Educational focus around the region

Two schools at opposite ends of the region have recently had the chance to learn and immerse themselves in nature. 

We’re working to build and strengthen the relationship between young people, their environment, and the work we do.  

Part of this work includes supporting schools and other education providers to plan and deliver action-focused environmental education including the Enviroschools programmes.  

Kaikōura Primary School and Timaru Boys’ High School recently worked with staff to carry out two different educational opportunities for students – from fish identification to taniwha construction, water sampling and looking at ways to reduce the impact of farming activity.  

Kaikōura Primary connect to their local awa  

Students in years four to six learnt about the ecological and cultural significance of Lyell Creek/Waikōau with rotating activities including fish identification, a stormwater story and embodying the creek’s taniwha, Matamata, using natural materials. 

The day was part of a larger project being run by Kaikōura Primary School and Kaikōura land management and biodiversity advisor Heath Melville, focusing on bringing life back to the lower Lyell. 

“It’s always fun getting schools involved in what we are doing around freshwater, but it’s so much more worthwhile when efforts are made by schools to make a fun day out into a learning experience that deepens student’s connection with freshwater ecosystems.

"Thanks to the enthusiasm of some of the school’s teachers, a nature-based programme has been created for several classes, extending the classroom to the banks of the Waikōau, just down the road from the school,” Melville said. 

Fish surveys provide valuable data

Freshwater fish surveys carried out with the students will help create a data set for measuring future restoration actions against. Once other actions are taken to restore the area, the students will be able to see if or how their actions have impacted the life within Waikōau.

“This initial programme is part of a riparian enhancement project that has been developed in partnership with Te Rūnanga ō Kaikōura. This will lead to additional planting of the Lower Waikōau in West End which students will be assisting with, while learning about the benefits of native riparian vegetation in the process,” he said. 

The project is driven from NIWA’s 2018 report and recommendations for the Lower Lyell. The school's engagement is focused on the significance of the Waikōau, the challenges it and other waterways in the local and regional area are facing, and what we can do to improve matters.   

The classroom extension of the immersion day will focus on the students coming up with ideas on how to recognise the freshwater values and improve freshwater habitat.

Learning about tuna

A couple of the students assisted Melville in directing tuna/long-fin eel back into the stream, learning about their life-cycle and challenges they face in our modified environments.  

One student made a remark about “how cool they feel”, as the slithering tuna were meandering through the partially submerged grasses back to the stream. This generated much excitement from the group who were keen to see them return to deeper water.   

Our youth engagement and education team supported the project, providing resources and knowledge for nature-based learning and Enviroschools.  

Timaru Boys’ High students focus on Pareora River 

A class of Timaru agricultural science studies students took a close look at the Pareora River as part of a hands-on field trip on the impact of farming.  

The Timaru Boys’ High School class spent two days learning about stream health and the best practice steps that farmers can take to reduce nitrogen and sediment run-off into waterways.   

The event was also supported by our youth engagement and education team, who organised talks and demonstrations from on-the-ground staff to highlight the latest rules and expectations on protecting waterways.  

Students carry out sampling

Taking macroinvertebrate samples at several points along the Pareora River was a key part of the field trip. The Year 13 students also visited working farms, both sheep and beef and dairy, to see what measures were in place to reduce the impact of farming activity.  

Youth engagement and education advisor Debbie Eddington said giving the students the chance to take the water samples at several locations – and identify the insects and aquatic life they found – was the best way to showcase biodiversity.  

“Pretty quickly, the students could see the difference between what they were finding at the bottom of the river – lots of snails and worms – compared to a more diverse range of species and bullies nearer the water source.” 

In the evening, the students got to hear from a surface water scientist, land management advisor and biodiversity advisor from the Timaru team – getting some real-world advice on what rules and measures are now required by farmers to minimise any impact on the environment.  

One student remarked: “I enjoyed seeing the change in invertebrate species as we moved up the river and how many invertebrates there actually are in a small section of a river.”    

And, when talking about water samples taken during the field trip, another said: “It was interesting to see that there was very minimal amounts of nitrogen in the river. This was good because it means that farmers along the Pareora are taking action to prevent nitrogen leaching.” 

Find out more about our education programmes.