Whakamarama School

Background

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.

2019

Term 2

Theme – Introduced Pests

  • Understand why a range of animals and plants are classified as ‘pests’.
  • Learn how to identify common local animal & plant pest species
  • Understand how many introduced animals and plants cause significant threats to our native flora and fauna.
  • Learn what people are doing to manage pest populations locally and regional/national targets for pest management

Actions

  • Built on existing knowledge of students through discussion and observations about local predator control projects.
  • With the support of volunteers students tried a range of pest management methods that target different pest species including trapping, lures and baits.
  • Kids played simulation games including possum picnic to understand how control processes work.
  • Students tracked rodents in the school grounds and learned how to analyse and record their findings.
  • Students used different monitoring methods in their local reserve to detect the presence of other pests (including possums and mustelids).
  • Students managed rat traps at school, checking them regularly and recording findings in the Predator Free BOP database. All participants follow a safe trap handling process, ensuring they avoid any injury and pests are trapped as humanely as possible.
  • Students learned how to make their own tracking tunnels and chew cards so they could monitor their home sections and surrounding areas.
  • Students visited Puketoki and walked the trap lines with Friends of Puketoki to gain an understanding of the types of traps used to target different species
  • Year 5 and 6 students made pest posters to display in the foyer area.

Term 1

Theme – Freshwater stream Ecology

  • Find out where local waterways are found, and information about their ‘setting’.
  • Learn to identify the difference between healthy and unhealthy streams.
  • Learn to identify who uses local freshwater resources and how, including some understanding of the range of cultural values around water.
  • Visit a local stream and learn to assess waterway health.
  • Learn why our streams are important and the role they play in natural ecosystems.
  • Learn to identify freshwater invertebrates, fish and eels.
  • Learn how and why we monitor stream health.

Actions

  • Students took part in the “where in the world is our water?” activity, including comparative assessment of healthy vs unhealthy streams.
  • Wild NZ students learnt basic water quality testing and monitoring techniques at school and during the site visits.
  • Students learnt how to correctly identify invertebrates, fish and eels, how to record results and share them.
  • The Wild NZ team Students from visited their local stream first in Puketoki reserve at the top of Whakamarama Hill and then visited the stream in Omokoroa. They assessed the health of each and were shocked to see how water quality declines with passage down the catchment to the harbour.
  • Weeds awareness initiated through specimen ID of some of the most aggressive invasive species in Omokoroa, including moth plant and woolly nightshade.
  • School registered with “Predator Free BOP” and students placed traps on the school grounds, and checked them regularly.

2018

Objectives

  • Strengthen interactions with community groups, with special emphasis on Puketoki project.
  • Continue and strengthen communication with community via local newsletters and blog.
  • Support leadership learning, providing ongoing opportunities for Wild NZ kids to step into a leadership “expert” role when working with other students.
  • Continue to communicate and engage with the principal, teachers, students, parents and the wider community about protecting and enhancing biodiversity in Whakamarama and the practical steps we can all take to help our local wildlife.
  • Students reporting back to peers via class presentation and display notice board.
  • Continue development of the lizard/bug hotel area.

Term 4

Theme – Forest ecology and mini beasts

Actions:

  • Learn to identify common native trees and plants in their schools and local areas.
  • Learn why our native forests are important and the role they play in our ecosystem
  • Learn how and why we monitor insect populations.

Summary:

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  • The students walked around the school and learnt how to identify the common native tree species and other plants within their school grounds.
  • Students selected a native tree or plant and learnt how to make a QR code for it. Students selected the best website before creating their QR code, so other students, teachers, classes can follow our trail, scan the code and discover what the tree/plant is and useful information about it. The senior class came to do it as an activity after we set it up.
  • Students participated in a leaf shape scavenger hunt and brought back their findings to the group, then identified which leaves came from which trees and plants using ID guide books. 
  • Students dissected their bug motel and identified their findings using magnifying glasses and ID books. We are planning to make many improvements next year.
  • We visited Puketoki reserve to walk trap line 5. Students investigated stream habitat after studying the forest transect.

