Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Experiencing Nature with Kids - their way

It was all about being hands-on at the Koraunui Bioblitz this week. Schools in Stokes Valley took part in an amazing day of exploration on organised by Dianne Christenson of Koraunui School and supported by scientists and experts. Did I have some pre-conceived notions of a Bioblitz? Maybe, but I agreed with a fellow expert that this one should be led by the children's interests and observations.

My first eager group had bounce in their step as we headed along a small path among some new plantings at Horoeka Scenic Reserve.

As the path changed from gravel to earth and leaf litter the leaders began to chant "We're going on a bush walk, we're going on a bush walk..."to the rhythm of "We're going on a bear hunt". Feeling the ground under the feet is surely one of the first things to sense on a walk - hard or soft - the shuffle of leaves or the satisfying slap of shoes on a wooden bridge.

Despite the chanting, a tui was seen and heard, we tried to sneak up on it to get a photo but it flew away. So on we went, more quietly now, looking for points of interest - puriri moth holes, spider webs, creatures living under stones. All too soon we were out of the bush and back near the entrance. Earlier I'd spied a small wetland so we headed there.

Here we looked at the raupo seed heads, touched the down and experimented with how the wind might blow them away.

Raupō or Bullrush
Later with my second group, we found fluffy clematis seed heads which were hanging low enough for the children to touch.
Clematis paniculata seed heads
We also touched the soft membrane behind which a puriri caterpillar was biding its time.
A puriri moth hole, the membrane broken on this one.
The children reached out to touch the rough tree fern trunks, patches of soft moss and furry rangiora leaves. They picked up and examined skeleton leaves and counted out the leaflets on patē - the seven-finger tree.

I took photos to upload to iNaturalistNZ, but this group also had an iPad to take photos, so I was intrigued to see what they'd find interesting enough to photograph. They dutifully took photos when I suggested it, although it was tricky in the dark bush, especially when the spider just wouldn't keep still in the bug jar.
The elusive spider hides at the back of the jar
But where their passion came out was in finding the perfect koru! I wonder how many hundred photos they took of unfurling fronds - ponga/silver fern, mamuku/black tree fern, kio kio?!  More on this in my next blogpost.
It was very satisfying to see children consolidating their existing knowledge - checking in with me about whether a vine was supplejack for example, or discovering something memorable for the first time - such as seeing the silver back of a silver fern or finding puriri moth holes. We collected a lot of data on the day which can be seen on iNaturalistNZ.

Nature Hunt to Download
Many Nature Hunt/Scavenger Hunts just don't match the New Zealand forest. So watching what the children found and were interested in, inspired me to come up with a New Zealand Nature Hunt for kids.

This Nature Hunt would be perfect for Horoeka Scenic Reserve but would also be a good challenge for trips to Otari/Wilton's Bush, Porirua Scenic Reserve, Percy Scenic Reserve, Belmont Regional Park and many other locations in Greater Wellington and further afield. 

When we go on Nature Hunts in native forest all we take home are photos and memories, rather than taking or damaging living things. 

"In the Bush: explore and discover New Zealand's native forests" is a useful reference for identifying animals and plants in our native forests.

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