Membership to The Order is awarded to those who in any field of endeavour, have rendered meritorious service to the Crown and the nation or who have become distinguished by their eminence, talents, contributions, or other merits.
Heidi’s leadership in developing experiential, holistic, and integrated sustainability learning in New Zealand for nearly 25 years has been pivotal for the field of environmental education. Funnily enough, Heidi never imagined herself working in education.
Trained as an architect, she developed her own business designing sustainable homes. When she moved home to Hamilton in the late 1990s, she started working for Hamilton City Council. “One of the things in the job was to co-ordinate this thing called Enviroschools. This was a bit tricky as while there had been pilot with three schools, there wasn’t a programme to co-ordinate, just some interesting ideas to develop.”
With her enduring curiosity, drive and passion, Heidi brought together a group of dedicated individuals and built a community around this seed of an idea. 25 years later, that Enviroschools project has blossomed into Toimata Foundation.
Together with partner Te Mauri Tau, Toimata holds a network of over 1,200 schools, kura, ECE, kohanga and ropu. This network is supported by 120 partner organisations, from small community organisations through to iwi, Local and Central Government.
It is a network that focuses on enabling young people and their communities to make positive changes - bringing the head, hands and heart to the learning process and connecting people of all ages to create ways of being that contribute to a healthy, peaceful, more sustainable world.
"The physical changes – the clean river – that’s amazing, but the motivational changes and attitudinal changes...they are the things that go right through life and that’s what is going to change our world".
— Heidi Mardon
Of course, there have been challenges. From the 2009 Budget cuts to holding true to a holistic approach in a world divided into ‘issues’, one of the things that highlights Heidi’s leadership is the way she grounds the mahi in the guiding values of the kaupapa and embraces diverse ideas and offerings.
“Developing and offering Enviroschools and Te Aho Tū Roa is an ongoing learning journey for us all, as we explore and develop different ways of being“ she says. Because of this, this resilient network continues to strive to work in connection with our environment and each other, in ways based on reciprocity, manaaki and aroha, and throughout the programmes we are seeing students being happy and excited about their learning experiences.
In testimony to the integrity of the kaupapa, some of the ideas and approaches developed through both programmes have now become accepted as mainstream. Other aspects of Toimata we continue to see as being at the leading edge. As more and more people wake up to the seriousness of our current situation on this planet, we feel the deeply considered values and approach of Toimata is even more relevant.
As a driving force in the field of Environmental Education for Sustainability, Heidi’s leadership in developing experiential, holistic, and integrated sustainability learning has been pivotal for environmental education in New Zealand, and it’s affirming to see her recognised for this.
Ka mau te wehi Heidi, we are all so proud of you!