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St. Kentigern TFS Planting Day—7 May 2015

May 9, 2015

Today we had another great planting day with the Year 6 students from St. Kentigern School.  This is the eighth year in a row that students have come out to CUE Haven for a Trees for Survival planting and the St. Kentigern visit is one of the high points of our planting season.

Over the years the planting days have increased in scope and today in addition to planting, the students also had a field session about plants, invertebrates and pest control.

The group arrived at about ten and in addition to 68 students, the group included teachers Patsy, Mary, Julian and Jarred and parents Alena, Angelene, Ann, Caroline, Catherine, Greg, Kim, Robyn, Sarah, Sharon, Shelley, Tanya and Wayne.  Also joining us were David, Peter and Stephen from the Parnell Rotary, who support the St. Kentigern TFS programme and special guest Denise Coleman, who led the St. Kentigern TFS programme as the teacher of science, until she retired two years ago.

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We also had a lot of help today from Auckland Council.  Gail Farrell and Frankie Hofland from TFS were on site to oversee the planting activities and Shanthie Walker from the Environment for Sustainability education group handled the insect and plant sessions.

Additionally, Liz Maire, the schools and community educator for The Forest Bridge Trust came along to provide an extra helping hand.

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

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The plan for the day was to break the large group into four smaller equal groups which corresponded to their houses at school.  Two groups went off with Gail and Frankie to plant, another went with Thomas for a pest control discussion and demo and the fourth group went with Shanthie to learn about plants and insects.  During the morning the groups rotated so that each group had an opportunity to do all activities.

At the planting site, Gail started out by giving each group an overview of the benefits of tree planting and a safety briefing.

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And then she gave a short planting demo.

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And the teams went to work!  It was an unusually warm for May and a perfect day for planting.

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The dead grass may have made digging and planting a challenge but it was a great cushion for acrobatics.

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In about two hours of work, the group managed to plant 325 trees—a great effort in challenging planting conditions.

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Not far from the planting site were the in-field study sessions on invertebrates and pests.

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Thomas led a discussion about introduced pests and predators that pose a risk to native New Zealand plants and animals and the measures that we are taking at CUE Haven to protect these native species.

We had put out some tracking tunnel cards the night before and gave the group a chance to see if they could identify the footprints of the animals that had visited the tunnels.

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Thomas also explained how we control possums with bait boxes and traps.

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He also explained the traps that we use for rats, stoats and weasels and gave the boys a chance to see how they work.

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A rolled up pair of old socks was used to represent an unsuspecting pest.

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The other session was presented by Shanthie, Auckland Council’s Environment for Sustainability educator. Shanthie focused on how plants and animals are connected and need each other to survive.  She talked about how insects, lizards, birds and even the wind help to pollinate flowers so that plants can propagate and students had to observe and identify the seeds, flowers and plants that they collected.

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The students learned how to make observations in the field and record their findings.

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Shanthie had previously laid out pitfall traps to catch some insects for further observations.

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When the students checked the traps, they found slaters, ants, millipedes, longhorn beetles, snails and a centipede and compared and contrasted the appearance and behaviour of the various specimens.

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When all of the groups had done each activity it was time for lunch.  The students used the new observational skills they developed to see an interesting event in the insect world.  On the walk back they spotted an unusually large spider.

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On closer observation, they saw that the spider wasn’t doing much of anything and that a reddish wasp was attacking the spider.  It was a Pompilid wasp, or spider hunting wasp, which was self-introduced into NZ from Australia.  These wasps do not form colonies like other wasps and they hunt large spiders which they sting to paralyze.  They then drag the spider into their burrow and lay an egg on it.  When the baby wasp hatches, it feeds on the spider.  Yum! Yum!

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After lunch, three students represented the Year 6 class and planted a celebration tree by the cottage.  Each year since 2008, the boys have gifted us a pohutakawa springfire tree and they have planted them in a row designated the St Kentigern School Pohutakawa Grove.  The Grove of eight trees is looking great and we really appreciate the gift.

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Before they left, the students thanked us and also sang Happy Birthday to three of their classmates who were celebrating their birthdays.

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It was a wonderful end to another Saint Kentigern School field trip to CUE Haven.

We’d like to thank Nestle NZ for generously providing Hot Chocolate 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 Parnell Rotary Club their continuing support of the St. Kentigern TFS programme and David, Stephen and Peter for helping out with the planting today.

Our many thanks to Liz, from The Forest Bridge Trust, for coming along for the day and helping out and also being photographer for the day.

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

And many thanks to Gail and Frankie 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 Frankie too.

Denise, thank you so much for taking the time to come out for another great St. Kentigern planting day.  Your support of the TFS programme and CUE Haven over the years is much appreciated and valued.

We also want to thank teachers Patsy, Mary, Jarred and Julian for their support and for keeping things so well organised today.  As the new teacher of science, Patsy has taken responsibility of the TFS program and we very much look forward to working with you and many thanks for all your assistance this year.

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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