Noticing nature’s classroom

Department of Conservation —  09/10/2021

By Tash Staheli-Lowe, Community Ranger – Te Rapa, Waikato

Waikato tamariki took time to connect, discover, nurture, and learn from nature during Conservation Week 2021, aided by our Conservation Education resources.

One of life’s most influential teachers occupies a classroom with no walls and no technology. Her lessons, often hidden but ever present, require you to listen, observe, recognise and just be. It is often the untrained eye which will find her lessons most easily.

That teacher is nature, and with inquiring minds and open hearts, children are nature’s best students.

Waikato tamariki took time to connect, discover, nurture, and learn from nature during Conservation Week 2021, aided by our Conservation Education resources. These digital resources, developed by our National Outreach and Education Team, guided children to get into their outdoor classroom, to learn from and with nature, and to take a moment to appreciate and connect with the world around them. Using our online resources, students could read, create art and move in nature. They were encouraged to go on scavenger hunts, create nature journals, learn about trees, and actively notice the natural world around them.

📸: Lucy Year 8 Marian Catholic School Hamilton

Nature’s ability not only to grow the mind, but also to nourish it was appreciated much more this Conservation Week. With changing COVID-19 Alert Levels and uncertainty with lockdowns, taking the time to recognise how nature can help you to recharge and reconnect was a learning cherished by many. The outdoor classroom is a place where tamariki, kaiako and whānau alike can come to refresh.

Nature’s classroom is adaptable; whether at home, at school, or out exploring the world around you, there is always something to learn. With many schools juggling online learning and “bubble school” this Conservation Week, nature’s classroom flowed to fit to their needs. Our online conservation education resources supported students to learn and get outdoors, safely, wherever that may have been.

📸 : Frankie 11 Marian Catholic School Hamilton

Teacher, Jenna Lord of Marian Catholic School in Hamilton, says many staff at her school used DOC’s resources during Conservation Week, appreciating how they supported tamariki to Take a Moment for Nature.

“The Conservation Week resources fitted in well with our terms focus of how we can be Kaitiaki and take care of our environment. The lessons and activities were easy to follow and could be adapted for all year levels. Due to it being lockdown, teachers were able to choose certain activities and send them out with their online learning. My students particularly enjoyed the Read in Nature activity and this is something they want to continue doing as part of our daily programme,” says Jenna.

📸 : Vincent Year 8 Marian Catholic School Hamilton

A Waikato students’ photo competition inspired children and young people to notice and capture the nature around them, highlighting the vibrancy and joy that an outdoor classroom can bring. Exploring gullies, finding hidden treasures, and recognising the beauty and joy of wild spaces are special gifts that our teacher, nature, shares with us every day, and the tamariki of Marian Catholic School captured these so well.

📸 : Sophie 15 Fraser High School Hamilton

Sophie, 15, of Fraser High School submitted the photograph which was drawn to win our Take a Moment for Nature photo competition. Her photograph of her Mum and dog gazing out over their farm into the sunset shows an eye for the calmness and serenity that nature can bring. Sophie, we hope you enjoy your prize pack, including a family pass to the Hamilton Zoo, kindly donated by their education team to celebrate Conservation Week.

Although Conservation Week is over for another year, your teacher – nature – has not gone anywhere. Her classroom follows you, so remember to look for it. It’s right there, in the dancing birds, the crawling invertebrates down low, or the plants peeking through the cracks in your cobble stones. It is ever changing, and grows with you; as your world expands, so does your classroom. Nature has so much teach us, whatever our age or stage in life. We just need to remember to take a moment, and to open our hearts and minds to learn.

2 responses to Noticing nature’s classroom

    Martin Nicholls 15/10/2021 at 9:07 am

    While it is great that our tamariki are involved in nature in this way, I was unable to detect a single native plant or animal in these images. Indeed, one introduced species depicted is a highly poisonous plant and even burning it on the BBQ can make people very ill or die. I refer to oleander (Nerium oleander).

    None of this is their fault; it is ours, we adults who are meant to educate and encourage them in their developing awareness of nature.

    It suggests we have a very long way to go in advocating nature and indigenous biodiversity to our young people.

    You know what they say: knowledge and awareness breeds love, and love leads to a drive to protect. It’s a start, though, and good on them. With the right knowledge and awareness, our young people will become our warriors for nature – the Greta Thunbergs of Aotearoa’s unique biodiversity born of 65 million years (+) of isolation.


    A lovely read. Love the photos, too. Seeing nature from the perspectives of children and young people is a beautiful element to the story.