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Wainui School—17 & 18 September 2019

September 20, 2019

Over two days, seventy-three students from nearby Wainui School came out to CUE Haven for a day of learning and exploring.  On the 17th, 37 students and ten parents joined teachers Pam Millar, Marie Mahler and Melany McDermid and on the 18th, 36 students and seven parents joined teachers Avril Richards and Shelley Ross.

Wainui School students have been coming to CUE Haven since 2016 and it was great to see some familiar faces among the accompanying teachers and parents.

On both days we got acquainted over morning tea, and Mahrukh gave an overview about CUE Haven and described the planned activities for the day and Thomas gave a safety briefing.

The plan for each 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 so the students could learn a little bit about native New Zealand plants and animals, did a bug hunt which required the students to study and identify different insects they found and we also did activities to learn about conserving natural resources.  Because of the size of the groups, we broke each day’s group into two.  One group did the nature walk while the other did the other activities and after an hour we switched over so that all the students had a chance to do all of the activities.

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.  He showed them the neighbour’s paddock to give the students an idea of how CUE Haven looked ten years ago and then showed them the 2008 and 2015 plantings so that they could compare the way the trees had grown up.

The group had a chance to again see the area where a landslip occurred during a torrential rain storm in August 2016. The slip began on the neighbouring property but mainly affected CUE Haven. Thomas talked about the importance of having trees on hill slopes and showed the groups the remedial planting we were now doing in the area to stabilize the hill slope.

During the walk, Thomas pointed out some of the different planting areas to show the students how the trees were growing.  He pointed out the difference between wetland and non wetland plants so the students could identify the difference and 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.

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

And they also saw the weta hotels that had been made by the students from Westlake Girls High School, and these hotels were now habitats for native tree weta.

One of the things we want the students to learn and experience 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 and smelled the fresh forest scent.

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.

The group then headed down to the big puriri tree that our pest control efforts had saved from possum browsing.   That tree has 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—with our pest control efforts we saved the puriri tree, which attracted birds, in particular the kereru, who are in turn creating more forest by spreading the big seeds.

Thomas reminded the students of the challenges that native New Zealand plants and animals faced because of introduced pest plants and animals.  He demonstrated the tracking tunnels we use to monitor pest populations and the students got a chance to interpret some prints that animals had left on the tracking tunnel cards we had collected in the field.

Thomas also showed the students the traps we use to control pests.

We finished up with a walk through the wetlands and then headed back to the nursery for the next activity.

Invertebrate Study

We had placed pitfall traps in the orchard overnight so that the students would have some specimens to study.  Mahrukh explained how to use the traps and collect the bugs for study.

The students broke into groups around the work stations we had set up around the traps.  Assisted by an adult, they examined the creatures they found in the traps and used magnifying glasses so that they could study the creatures from all angles.  Using interpretive charts, they identified as many of the specimens as they could.

The students got very creative in finding places to look for bugs.  In addition to the spiders, slaters and beetles they found in the traps, the students also explored the trees and rocks in the area and found snails, slugs and skinks.

And then there were the macroinvertebrates to be discovered in the old water trough.

Sustainable Living

The students also did an interesting activity about resource depletion to help them better appreciate how to conserve our planet’s resources. The game generated a lot of interesting discussion.

The students broke into groups of six or seven and each group was assisted by a parent or teacher.  Each group had a bowl full of small stones and an empty bowl, a pair of chopsticks, 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 chopsticks, the third the teaspoon, the fourth the fork, the fifth person the tablespoon and the last person could scoop up stones with their whole hand.

Mahrukh counted time as the students took turn moving the stones using their “tool.”

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

Mahrukh then asked the students to imagine that the stones represented the Earth’s natural resources and their little fingers, chop sticks, forks and spoons represented the technical progress that has enabled humans to use resources more rapidly over the ages.

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 – by Rethinking, Reducing, Reusing, Restoring and Recycling.  They wrote down ideas for things they can do at school and home while the adults facilitated 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.

After lunch each student was given a small lolly.  Mahrukh told the students about the famous Stanford Marshmallow experiment and the benefits of delayed gratification.  The students were asked to demonstrate their self control and hold on to the lolly and only eat it once they returned to school.  Although there would be no second lolly when they got to school, we hope that students would learn to think about how to control impulsive behaviour through innovation and collaboration, and discussed some ideas.  Students offered interesting suggestions – hiding the lolly in their shoe, giving it to their friend for safe keeping, etc.

At the end of the day before the bus came, Mahrukh did an exercise with the students on identifying native New Zealand bird calls.

Although the native bird population at CUE Haven has increased significantly since we started restoring CUE Haven, we are hopeful that sometime in the future all the native birds will be thriving here.

We really enjoyed spending time with the Wainui students and we want to thank Pam for once again making all the arrangements for the visit and for championing CUE Haven at Wainui School.  And a big thank you the teachers and parents who helped out.  And a special thank you to Chloe Lodge for sharing some of her fantastic pictures.

And a BIG thank you to the students!  We really enjoyed meeting you and working with you and hope you enjoyed your visit as much as we did.  And thank you all very much for the koha to CUE Haven.  It is really thoughtful and much appreciated, and it will help ensure that your native forest reserve remains a well maintained park for you and the whole community to freely access over the years.

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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