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Murrays Bay Intermediate School–2 November 2015

November 3, 2015

Today, for the sixth time in three years, teacher for sustainability David Walker brought year seven and eight students out to CUE Haven for a day of learning and exploration with the objective of making students a catalyst for positive environmental change at school, home and in the wider community.

As part of their environmental activities, the students help out with environmental projects in the community, and over the years Murrays Bay students have made a significant contribution to the CUE Haven project by planting trees and helping in the nursery.

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The plan for today was for the students to help us pot up some seedlings in the nursery, take a short walk through the bush and learn about native trees and pest control strategies at CUE Haven. Additionally the students would learn about invertebrates and their role in the food chain and ensuring the health of the environment with educator Shanthie Walker, from Auckland Council’s Environment for Sustainability program.

Shanthie arrived early and set up stations in the field where the students would explore and find insects. She had also brought a number of specimens with her and also some equipment for experiments.

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The group arrived at ten and we started out with morning tea.   Then Mahrukh gave a welcome and a brief introduction to the CUE Haven project.

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It was wonderful to see many familiar faces as a number of the students had been out in May this year to plant trees. Since they already knew a bit about CUE Haven, Mahrukh invited one of the students to assist her with the briefing for the new students.

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After a safety briefing from Thomas, the students broke into two groups–one group went to the nursery with Mahrukh and the other group went with Shanthie and Thomas.  The groups each did their activities and then switched so that everyone had a chance to do all of the activities.

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In the nursery, we had miro, pukatea, rimu, tanekaha and totara seedlings that were still in their germinating tubes.  The students transplanted them into larger pots and the small trees will stay in the nursery for a year or two before they are ready to planted out in the field and become part of the CUE Haven forest.

Mahrukh and David gave the students a planting demo and then they went to work in teams and potted up the seedlings.

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The students came across a few worms in the pots and even a big slug!

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When the potting up was finished, the students gave the nursery a quick clean up.

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The students got a lot of work done in a short time and the trees they potted up will be an important addition to the CUE Haven landscape in a few years.

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They then spent some time exploring the wetlands and learning more about native New Zealand plants and animals.

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They also paid a visit to the area they planted in May 2015 to see how the trees were doing.

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While one team was working in the nursery the other group went into the field with Shanthie and Thomas.  Shanthie led the students through a series of exercises about how plants and animals interact with a focus on insect invertebrates.

For the first exercise, Shanthie assigned each student the role of a plant, animal or insect.  Each student was also given a handful of tokens.  The students then had to interact and decide whether their plant or animal ate or was eaten by the others and if they were eaten they had to give up a token.

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At the end of the game, Shanthie explained what had happened.  The student with the most tokens represented the animal at the top of the food chain and the student with the fewest represented the bottom.  She then explained how all organisms in the chain are dependent upon each other with the creature at the top being most dependent.  The exercise was a fun way for the students to get an appreciation of how interdependent plants and animals are in nature.

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Shanthie continued the theme of interdependence by giving each student a card that showed how different animals and insects help to pollinate different plants.  The students took a few minutes to explore the surrounding bush to find some of the plants and to see if they could find any pollinators at work.

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The main exercise was to learn more about insects and to learn some scientific techniques for gathering specimens and observing and identifying them in the field.

Shanthie first gave a brief overview of insects.  She had brought a variety of live insects and passed them around for the students to study.

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She then explained the next phase of the activity.  White trays had been set out in the area we were working and on each tray there was a spoon, brush and magnifying glass.

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The students then broke into groups and spent some time collecting specimens from underneath the leaf litter in the area. The groups came up with a variety of creatures and compared their results.

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Shanthie then summarised the learning points by tying together the idea of the food chain and the behaviour of the insects the students had found in the field.

Thomas then gave a short talk about the problem of introduced mammal pests—specifically that as far as many native New Zealand plants and animals are concerned, introduced pests are at the top of the food chain.  He showed them a puriri tree that had been badly damaged by possum browsing but since the possums have been controlled the tree has become a home for kereru which in turn are spreading karaka seeds which provide a further food source for birds.

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He then demonstrated the traps we use to control pest mammals and the group then took a walk back through the bush where they saw a number of other NZ plants and animals including a tree weta.

Once all of the activities were complete the students returned to the cottage for their relaxing lunch before heading back to town.

It was another enjoyable day of community service as well as learning in the CUE Haven outdoor classroom.

We’d like to thank Nestle NZ for their continued support and for providing Nestle Hot Chocolate which the students thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated.

And also many thanks too to Daltons for generously providing Daltons Potting Mix which we used today.

Karen of Bayes Transport has driven each group of Murrays Bay students out since their first visit —and she does more than her share of work when she is here.  Thanks Karen for all your help!

And a big thank you to Shanthie Walker of the Auckland Council for developing and conducting the excellent invertebrate study activities.  The students found them very interesting and enjoyable and many have now gotten over their fear of bugs too!!

Our thanks also to the Auckland Council for making it possible for Shanthie to join us today.

Many thanks to teacher David Walker for once again bringing a great group of students out for a fun day of learning and also helping out today.  We always enjoy our day with Murrays Bay students and look forward to more MBI students coming over the years.

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And most of all, thank you to the students!  We enjoyed having you at CUE Haven and working with you.  We really appreciate your hard work in the nursery and we hope you had an enjoyable day.  We look forward to you all coming back and participating in more activities and seeing the growing native forest at CUE Haven.

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Thanks again!

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