The tamariki at Picton Kindergarten have been learning all about wētā. This evolved through their exploration of te ngahere and how to care for the native flora and fauna through pest control.
It began when one of the tamariki discovered a wētā family in her woodshed. She recognised it as one of our native insects and sent in photos to Kindergarten for everyone to see. Jo then brought in a live wētā from her home and they made a habitat for it. This led to learning about what they like to eat, where they live, how many eggs they lay as well as what predators endanger them.
When the tamariki learnt that cats, dogs and hedgehogs endanger wētā (they eat them!!!), they decided it would be a great idea to build houses to keep them safe from these predators. They knew exactly what habitat wētā needed from their previous research. We had a hui to discuss how we could put this plan into action. We asked them what they knew about wētā homes. They knew that wētā liked living in wood, and that they needed an entrance to get in and room to lay eggs. We looked at some wētā house designs on google, then encouraged the tamariki to draw up some “house plans”.
The tamariki decided bamboo houses would be best from the suggestions made, but they would need to be camouflaged for the safety of the wētā. We asked whānau and community members if they had any laying around. Luckily many put their hand up to help and we had multiple people bringing in bamboo. The tamariki cut up the bamboo to create an entrance at one end. Then they coloured them with black and green pens, so they were camouflaged and then took them home to hang in a tree. We had many kōrero about how lucky these wētā were while we were making the wētā houses.
Whānau were encouraged to send in pictures of the tamariki with their wētā houses. Check out the great picture that a parent sent in of some wētā that made one of the bamboo houses their home!
Sophie told everyone, “I hung mine in the fruit tree”.
Another of the tamariki came in excitedly telling everyone that “there is baby wētā living in my wētā house!”.
What a wonderful discovery to see that the wētā love their homes. All this learning has even inspired the kindergarten to purchase their own soft toy wētā. The tamariki have named it Spikey. Every weekend Spikey gets to go home with tamariki for some ka rawe adventures.
The learning did not stop there! The tamariki could not believe that our friendly pets were harming our precious wētā, so they were disappointed to hear that our native birds were in harm’s way too. We learnt that cats and dogs are not the only predators out there, but possums, rats, mice and stoats were a major issue in te ngahere. We set up a model ngahere in the corner of our kindergarten. In there you will find wētā and their houses, a possum, possum traps, a rat/mice/stoat trap, birds that the tamariki crafted, and some native flora too. The Kiwi Guardians section of Department of Conservation’s website had some great suggestions on activities to do with the tamariki around conservation and pest control, and the tamariki earnt kiwi guardian conservation medals for their wētā houses and for creating a pest tracking tunnel which showed us mice footprints in one of our back yards. The tamariki have loved sharing at mat time the hunting adventures they have gone on with their whānau, as they now know how important conservation is and caring for our community and wider environment. We have even got a selection of plucked possum fur!
Banner image: Spikey ready for another adventure.