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Connecting kids to their local habitat

Monday, 4 Nov 2019

Over one hundred children from neighbouring schools in Waikato got together to help restore habitat near Lake Whangape, as part of the recent Conservation Week.

Students, staff and whānau from four local schools arrived eager to get digging and planting the 5,000 plants laid out as part of the Lake Whangape Restoration Project (LWRP).

The project aims to improve water quality at Lake Whangape and adjoining natural wetlands, which are recognised as nationally and regionally significant for conservation.

The schools were joined by staff from the Department of Conservation (DOC), Waikato Regional Council, Waikato-Tainui and local farmer Oliver Saxton. Sustained by a sausage sizzle and inspired by spot prizes, the children amazed the adults present by planting 2,100 plants - far more than expected. Contractors planted the remaining plants.

“After all our planning, it’s so good to see plants in the ground thanks to such a massive effort by the students, staff and whānau,” says Kerry Bodmin, Project Manager for LWRP.

Anita Anderson, Education Manager at DOC, says that an important part of growing up in New Zealand is the chance to exercise kaitiakitanga: care of the land and connection to nature.  

"People who have strong tūrangawaewae (a sense of place) are more likely to want to protect their place and oppose the degradation of the environment," says Anita.

“We need to support young people to be involved and contribute to solving issues that matter to them."

Anita also points to the research that shows spending time in nature improves kids’ behaviour, concentration and love of learning. “It significantly benefits their physical, mental, social and spiritual health and wellbeing,” she says.

Hands-on, fun ways to get young people learning about and connecting to nature

DOC has a range of activities and resources that anyone can access, to encourage young people to go outdoors, explore and connect to a local green space, and think about how they can help make a difference:

Conservation activities – activities you can do outdoors, in your garden and with children
Toyota Kiwi Guardians – an activity programme for kids to learn about and connect with nature
Nature taster activities – fun activities anyone can do to spark interest and build a meaningful relationship with nature.
Habitat Heroes – showcases and celebrates young people’s environmental action projects
Conservation education – curriculum-linked resources and activities to support conservation teaching and learning

Hear about the benefits of nature-based learning

The benefits of teaching and learning in nature