Whakamarama School is situated in a very picturesque rural location 4.7 km up Whakamarama Rd. There are a number of bush remnants on private property nearby including two blocks just down the road that use a comprehensive pest management programme to control rodents and possums. Just up the road the 40 hectare Puketoki Scenic Reserve is also being restored (see Friends of Puketoke). In 2015 a new pest control area was set up in the Kaimai mamaku State Forest Park called “the Blade “(70ha). It is accessed from the end of Whakamarama Rd.
Whakamarama School has 3 teachers who are proud of the ideal learning conditions such as small class sizes, excellent resources, parent support and highly motivated, innovative students.
Term 4 – 2017
Whakamarama Schools Wild group explored the schools “green” space. They began learning how to use a plant ID key to identify native plants. After using the key and identifying the plants name the he students took notes, samples and did some leaf rubbings in their nature journals. I also introduced the kids to the “bug man” Rudd Kleinpaste via youtube. Afterwards the kids went and gave some much needed love to the bug and lizard hotel which was getting quite overgrown. While doing this the kids found a fascinating spider and were captivated by its strangeness. They searched all of the spider and insect ID books but couldn’t find it, so Sitevah and Billy put it down as their task to identify this strange spider! They discovered it is called a “Tailed forest spider” and is in fact native.
The kids have been dying to get back into the “Blade” bush, at the end of Whakamarama Rd, so we made a trip out there to repeat our 5minute bird counts as in previous years and to search for the elusive stick insect! Unfortunately, they remained elusive to us that day, but the kids enjoyed searching the banks and finding glow worms, spiders and snails. Thanks so much to all the parents who help us with transport throughout the year and make these kinds of trips possible.
Lastly, we ended up doing another freshwater session as the kids just adore it and ask all through the year to do it again! This time we searched for eels and the kids had great success finding some fairly big Long fin eels in the creek next to the carpark at Puketoki reserve. We also conducted a phosphate test on two different water samples which was a new activity for the kids and they collected and identified invertebrate’s species. Recording their data in the nature journals.
Thanks to all of our schools, teachers, pupils, parents and of course the Western Bay of Plenty District Council who make all of this possible.
Term 3 – 2017
Key Focus: Native Birds “Overheard the bird” term 3
- Learning how to conduct 5-minute bird counts, various locations
- Learning how to collect and record the data accurately.
- Learning how to correctly identify NZ birds (native and non-native) including their calls, songs, diet and special characteristics.
- Learnt how to debate. Given conservation issues and a timeframe
- Participated in the Great Kereru Count (whole school) data recorded online.
- Created supplementary bird feeders and nesting material holders (displayed at school).
- Created kereru window protectors (whole school)
- Voted for “bird of the year” during the run up to the election (whole school). Senior students created information posters to help the students to make their choice.
Focus for term 4 2017:
- Continue collaborative interactions with community with special interest at Puketoki Reserve.
- Mini Bio blitz- freshwater focus
- Wildlife reporting for WANZ blog/council updates (particularly leaders)
- Continue developing the backyard biodiversity concept with local landowners
- Stick insect, weta and other invertebrate surveys (pitfall)
- Work towards leadership learning group to teach and work with younger students
- Students reporting back to peers via small presentation
- Observations within neighbouring Skilton bush block
Term 1 and 2 – 2017
- Assessment of Puketoki Reserve stream health using water clarity, temperature, pH test and macroinvertebrate survey. Fyke and minnow caught longfins, bullies but no kokopu.
- Results displayed in school reception and on school website.
- Investigation of bush health – pest monitoring and bird surveys.
- Pest monitoring with trackers and chew cards set on school grounds and Puketoki Reserve (with assistance from FoP volunteers). Results displayed in school reception and on school website.
- Bug hunting and identification in school grounds.
- Bird identification learning through observation of behaviour, knowledge of feeding & features.
- Participated in the Landcare garden bird survey, data recorded online.
- Students reporting all results and information in personal nature journals
- Baddies & buddies, learning about inter-relationships between native species & various pests.
Other recent Activities
Our students monitored water quality and surveyed freshwater fish and koura at Puketoki Reserve in term1. Water quality is very good and we found plenty of longfin and shortfin eels. Our ‘mark 1’ design tau koura didn’t stay well bunched up and we found just a few small koura so we are looking forward to improving our design (and catch!) next year
In term 2 & 3 the students undertook 5 minute bird counts and participated in the annual Landcare Research ‘Garden bird survey’ http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/science/plants-animals-fungi/animals/birds/garden-bird-surveys.
In September, the entire school participated in the nationwide citizen science project ‘The Great Kereru Count’ http://greatkererucount.nz/
Before starting the survey, they tested their knowledge on all things kereru by taking a kereru quiz. The students learnt that kereru are the only living New Zealand bird that can swallow the largest seeds of our native trees such as tawa, miro, karaka, puriri. This is vitally important as it means they are the only bird able to distribute these seeds (via droppings)!
After the survey the students had a great time making and colouring in origami kereru.
This year the group have been lucky enough to be involved with ‘The Blade’ volunteer pest control group. The students got amongst it in bush, walking possum trap lines with Colin Hewens, the groups coordinator. They learnt how to safely set a possum trap, what lures work best and why Colin hangs his possums up in a tree near by the trap Answer: To lure in any other possums and feed his pals the robins (with the maggots!)
Small mammal monitoring
The students were also involved in establishing the tracking tunnel network within the Blade project area and also helped run the first tracking tunnel monitor. Out of 25 tunnels 17 were tracked by rats = 68% tracking rate! Now that’s high! The Blade group will be aiming for a <5% tracking rate after the toxin operation, if successful. We look forward to hearing their results in the future.
In term 4 we are doing some forest foraging for insects and invertebrates by setting pit fall traps and using our 1-star bamboo weta motels to assess the health of our local insect’s populations.