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St. Kentigern School TFS Planting Day—15 May 2014

May 16, 2014

This year’s planting season got off to a great start as students from St. Kentigern School in Auckland came out for a day of planting, exploring and learning.

The St. Kentigern planting day is always special at CUE Haven.  The very first tree plantings undertaking as part of our restoration project were by St. Kentigern students in 2008 and since then students from the school have come every year to plant more native trees.

We had previously visited the school to pick up the plants that the boys had cultivated in their nursery and some of the students helped us load up the truck.

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Today Auckland Council’s Trees For Survival coordinators Gail Farrell and Eve Clarke arrived at about 8:30 to get set up.  They put up signs and then went up to the planting site to lay out the plants.

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The students arrived shortly after ten.  In addition to sixty Year six students, the group included parents Cameron, Charlotte, Christine, Dan, Greg, Peter, Ronald, Roz, Sam, Sarah, Terri, Thelma, Tony, Tracey, and Wendy along with teachers Sharron Alexander, Mary Jones,  Barry Kemp and Jarred Wilson.  Auckland City Sunrise Rotary Club supports the TFS program at the school and they were represented by Rotarian Stephen Flemming.

We also had a special guest.  Denise Coleman was the St. Kentigern science teacher who had brought out the first St. Kentigern group in 2008 and has come to each planting since then.  Denise retired last year but joined in the day.

We started out with morning tea and a welcome and overview of the CUE Haven project and the plan for the day.

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The plan was for the entire group to plant for the morning and then after lunch we would break into groups.  Each group with take turns doing water quality tests in the wetlands, learn about native plants in the nursery and go for a short nature walk.

Before we started planting, we planted two Springfire Pohutakawa trees that the students had provided.  Each year, the boys have gifted us a pohutakawa tree and they have planted them by the cottage in a row designated the St Kentigern School Pohutakawa Grove.  They planted one tree for this year’s group of students and also planted a tree in honour of Denise Coleman.

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We all then went up to the planting site.  Once there, Gail gave a planting demonstration and safety briefing and we went to work.

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A couple of times there were some threatening clouds but the weather was perfect for the entire time.

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During the planting the boys found lots of worms and skinks.

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But the biggest challenge was the dead kikuyu grass covering the soil.

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But the group coped very well and in less than two hours managed to plant about 400 trees. A fantastic effort!!

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We finished up the planting and then had a quick lunch.

After lunch we broke into groups to do the three planned activities.

The WaiCare exercise was handled by Shelley Hackett and Marnie Prickett of the Auckland Council WaiCare programme.  The exercise involved taking water samples from the stream and ponds and analysing them for purity, clarity and chemical content.  The students also studied the samples to identify macroinvertebrates living in the water.  The type and variety of these creatures is an indication of the quality of the water.

First Shelley and Marnie collected water samples.

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They gave the students a brief talk about water quality issues and wetlands.

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And then did experiments on water clarity and chemistry.

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The students learned how to check the oxygen levels in the water and about the importance of maintaining high oxygen levels for plant and animal life.

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Lastly, the students examined the water samples to identify macroinvertebrate creatures living in the ponds and learned a little about their relationship to water quality and their role in maintaining the ecological balance in the wetlands.

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The second activity was led by Shanthie Walker, Auckland Council Environmental Sustainability Educator.  Using native trees in the nursery, Shanthi showed the boys how to observe and look at specimens and how to identify native trees.

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The students learned how to study plants using magnifying glasses and had a brief discussion about the structure and the differences between the surface of the leaves and the surface of their skin.

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And then they did an exercise on how to identify native NZ trees and how different trees play different and important roles in maintaining varied biodiversity in the forest.

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And the students also learned how to identify native birds through their bird calls and the important roles that different birds play in dispersing seeds of various native trees.

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The last activity was a short nature walk with Tom. The boys learned about various aspects of the restoration programme with a focus on pest control.

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The boys learned about the different kinds of traps we use to control pests and got a chance to see them in operation.

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We’d like to thank Nestle NZ for generously providing Iced Peach Nestea which was very much appreciated by the students.  And thanks, too, for the Nescafe Menu sachets which were enjoyed by the adults.

We also want to thank the Auckland City Sunrise Rotary Club and Steve Flemming for their continuing support of the St. Kentigern TFS programme.

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And a big thank you Shelley, Marnie and Shanthie for their very interesting and educational sessions with the students and to Auckland Council for their continued support of CUE Haven and for making it possible for their staff to join us.

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And many thanks to Gail and Eve from Auckland Council’s TFS programme.  Gail has been involved with TFS plantings at CUE Haven from the very first St. Kentigern planting in 2008 and we value her friendship and advice and we look forward to working with Eve too.

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Thank you so much, Denise, for coming out for another great St. Kentigern planting day.  Your support of the TFS programme and CUE Haven over the years have made these planting days so successful. We wish you all the best in your retirement and we look forward to seeing you again.

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We also want to thank teachers Sharron, Barry, Mary and Jarred for their support and for keeping things so well organised today. Sharron has taken on Denise’s role as the teacher in charge of the TFS program and we very much look forward to working with you and many thanks for your assistance this year.

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And most of all, a huge THANK YOU to the students and parents who came out.  It was great having you and we really appreciate your hard work and enthusiasm. We had a fun day with you and we look forward to having you all back again.

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