squad 2021
Some of our oh-so-serious team photos from across the years!