Getting connected in the Kauaeranga Valley

Last Friday around 100 students, and 25 teachers and parents representing 9 Enviroschools, came together for an event based around the theme of ‘Everything is Connected – Whanaungatanga’ in the Kauaeranga Valley at the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre. Most of the students came from Thames-Coromandel and Hauraki schools, with Te Kauwhata school also joining for the day.

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The sound of the conch shell heralded the start of our day with artist and storyteller, Mike O’Donnell who led a karakia and waiata and spoke of our connectedness with the waters, the air and the earth. The school groups had all brought water from an awa (river) or body of water they were connected to, and they found their place on a giant map of the Coromandel and Northern Waikato. Waters from all the different areas were brought forward and poured into a communal urn, representing ‘te moana’ (the sea). The act demonstrating the interconnectedness of everyone to their water bodies and that, through this water we are all one. As Mike O’Donnell said “we do to the waters we do to ourselves”.

The children formed groups connecting with students from around the area and moved around interactive workshops facilitated by some inspiring and knowledgeable experts and educators from the local community.

Doug Ashby a local Herpetologist (lizard expert) shared the quirky fascinating secrets of our native geckos and lizards and gave students the chance to hold and really connect with them. With Christine from DOC, the children had the chance to handle kiwi specimens and eggs as well as listening to their different calls while also gaining more awareness of the dangers they face.

Other ‘hands on’ workshops had children using binoculars and looking at model flocks of seabirds. Krystal from ‘Pukorokoro Miranda Bird Sanctuary engaged the children in learning all about migration and the importance of conserving shorebird habitats. Children were knee deep in water working with Warren and Elaine from Waikato Regional Council who helped them look at the health of the Kauaeranga River through water testing, clarity tubes and looking at the creatures that live there. St Francis School worked with Viv Mclean from the Kauri Dieback Forum to create a really engaging workshop on Kauri Dieback which explored the effects and controls of this devastating disease.

The children connected with ‘Te Ngahere’ (the bush) through their 5 senses in the Nature Awareness workshop and became bush detectives with Natalie from Moehau Environment Group (MEG) learning how to create a tracking tunnel and identify predators of our native animals.

The teachers and community educators commented on the importance of the connections that they were making with each other and the potential for future environmental education with individual schools.

After lunch the children listened to an inspiring and powerful speech by local Year 8 student Helena Mayer, and then shared their own schools latest learning and action for the environment with the whole group through short presentations.

After some sharing and reflection of what they might take forward from these experiences, the day finished as it began with a waiata for Papatuanuku and Ranginui, a real sense of Inter-connectedness and stepping back into the world inspired to make a difference.


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