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Kaukapakapa School—14 November 2019

November 14, 2019

Today we were very happy to welcome Year 6 students from Kaukapakapa School.  The school is only 12 km from CUE Haven and is the closest school to CUE Haven.

The plan for the day was to learn about water quality testing with the help of two Waicare specialists from Auckland Council.

The group arrived shortly after nine and included teachers Danielle and Tracey and parents Lisa and Regan with 23 students.

Also joining us were Sonia Parra and Bianca Lilley from Auckland Council’s Healthy Waters division.

Mahrukh gave the students a welcome and introduction to CUE Haven.  She explained the history of the restoration work and the importance of riparian planting to improve water quality in the CUE Haven stream which flows into the Kaipara Harbour.

While Mahrukh briefed the students, Sonia and Bianca collected water samples from the CUE Haven stream.

The students broke into two groups.  One group worked with Sonia doing various water quality tests using chemicals and the other group worked with Bianca studying the water samples for clarity and also to identify macroinvertebrates living in the water.  Halfway through, the groups switched so that all of the students could do all of the activities.

Sonia started her sessions with a short talk about water quality issues and explained the tests the students would be doing.  She explained that the students would be doing three experiments—testing water quality for oxygen, pH and phosphates and nitrates.

The students had also brought a sample of water from the stream by their school so that they could compare the results.

The first test the students conducted was measuring the pH of the water.  This involved using test strips and interpreting the colours on the strips after they were dipped in a sample of water.  Sonia demonstrated how the test was performed and then the students took their own readings.

The next experiment was to test for dissolved oxygen in the water.  Sonia explained that high levels of oxygen mean that the water can support lots of life.   She then demonstrated how the test is performed and the students interpreted the results.

The next test was for nitrates and phosphates in the water.  Unlike oxygen, we don’t want to see a high reading of either nitrates or phosphates as high levels can affect the freshwater aquatic environment.  The test involves comparing two samples, the test and the control so the students had a chance to learn about that experimental technique.

We were very happy with the results of today’s testing of the water in the CUE Haven stream.  The oxygen level was very high and there were no significant levels of nitrates or phosphates.

Bianca’s groups learned about water clarity and macroinvertebrates—the tiny creatures that live in fresh water ponds and streams.  Bianca explained how water quality affected aquatic creatures and how to test water clarity to assess silt levels and also how to identify macroinvertebrates.  The amount and diversity of animal life is an indicator of the health of the waterway.

Water clarity testing involved looking through a tube filled with water and measuring the distance light can penetrate to see how much silt and other material is suspended in the water.  Many aquatic creatures cannot thrive in cloudy water.

Bianca explained and demonstrated how the test works.

The students teamed up to conduct several tests and the results of the individual tests were averaged together.  The clarity was lower than usual today but that was possibly because it had been raining heavily up until the time the sample was collected this morning and there was a lot of water coming down the catchment.

The last test involved collecting a sample of water and leaf litter from the bottom of the stream to identify the macroinvertebrates.  Bianca showed the students a chart which would help them with the identification process.

The students found a variety of macroinvertebrates including damselfly nymphs, stonefly, rounded snail and water boatmen.  We were happy to see that some of the creatures the students found are sensitive to water quality and are not found in polluted streams.

Bianca then gave the students a short quiz to see how much they learned about healthy waterways.

Once all of the students had completed all of the Waicare work, Thomas took them for a short walk in the bush and wetlands so the students could see a bit of the restored property.

Before the students left, Mahrukh explained the marshmallow experiment and explained the importance of patience and deferring gratification.  She gave each student a Fruit Burst lolly and encouraged them to see if they could hold on to it and not eat it until they got back to school. Hopefully the students all passed the lolly test!!

We want to thank Auckland Council for enabling Sonia and Bianca to visit today.

Sonia and Bianca thank you very much for a very educational and informative waicare session and sharing your knowledge with the students.  We hope to see you again soon at CUE Haven educating another group of students.

We want to thank Danielle, Lisa, Regan and Tracy for joining us today and helping out. And a special thank you Danielle for organizing the visit and championing CUE Haven at Kaukapakapa School.

And most of all we want to thank the great group of students and budding scientists.  We enjoyed meeting you and we were very impressed with your curiosity and enthusiasm to learn. We hope you enjoyed the day as much as we did.  We hope that what you learned today will encourage you to pursue science studies and also make you better kaitiaki of our environment.  We look forward to having you all back for more educational visits at CUE Haven.


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