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Ficino School—22 May 2018

May 23, 2018

Today a great group of Year Five students from Ficino School in Auckland visited CUE Haven for a fun day of learning and tree planting.  This was the sixth year in a row that teacher Ashley has brought her students out to CUE Haven.

The group arrived just before ten and included students Bennet, Callum, Cleo, Harper, Ivy, Jarvis, Jocelyn, Justin, Leo, Lila, Maren, Niko and Sultan.  Also joining us were teachers Ashley and Helen and parents Helen and Nicola.

We got acquainted over morning tea (thanks Nestle NZ for donating the delicious hot chocolate for the students), and then Mahrukh gave an overview about CUE Haven and explained the benefits of tree planting to the environment and water quality.

Thomas then gave a description of the plan for the day and a safety briefing.

The plan for the day was for the students to do a variety of activities which would help them learn about nature and how they can help protect it.  We did some tree planting, went for a nature walk and then did activities to learn about conserving natural resources.


We took a short walk to the area where the stream flows into the wetlands. There the students planted cabbage trees, manuka and kahikatea trees.  Thomas showed the students the trees they would be planting and explained where they should be planted to ensure they grow well.

He showed them mature specimens of the trees so the students could see how the trees will look when they grow up and then did a demo on how to plant a tree.

The group then went to work!

In no time, the students managed to plant all of the trees we had brought up for them—and they were a lot messier than when they started!

Nature Walk

When the planting was finished, Thomas took the group for a walk in the bush.  Before starting out, he gave a safety briefing and talked a little bit about what they would see on the walk.

During the walk, Thomas pointed out some of the different planting areas to show the students how the trees were growing and explained the difference between wetland and non-wetland plantings.  He also explained how our plantings had helped water quality in both the CUE Haven stream and downstream in the Araparera River and the Kaipara Harbour.

The group got to see our pest control programme in action as we passed by a freshly caught rat!

The rat had planned it well, because our next stop on the walk was a big puriri tree that our pest control work had saved from possum browsing.  The puriri has now become a home for kereru and a lot of karaka are growing up under the tree after the kereru have dropped seeds.  The students got a chance to see how everything in nature is interconnected—by saving the tree, we attracted birds who are in turn creating more forest by spreading seeds and by controlling rats we are helping to prevent the dropped seeds from being eaten before they can grow.

One of the things we want the students to learn at CUE Haven is the importance of slowing down and connecting with nature and appreciating the natural world.

At the halfway point on the walk. Thomas asked the students to stop, be still, close their eyes and focus on their breath for ten seconds.  He then asked them to do it again but this time to concentrate on what they were hearing, feeling and smelling and to experience nature with their eyes closed.

The students then had to describe what they heard and felt. They heard birds, the stream flowing and the wind.  They smelled the hange hange and the fresh forest scent.

Thomas encouraged the students to continue to walk leisurely and observe nature on the rest of the walk and they enjoyed the company of a couple of friendly piwakawaka (fantails).

The students also got a chance to look out over the Araparera River and Kaipara Harbour and they could better observe the connection between the CUE Haven waterways and the harbour and better appreciate how improving water quality at CUE Haven was helping the harbour.

We finished up the walk in the wetlands where the students had a closer look at some of the different wetland plants and ponds.

We then got cleaned up for lunch!

After lunch, Thomas talked a little more about the importance of pest control in protecting both the trees and native birds and animals.  He explained some of the challenges that native New Zealand plants and animals faced because of introduced pest plants and animals and described the trapping activities at CUE Haven and demonstrated the tracking tunnels we use to monitor pest populations as well as the traps we use to control them.

The students got to see first hand how the traps work.

Mahrukh then gave a short session on native birds and showed the students pictures of the birds at CUE Haven as well as some of the birds we hope to see someday and played recordings of their calls.

Sustainable Living

As a final activity, we did an interesting game about resource depletion to help the students better appreciate how to conserve our planet’s resources. The game generated a lot of interesting discussion.


The students broke into small groups and each group was assisted by a parent or teacher.  Each group had a bowl full of small stones and an empty bowl, a fork, a teaspoon and a tablespoon.  The students were told that they were to take turns moving the stones from one bowl to the other, the first person was to use only their little fingers, the second the fork, the third the teaspoon, the fourth the tablespoon and the last person could scoop up stones with their whole hand.

Mahrukh counted time as the students worked on moving the stones beginning with the students using only their little fingers and then the little fork, followed by using the teaspoon and tablespoon.

They were told to raise their hands as soon as they emptied the bowl.

In almost all cases, the student with the tablespoon emptied the bowl and the last person had no stones to remove.  Mahrukh then asked the students to imagine that the stones represented the Earth’s natural resources and their little fingers, forks and spoons represented the technical progress that has enabled humans to use resources more rapidly over the ages. The students who didn’t get a chance to move any stones were asked how they felt.

Mahrukh then discussed how excessive use of all our natural resources would mean that there could be none left for future generations.

The students then spent some time in their groups discussing different ways to conserve resources with the adults facilitating the discussion.

At the end of the activities ,Ashley asked all of the students to close their eyes, relax and reflect on what they had learned and done.

It was a great day of learning and exploring and we want to thank teachers Ashley and Helen and parents Helen and Nicola for helping out today and helping to make the day so special.  And an extra thank you to Ashley, for her enthusiasm and for bringing her students to CUE Haven each year.

And a BIG thank you to the students!  We really enjoyed meeting you and working with you and hope you enjoyed the day as much as we did.  We are always impressed at how polite, enthusiastic and engaged Ficino students are.  Thanks so much for your help with the tree planting—the trees you planted today will live for many years and you have made a wonderful contribution to CUE Haven, the community and the planet.

We hope you will come back to CUE Haven with your families to explore more of the property and see how the forest is growing.

Looking forward to seeing you all again soon.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Gail Robertson permalink
    May 25, 2018 10:56 am

    Tom & Mahrukh, great to see you both in the photos. What a great experience with the stones–so easily put for the younger ones to understand. Gail

  2. May 23, 2018 4:42 pm

    What a wonderful day for the Children….wish I was still at School…well done all….

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