Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Autumn Leaf Study in New Zealand - leaf art, leaf scavenger hunts and more

Autumn around the world is a time that lends itself to investigate leaves, through making leaf art, going on a leaf scavenger hunt and learning about trees and their leaves.

Yet in New Zealand where almost every native tree is evergreen, the emphasis on trees changing colour and losing they leaves could seem to favour introduced trees over native trees. Here are some activities and ideas for studying native tree leaves in New Zealand. Autumn is still a good time to study leaves as it is interesting to compare deciduous and evergreen trees.

ACTIVITY: Go on a leaf hunt to find different colour leaves and identify whether trees are evergreen or deciduous. 

Deciduous trees - those that lose their leaves in autumn - do so to survive a cold winter, saving energy and getting rid of leaves that might pick up diseases. The trees draw back into their branches and trunk all the goodness that was in the leaves, such as water, nutrients and the green substance chlorophyll. So the leaves change colour, dry out and fall.

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Counting Litter - the good, the bad and the ugly

What's wrong with these pictures of scenic tourist spots?
Tawhai Falls, Tongariro National Park with Food Wrapper
Huka Falls, Taupō with Food Wrapper
Lake Taupō with Used Baby's Nappy (Diaper)
Yes, you guessed it Litter! They're not the shots I chose for my Instagram feed. In fact I nearly didn't take them at all. But if I'm always looking for the most beautiful shot, my photos aren't telling the whole truth about what I'm seeing. So I asked myself, what is the truth about litter in New Zealand?

If no one picks it up, what happens to this litter?



Monday, 20 April 2020

Kids Writing About Nature - and some tips for parents

Last year I ran some writing workshops with local children for Porirua Harbour Trust. I introduced the children to the idea of writing poems that could take on the shape of what they are writing about.
Here are some of their Raindrop poems:

From "The Current 2" Porirua Harbour Trust 2019

This kind of poetry is called Concrete Poetry.  It doesn't have to have an line around it, the words can be placed to make the shape, like this:
My example of a concrete poem

Monday, 23 March 2020

Stay at Home Nature Travel - Reading Recommendations

Right now people all around the world are hunkering down, travel plans cancelled, trips and events off. Those of us lucky enough to live among nature or close to wild places can still get out and about on solitary bird counts, or hikes where we distance ourselves from our companions. But some journeys or places we might have hoped to visit can now only be enjoyed from afar and preferably through a good book. Yes, you can watch nature documentaries or real-life adventure films but the are over in an evening and won't keep you engaged for as long as a good book can.

From my recent Nature reading list, here are some recommendations for nature journeys, each told from a unique personal perspective.  Experience the fungi in the woods of Norway, the migratory route of snow geese through North America, the wild Orkney Islands, a camel trek through central Australia and the Te Araroa Trail in New Zealand.

The Way Through the Woods: of mushrooms and mourning by Long Litt Woon 
(translated into English by Barbara J. Haveland 2019)


The author describes The Way Through The Woods as telling "two parallel journeys: an outer one, into the realm of mushrooms, and an inner one, through the landscape of mourning." Malaysian born Long Litt Woon has lived her adult life in Norway. While mourning the early death of her Norwegian husband, she found herself drawn into the European pastime of collecting edible fungi. 'Mushrooms and mourning' may sound like a strange combination, but this is no contrived book of an author seeking a vehicle for her story. It's an authentic journey; interweaving strands of discovery both personal and about the natural world.

The epiphany Long Litt Woon describes of seeing with new eyes, will ring true for anyone who has started to learn the ways of nature.  "A walk through the woods is a very different experience when undertaken armed with new knowledge, however limited it may be. Suddenly I was seeing mushrooms everywhere, fungi that I would have walked past before, blending as they did into the landscape. Now they were popping out at me in 3D, as if I'd been given special glasses to see them." The Way Through the Woods is full of such insights and new ways of experiencing the natural world - a whole chapter is given over to the odour of fungi, for example.