Archives For School

By Trish Irvine, Community Relations Ranger, Auckland

Eleven students from the ‘Gifted and Talented’ programme at James Cook High School in South Auckland recently came to a ‘Guardians of Maungauika Workshop’ hosted by Pou Tairangahau Nick Turoa and Partnerships Rangers from the Tamaki Makaurau Office.

Students being taught about the history of the area.

Students learn about the history of Maungauika

Following introductions and morning tea, Nick (a Historic Ranger in a previous life) led our group on a tour of the maunga including the Barracks building at North Head (a former defence fort, set up in the 1800s to defend Auckland from a feared Russian attack). The students all seemed to delight in exploring the myriad of caves, underground rooms and tunnels of the barracks and former pā.

Students in a long, dark tunnel underground.

In a long dark tunnel, a remnant of the military history of the mountain

As we clambered out of a long dark tunnel and down the steps to the coastal track, the sea spray from the high tide and abating storm licked our faces. As we raised our eyes, a pair of maki or orca coming around North Head suddenly emerged from the waves near us on the shore. We could not have timed it any better. We alerted a colleague up in the Field Base who advised that we should call 0800 SEE ORCA as soon as possible with sightings. Dedicated orca researcher—Ingrid Visser—loves to hear about them as early as possible in the hope of getting out on the water for her ongoing research.

Two orca in Waitemata Harbour.

A rare sighting of two young orca

Stories about the value of the sea for kaimoana and a coastal cave for waka transport were also shared as we continued our walk around the base of the maunga. This highlighted to these future leaders why we all need to treasure our marine environment and encouraged them to take action like beach clean-ups and preventing litter and waste getting into the sea.

At lunchtime we took part in an afternoon workshop with the group that was designed to help DOC learn more about what makes conservation tick for young people, how to better engage with youth in their communities and what support DOC could provide for their conservation efforts. In small groups the students shared their ideas and expressed some valuable insights.

Based on their own feelings, opinions and experiences, the group came up with a range of ideas that they believed would help to develop their peers’ interest in conservation—ranging from making conservation fun and ‘easier’ to do with groups of friends, to including incentives such as food, competitions, prizes, and music.

Students cleaning up the harakeke/flax bushes.

Conservation work is ‘easier’ with a group of friends

We are looking forward to meeting these students again and supporting their efforts to engage with conservation on a stronger footing and in particular, assisting their involvement in the restoration of a wetland habitat in the Wattle Farm Reserve near the school.

Our photo of the week is in celebration of National Volunteer Week, which runs from the 16-22 June. The theme for 2013 is “He tāngata, He tāngata, He tāngata! It is people, it is people, it is people”.

EcoQuest Education Foundation and Kaiaua Primary School recently got together with local DOC ranger Stephen Benham to do some planting at the newly purchased DOC Rangipo Scenic Reserve. It was a great day for both our university aged students and the primary school kids to get out, volunteer and contribute to conservation in our local area.

Young boy planting with a DOC ranger.

It’s great to see people of all ages getting involved in conservation and working with DOC. Conservation volunteers make an important contribution to conservation in New Zealand and we’d like to thank all our volunteers for their help.

Volunteer with DOC

Being a volunteer is fun. You also get to work as part of a team, share your skills and learn new ones, and experience conservation in action. Visit the DOC website to volunteer with DOC.

Sorrel Hoskin, from DOC’s Taranaki Area Office, writes about St Joseph’s Primary School’s recent visit to Egmont National Park to learn about the work being done to protect the endangered whio/blue duck:

Combine 90 excited primary school kids, two passionate DOC rangers, and an enthusiastic regional council educator. Top up with fun facts about whio and mix well. Result? A slightly chaotic but fun filled day of learning about one of our special species, the whio.

Students line up outside the North Egmont Visitor Centre.

The group outside the North Egmont Visitor Centre – the mountain is hidden behind the clouds

Taranaki school students recently spent a day out in Egmont National Park. As it was Whio Awareness Month DOC staff took the opportunity to share some of the work they do on the mountain to help protect the endangered duck.

Biodiversity ranger Emily King usually works with whio and kiwi – so a gaggle of chattering five year olds was a whole new experience, but she soon had them captivated with cool facts about our only white water swimming duck.

Ranger shows students how the stoat trap works.

Ranger Mike demonstrates the stoat trap – SNAP!

There are around 60 whio living in Egmont National Park and ongoing monitoring and pest control is key to their survival and population growth. DOC carries out this work with support from the Central North Island Conservation Charitable Blue Duck Trust and East Taranaki Environment Trust. The good news is the population is growing.

Whio Awareness Month was celebrated throughout New Zealand to recognise the “Whio Forever” project, a Genesis Energy/DOC partnership helping implement a national recovery plan to protect whio breeding areas and habitat. The idea is to double the number of fully secure breeding sites throughout the country and boost pest control to enhance productivity and survival.

A student, 5 year old Asten, holds a stuffed stoat.

Five year old Asten gets close to a stoat

Community relations ranger Mike Tapp set up a game of predator hide and seek along a bush walk. Kids had fun finding the stoat, rat, cat, weasel and ferret hidden amongst the undergrowth, and learnt about some of the key predators of the whio and other native birds.

Taranaki Regional Council’s Kevin Archer took groups of children for a walk through some of the forest – pointing out where whio and other native birds might like to live.

While feedback from the students was mixed and often amusing (who knew that polar bears were a major predator of whio?) some of the key messages were getting through.

A whio swimming in the stream.

A whio swimming in the stream.

Five year old Jordon’s favorite part of the day was seeing Ranger Mike set off the predator trap to squash the animals that attack whio, “The trap went SNAP!”

St Joseph’s teacher Jenna Sullivan said the day had been a great success and showed how a school, DOC and the regional council can come together to create a real hands on learning experience for the kids.