Renew School students have leapt at the opportunity to take on the responsibility as kaitiaki, or guardians, of their local environment, and now have their sights set on becoming a bronze EnviroSchool.
Their journey began when science teacher Gwenda Owen attended the launch of Tiakina Whangārei in 2019, and subsequently took a group of students to Bream Head Conservation Trust.
Associate Principal for Primary, Timothy Buchanan, says they decided to start close to home, by looking at how they could take care of the local Raumanga Stream that runs behind the school.
“Dai from Tiakina Whangārei came to meet with the students and provided lots of support to get us going. He has continued to be an excellent source of advice and education. The interest from the students was immediate; they were really excited about the opportunity to connect with the environment.”
Tim says there were a lot of misconceptions about predator control to start with, but Dai did a great job of showing the students how the rat traps worked, and explaining the role predator management plays in the bigger picture of biodiversity and environmental sustainability.
“We have all levels of the school involved, with the younger students helping to paint the rat trap boxes and growing plants and the older students helping with the trapping and monitoring. We also have a group of senior students who are studying the stream’s health and working with the Te Tai Tokerau Debri Monitoring Project to analyse rubbish in the area.”
Gwenda says it has become a real journey for the school, working with not just Tiakina Whangārei but also Kiwi North, Enviroschools, Marine Debri, Friends of Matakohe Limestone Island, Bream Head Conservation Trust, Northland Regional Council, Whitebait Connection and Tahi Honey.
“By introducing the students to all these organisations, we are helping them to see the bigger picture when it comes to conservation and protecting our environment. We are reinforcing that we are all part of one big system and that we have to work in harmony for everyone – and everything – to thrive.”
She says the students are incredibly engaged in the project and love the field trips, including heading over the back fence to the Raumanga stream. They’ve also got their families involved by taking chew cards home to monitor pests in their own backyards.
The student’s next goal is to become a bronze Enviroschool and the Middle School (Years 7 to 10) have recently taken applications and held interviews before appointing the school’s first Enviro Committee.
Tim says the school has also established a project based learning focus for the Middle School called ‘Wai to Moana’, to encourage the students to think about their impact on waterways, all the way to the ocean and beyond. To extend this project even further, the school was recently successful in the Leaders Environmental Fund bid for their Wai to Moana Project and have been awarded $2000 from the Northland Regional Council.
“The roadworks in our area have given the students some interesting insights into how environmental changes can impact the health of our streams. The students have also been studying plants along the stream, identifying weeds for removal and planning on planting natives.
“Students of any age can connect with this programme at their own level and they all love that it’s a unique learning experience that takes them out of the classroom. It’s quite new to most students and yet they can all relate to what we’re teaching them. It’s especially great for those students who prefer hands-on learning outside the classroom.”
As well as learning about their environment, Gwen says the programme is teaching the students many other valuable skills.
“It’s teaching self-responsibility, leadership, teamwork and communication skills, as well as all the valuable lessons around testing water health, recording predator catches, analysing rubbish, growing plants and more.”
If you know a school who would be interested in learning more about predator control in urban Whangārei, email firstname.lastname@example.org.