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Ahuroa School–2 September 2022

September 3, 2022

Ahuroa School students haven’t been able to visit CUE Haven for a while because of Covid disruptions, but they were able to join us today for a great day of outdoor learning.  The students have been studying waicare and today teacher Kevin Sutherland once again brought a group of his students to explore the stream at CUE Haven so they could to do more intensive study on water quality and aquatic animals.

The students have been working with educator Stephanie McLeod of Whitebait Connection, an environmental education group focused on the health of New Zealand’s streams and waterways and Stephanie was joined by her colleague and educator Sarah Dimitrijevic.

Stephanie and Sarah came out the evening before the students’ visit and set out some fish traps in Wai Matauranga, the CUE Haven stream, so the students would be able to see what larger creatures were living in the stream.  We went out to various points along the stream and set the traps.

Stephanie and Sarah had brought different types of traps to catch different fish and in addition to several small cage nets, they set two long nets designed to catch larger fish.

We kept our fingers crossed hoping that there would be some fish in the traps the next morning!

The group of 21 students arrived the next morning and accompanying teacher Kevin, were parents Andrew and Gentle.  Ahuroa School principal Terry Taylor also joined us for part of the day.

Mahrukh welcomed the group to CUE Haven.

Stephanie and Sarah then gave the students an overview of the plan for the day and a safety briefing.

The plan for the day was for the students to walk through the CUE Haven bush to learn about native plants and restoration and along the way visit the net sites and also look for fish and macroinvertebrates in the stream.

As we walked along, Stephanie and Sarah pointed out aspects of the bush on neighbouring properties that might have an impact on water quality and the creatures living in the streams and ponds.

At the first two net sites no fish had been caught but Stephanie took some samples of water so that the students could look for macroinvertebrates living in the stream.

We were very happy to find dobsonflies and stonefly larvae.  These only live in clean and healthy streams!

As we continued on with the walk, the students could ask questions and observe different aspects of the bush.

Before turning around to head back to the other net sites, the students got a view of the Kaipara Harbour just 2 kms away from the entrance to CUE Haven.  Wai Matauranga flows into the Araparera River and Stephanie explained how the water quality in Wai Matauranga and the streams on the surrounding properties impacts the quality of water in the Harbour.

We continued on down to where the students would do more intensive study of water quality and macroinvertebrates with stops along the way to talk about plants and animals as well as water quality.

Stephanie and Sarah had organized the testing site at Wahi Matauranga, an area where we have outdoor meetings and learning sessions.  Once we arrived, Sarah gave a short talk about water quality issues and explained the tests the students would be doing while Stephanie took a sample of water for testing from the nearby stream.

Stephanie explained that the students would be testing clarity of the water to assess silt levels and  examining water samples to identify macroinvertebrates—the tiny animals that live in streams.  The amount and diversity of animal life is an indicator of the health of the waterway.

Stephanie also retrieved the long net which unfortunately hadn’t caught anything.  She stretched it out to show the students and explained how it worked.

Sarah then explained that the first step was to record the time and temperature of both the water and the ambient air.

Once the temperatures were recorded it was time to test the water clarity.  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.

The clarity test tubes were filled with water from the stream.

Sarah the demonstrated how the test works.

And had two volunteers do a preliminary test.

The students teamed up to conduct several tests and the results of the individual tests were averaged.

The students then broke into smaller groups and Stephanie provided each group with a tray filled with stream water, a spoon and magnifying lenses and a chart that would help them identify macroinvertebrates.

The students found a variety of macroinvertebrates and we were happy to see that many of the creatures the students found are sensitive to water quality and are not found in polluted streams.

At the end of the session, the students helped pack up all the equipment and headed to the cottage for lunch.

After lunch, Mahrukh explained the “Marshmallow Experiment” to the students.  She gave each student a lolly and told them that if they could resist eating it and if they still had it when they came back from their post lunch activities, they would receive an additional treat.

We were very proud of the students—every single one held off from eating their lolly and so got a chocolate treat before they left!

Stephanie and Sarah had set up two traps in the stream about 100 metres from the entry to the property and we went down to check on them.  We were very happy to see in the first net a big banded kokopu, a native New Zealand galaxid fish.

Stephanie took some time to tell the students a little about the fish and its habits and showed the students how to carefully study them.

We then moved to the next trap.

In that trap we found a young longfin eel.

Once again, Stephanie and Sarah explained a bit about eels and their life cycle and the students had a chance to take a good look.

While Stephanie and Sarah released the fish and eel back to the stream, Kevin took the students on a walk though the wetlands where they got a chance to see some different vegetation and also have a quiet period of listening to nature sounds. It was a perfect end to a wonderful day of learning.

We want to thank Whitebait Connection for enabling the visit by Stephanie and Sarah and a huge thank you to both of you.  We really enjoyed working with you and you are great with the students.  We all learned a lot thanks to you sharing your knowledge and taking the time to explain things.  We hope to see you again soon at CUE Haven educating another group of students.

A very special thanks to teacher Kevin for his continuing interest in CUE Haven and for once again bringing his students out for a great day of learning.

And most of all we want to thank the great group of students.  We were very impressed with your curiosity and enthusiasm to learn. We hope you enjoyed the day and we hope that what you learned today will encourage you to pursue science studies and also become better kaitiaki of our environment. 

We look forward to having you all back for more educational visits at CUE Haven.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Gabriele permalink
    September 3, 2022 9:20 pm

    Interesting read and looks like a very educational day and time well spent. The psychological ‘instant gratification ‘ experiment – made me think of our uni time 😁

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