Robyn Dyer

  • Certificate in Environment and Sustainability (Level 5)


A desire to learn more about the environment led Robyn Dyer on a journey that has made an invaluable contribution to her community.

After deciding a number of years ago that she was interested in the environment and wanting to gain more knowledge on the subject, the mum of three, who lives on a lifestyle block in Silverdale, 30 kilometres north of Auckland, exhausted every book she could find on the subject at her local library.

Motivated by her insatiable curiosity, Robyn Googled Environmental Study to try find a course that might be relevant for what she wanted to learn and suited her busy lifestyle.

After reviewing the distance study options available at the Open Polytechnic, she decided to enrol in a few courses towards a Certificate in Environment and Sustainability.

 “I guess choosing to study was a personal challenge as well. I didn’t go to university after school and wondered if I was up to it,” Robyn explains.

 “I have had a strong sense of personal achievement from completing each assignment, never mind each course. I am thrilled with the amount of information I have learnt.”

 In the long term, Robyn hopes to complete a Bachelor of Applied Science majoring in Environment, but for now, she is enjoying the practical application of what she has learnt both in her home garden and through designing a prize winning native garden she worked on for her daughter’s school.

 Using the theory she learnt through the Plants and People: an introduction to ethnobotany course, the idea behind the Matauranga Garden (The garden of knowledge and learning) grew.

 “The school wanted to enter a competition and knowing I had a background in landscaping, asked me to help with the application for the competition. Once we had made it through the first round, we had to provide a landscape plan and more information on plantings. Using the information from the Plants and People course, I designed a garden reflecting the traditional use of plants by Māori,” Robyn explains.

Out of 60 schools that entered, the plan went onto win the Treemendous School Makeover Competition, a joint project between Project Crimson and Mazda, which saw a prize package of $10,000 gifted to Wainui School to make the installation of the garden a reality.

The 1300 plant garden, which was installed in May, will allow children from surrounding schools to identify and learn how plants were traditionally used by Māori. Placards have botanical names and Māori names as well as information on what each plant was traditionally used for.

"They will be able to see which plants were used for weaving (flax), ones that were used for colour dye (koromiko and taupata) and others which were used to make kites (toetoe),” explains Robyn.

“Installing the garden really cemented my knowledge of the traditional uses of native plants. Anyone is welcome to visit the garden. Because we are a country school, there are six acres of predominantly native bush area behind the garden and we are planning on turning that into an outdoor camping area.”

As she progresses through the rest of her studies, Robyn says she is glad she took the plunge and gave distance study a go.

“Studying through the Open Polytechnic has been more than I expected. Having done no study before, I thought I would be left to my own devices, but I have found the Open Polytechnic to have really good systems in place for students. They stay in touch on a regular basis, the tutors are really supportive and quick to respond and the library is amazing,” says Robyn, adding that distance study was her only real option for tertiary study.

“I wouldn’t have been able to study otherwise because of family commitments. My family has been very supportive and studying myself has meant I can be a good role model for my two children at college and my youngest who is at primary school. They can see how study is important and how we study.”

Robyn says the sense of self achievement has made every course worth it.

“I have such a strong sense of personal achievement. I suppose in some ways, it is one of the few external validations a mum gets. I have really enjoyed the opportunity to improve on each assignment, the feedback from my tutors has allowed me to do better each time and I have really enjoyed that.”

Robyn’s advice for others who are considering distance education is to take a “bigger picture” approach.

“My advice would be not to set study goals in isolation to the rest of life. I would say you need to look at getting your qualification as more of a journey, rather than a destination.”

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