The newest Kiwi Ranger site is Ōtamahua/Quail Island near Christchurch – the first island site and the first Kiwi Ranger site close to a city. It’s a perfect place for families to make memories together.
My own strongest childhood memories are all of experiences in nature, thanks to my father who took me to lots of wild places. I have memories of walking behind him holding onto his pack as we balanced across a log bridge; of playing explorers by wading down a stream in the Kaimais, collecting tadpoles and waving toi toi flags. As a teenager he took me on wilder tramps, where we camped under tent flies and saw no one else for days on end.
These memories and experiences were a huge influence on the adult I am today, someone who works for DOC because I believe in the work we do. I’m trying to do the same for my own kids – but in this increasingly urban and tech-driven world it’s getting pretty hard. There are less “wild places” in cities. I’m competing with the TV, the computer, gaming devices, for their attention – and not always winning.
There is growing evidence that children are increasingly disconnected from that natural world. International surveys show that fewer children are experiencing nature directly, with many playing indoors rather than out. Research also shows that childhood experiences with nature plays a critical role in determining life attitudes, knowledge and behaviours towards the environment. I know that’s true for me.
But how do we help families that may be disconnected from these opportunities, or who may not have had the same influences in their own lives, get reconnected?
Kiwi Ranger is one way. It’s a network of experiential interpretation sites, designed to help families connect with key conservation places. At its core is a booklet of activities and a badge to collect each unique to each site, similar to the highly successful Junior Ranger in USA.
Each booklet acts like a guide to experiencing our wild places, some of which are a bit daunting to families visiting for the first time. It helps them to stop and take a closer look, to make the most of their visit, so its not just a nice walk, but an experience worth remembering and treasuring.
So far it’s only in the South Island – but North Island sites are coming on board next year.
On Sunday 9 December we are launching Ōtamahua / Quail Island. My son William and his friend Maddie helped trial the booklet and will be getting their badges presented to them in a special ceremony. We will have a sausage sizzle on the beach and we hope lots of other families will come along and become Kiwi Rangers too.
I’m hoping this will be an experience they will remember.
P.S – The Ōtamahua / Quail Island Kiwi Ranger booklet can be picked up from Black Cat Ferries, the Lyttelton i-SITE or from the Mahaanui Area DOC Office in Sockburn.
Return your completed booklet to the any of the three locations above to claim your badge!
Youtube clip: Quail Island Kiwi Ranger