The Envirogroup at Kaniere School has been involved in a ‘fish on drains’ campaign for several years to raise awareness that what goes down the drain ends up in the ocean. Although the school is located six kilometres from the ocean, the campaign stemmed from a junior class’ desire to protect and conserve whitebait, one of their favourite fishes (and for some people, one of their favourite dishes!). It has had many run-on effects, and new questions and actions have resulted.
Following the Action Learning Cycle, the Year 1 class identified the current situation for whitebait in the nearby Hokitika River. The kids researched the history of whitebaiting on the West Coast, changes to habitat, and introduced and human-induced threats. They interviewed local whitebaiters to get their views on some of the issues.
With the support of parents and DOC, the class donned their hi-vis gear and went on a field trip to follow the journey of whitebait from river to ocean, and to identify threats such as farming, stormwater and development along the way. (See banner photo).
Brimming with new knowledge and ideas, the children were eager to raise awareness of the lifecycle of whitebait, their preferred habitat, and the issues that face their survival.
Their preferred action was to write a book. As a whole class, they wrote the story of The Adventures of Finneus Whitebait. Then, in groups, the kids were in charge of creating the illustrations, which were taken to a parent who is a local artist, Anna Black. She designed a concept based on their ideas. The book was published and gifted to students involved, and sold as a fundraiser to parents. Westland District Council were so impressed with the book, they ordered 200 copies for the Whitebait Festival in Christchurch and sold it through the local iSite and Museum. The book is being reprinted again due to popular demand.
Inspired by Kaniere School’s journey, and to deepen their own habitat restoration work, the Envirogroup from a school in Christchurch have a visit in the pipeline to Kaniere School to look at some of the initiatives that Kaniere School have embarked on.
Following the juniors’ work, the Envirogroup decided to organise a school beach clean-up. They wondered where the litter had come from, and decided to look at the journey of water and waste from their school drains to the ocean.
After researching what other schools had done to raise awareness of pollutants in the waterways, they decided to mark drains “for rain only”. An Envirogroup representative presented to Council, seeking support for marking sumps with painted fish. The Council gave permission and the water services engineer visited the Envirogroup and provided information on the sump location and numbers. Following her visit, the group decided a more sustainable option was to install polycarbonate fish on drains. They wrote a letter to a company, ECOBLUEFISH who kindly donated 100 fish. An action day was planned, and a helping and steady hand was provided by DOC, parents, and a district councillor while the kids drilled and hammered the fish into place around their school environs.
The Envirogroup were eager to share their learning more widely. Through the Enviroschools network, they shared this knowledge and the donated fish by helping to install them at other West Coast schools and early childhood centres. The Envirogroup is currently approaching local businesses and organisations to sponsor a fish, so that they can extend the initiative into the Hokitika township and beachfront.
The reflection that followed this action raised new ideas with the Envirogroup. What other species could benefit from healthy waterways?
They brainstormed other species inhabiting their marine environment, and decided on the blue penguin. Many children were unaware that penguins lived in Hokitika and were delighted to find out that this special taonga resided so close to home.
Following visits from the West Coast Penguin Trust, a field trip to the beach, and classroom studies, the children decided that not enough people knew about blue penguins, particularly that dogs and cars were major threats to their survival.
They worked with both the Trust and the local SPCA to develop a pamphlet to raise awareness for local residents of threats to penguins and what individuals could do to help. Parents helped to distribute the pamphlet to local residents. Kaniere School shared and celebrated this learning with their families and wider community with their junior school production, ‘Eddie the Penguin Saves the World’, which packed out their 400-seat Regent theatre.
A strong partnership developed between the West Coast Penguin Trust and the school, with the Trust calling on the school to help trial its new education resource, and the school continually looking at ways they can protect blue penguins. When the Trust launched their education resource, the school held a penguin party to celebrate complete with a penguin cake, egg-and-spoon race, and face painting.
Teacher Kristine Hickford says, “This work organically developed over several years through revisiting the action learning cycle. Different classes and the Envirogroup have worked on varying but complementary projects and actions. The result is that our children have been empowered, and have formed a strong connection with their waterways and the species that live in them. I’ve had parents come up to me and say they they’ve lived here their whole lives, and never knew we had penguins on the beach. That’s pretty exciting stuff where not only our children but our whole community is benefiting from simple but effective actions.”
Georgia Ritchie, Envirogroup representative, says that, “We are really proud of our fish-on-drains campaign. It’s pretty cool walking around our neighbourhood and seeing the fish. I’m pretty excited about doing them in town. It shows our school really looks after our environment and the creatures in it. There’s lots of schools where they don’t do much outside, and it makes our school really special.”