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Ficino School—7 May 2019

May 8, 2019

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 seventh year in a row that teacher Ashley has brought her students out to CUE Haven.

The group arrived just before ten and included students Aayushmaan, Ashton, Boston, Edward, Ethan, Grace, Harriet, Isabella, Isobel, Kadee, Layla, Maslow, Terrance and Tui.  Also joining teacher Ashley and the students were parents Nancy and Rachel.

We got acquainted over morning tea, and Mahrukh gave an overview about CUE Haven and explained the benefits of tree planting to the environment and water quality.

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 went for a nature walk, did some tree planting, and then did activities to learn about conserving natural resources.

Nature Walk

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.  We took a walk in the wetlands and Thomas explained how our plantings had helped water quality in both the CUE Haven stream and downstream in the Araparera River and the Kaipara Harbour.

As we left the wetlands, the students had a chance to see the differences between wetland and non wetland plants.

We stopped at the stick insect sign to learn a bit about them and sure enough the students soon found two stick insects.

We continued our walk through the bush and the students got a chance to see many different native trees.

Including some weta in the weta hotels.

The students also got a chance to look out over the Araparera River and Kaipara Harbour and they could 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 continued our walk into the bush.

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 and the wind and smelled the fresh forest scent.

We then continued the walk.  The students saw pictures of some of the fish in the CUE Haven stream and learned a little bit about them.

Thomas explained the importance of pest control and how we use tracking tunnels to monitor the pests on the property.

We also found some silver fern and Thomas explained how it can be used to mark the path at night.

For a good part of the walk, a friendly piwakawaka (fantail) also accompanied us.


At the end of the walk, we finished up in an area where the stream flows into the wetlands. It is a good place to plant trees that like damp forest conditions and we had the students plant some tree fuchsia, rimu and kahikatea.  Thomas showed the students the trees they would be planting and explained where they should be planted to ensure they grow well and gave a planting demonstration.

The students broke into teams and went to work.

In no time, the students managed to plant all of the trees we had brought up for them!  They gathered up all the pots and spades and we headed back to the nursery to clean up for lunch.

Sustainable Living

After lunch, Mahrukh had the students do an interesting activity 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 two 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.

Both groups finished almost at the same time and the last few people in each group 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 Ashley and Rachel facilitating the discussions.  Although at first the students thought the activity was a game and the objective was to empty the bowls as quickly as possible, they realized the importance of what the stones represented and the risk to future generations of over consumption and they had some serious discussions of what they could do individually and as a society to reduce consumption and conserve resources.


The students are learning about bees and the importance of pollination.  Mahrukh explained that we have bee hives at CUE Haven to help propagate the forest and to provide honey.  She then gave the students a brief talk about bees, describing their social organization, the importance of pollination and the risks that human activity creates for bee populations and the different aspects of bee keeping.

She showed the students how hives are laid out and how honey is extracted from honeycombs.

We’d like to thank beekeeper, Richard from Waitoki Apiaries, who brought over empty bee hives and combs, some bees wax and the honey extractor, where the combs are spun to remove the honey, so we were able to show these to the students.

Each student was given a picture of a little bee to take home with them as a momento of their first visit to CUE Haven. We hope it will be a reminder that human activities are causing bees to become endangered and so we need to BE mindful of our activities and strive to BE guardians of our planet.

At the end of all the activities, teacher 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 Ashley and parents Nancy and Rachel for helping out today and helping to make the day so special.  And an extra thank you to Ashley, for her enthusiasm and support 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 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.

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