Term 3

Theme – Overheard the bird (native & non-native bird species)

Actions:

  • Students learned to identify the birds in their local areas and the purpose of bird monitoring in predator control projects.
  • Students, teachers and parent helpers contributed to annual bird surveys (using 5-minute bird counts) and added information to the Wild NZ database

Summary:

  • The students learned how to correctly identify the most common bird species in their area and gained basic bird call knowledge.
  • We investigated local threats to native bird populations
  • We practised 5-minute & 1-hour bird surveys at two sites (school grounds & at Puketoki Reserve). Finding out about flight patterns & behaviour helped students identify birds too.
  • The students visited Huharua Reserve at the end of Plummers Pt Rd and observed the birds on the point and around the estuary. Matching bird’s beaks and feet to where it lives and what it eats was a great detective exercise.
  • Students visited Puketoki Reserve and conducted 5 min bird counts of forest birds, many of which are likely to fly down to parts of Omokoroa to feed.
  • Wild students participated in two citizen science projects; the annual garden bird survey in July & the whole school participated in the Great Kereru Count for the 3rd year running in September.
  • Students created paper “bird” aeroplanes by decorating them in their favourite native bird species. Their art was displayed after a flying competition.
  • Students created kereru window protectors.

Term 2

Theme – Pest Preventers

Actions

Whakamarama School students:

  • Used a variety of pest monitoring methods (including tracking tunnels and chew cards) to locate pest animals in and around the school grounds and along a monitoring line within the Pest Free Omokoroa pest monitoring network.
  • Learned how to identify pest footprints and teeth marks/chew marks on chew cards using identification guides.
  • Placed tracking tunnels around the school and used a set of existing tunnels which are a part of the Friends of Puketoki group’s network. Tracked rat and mice at school but not a single rodent in Puketoki. There were plenty of weta and assorted ‘bugs’ in Puketoki, confirming the ongoing success of their predator control!
  • Visited Puketoki Reserve and The Blade walked predator control traplines. One of our Wild NZ families (the Pennell’s) belong to the Friends of the Blade so the two kids from the group happily shared their pest knowledge and trapping techniques with the group.
  • Identified and understood the range of traps, lures and baits used in different settings, and to target different pest species (while avoiding harm to non-target species).
  • Developed a pest quiz, created illustrated information posters about pest species and reported findings to other classes. The report was used in the local Lizard News publication.
  • Participated in the national Landcare Research Garden Bird survey and added bird counts to the database.
  • Played simulation games including “possum picnic”.

Term 1

Theme – Clean Streams

Actions:

  • Year 7-8 classes learn about where our water comes from (visual and interactive session), healthy stream vs unhealthy stream activities.
  • Students assessed stream health at Puketoki Reserve through observation, collecting macro invertebrates and water quality tests. students determined this stream to be in excellent health. Results recorded.
  • Collect and identify macroinvertebrates to help assess the stream health.
  • Macrophotography and close observation of invertebrates adaptations.
  • Students presented their findings back to their peers regularly using posters and slide presentations they created. Posters displayed in school reception. Regular very enthusiastic & supportive updates on the school website by the Principal.
  • Eel/tuna net and minnow trap set. Caught 1 long fin eel and 1 koura (fresh water crayfish) in the minnow trap. Results recorded, eel migration discussed.
  • Students completed the long fin eel research activity.
  • Kids made 2 tau koura traps and set them in the stream to check in the future.

2017

Objectives:

  • 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 4

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

Theme – Native Birds “Overheard the bird”

Actions:

  • 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.

Term 1 and 2

  • 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

Freshwater

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

Native Birds 

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.

Other denotes: Whakamarama:1 Kingfisher, 1 Harrier; The blade: 1 Tomtit

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)!

The entire school participated in the kereru survey!

After the survey the students had a great time making and colouring in origami kereru.

 Some of the junior kids with the origami kereru they made.

Pest species

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!)

 Quin, Lia, Matthew, Sarah and Sitevah walking a possum trap line in “the Blade”

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.

Insects

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.

 Quin & Sarah racing to see who can put their tracking tunnel together the fastest!
Previous Activities