Ecology Restoration Leads to Deeper Inquiry in Kaitiakitanga

Schools on the Motu Kairangi peninsula have all participated in the drive to make their peninsular predator free and to restore the ecology. Not only has this provided an engaging and locally relevant learning context for the students, it has also catalysed an inquiry among the schools into the area’s Māori history, prompting deeper connections between teachers, students, and the environment.

Community restoration project offers valuable learning for students

Students from Worser Bay School with a particularly big catch!

Students and teachers began participating in collective predator free work during 2018, with support from Zealandia and Predator Free Wellington. This work was part of Predator Free Wellington’s Te Motu Kairangi ecological restoration project and schools were invited to be involved by planting trees to attract native birds, building weta hotels and trapping predators.

At the start of 2018, the Zealandia team trained students and teachers to set tracking tunnels, interpret the tracks left in them, and then set appropriate traps.

The Seatoun School students put their traps within walking distance of school and each week two Year 7 leaders were rostered to check and reset the traps with their teacher.

In 2018 they caught 11 rats and 11 mice. In 2019 it has been very quiet, with only one of each found in Term 1, then a rat and two mice in Term 2 as the weather turned colder. Soon the eradication phase will kick in with bait stations being placed every 50 metres, including in the school grounds.

“It has been engaging for students and a good challenge for me too,” says Wendy, a teacher at Seatoun School. “We have caught enough to keep us interested and it has been a good reality check that you need to keep going even when it feels like there is no point because suddenly they start biting again.”

Wondering about the past

Being part of the efforts to ecologically restore their area prompted teachers and students to wonder what a pre- European peninsular might have been like. They learned about the plants and animals that would have been present and also thought about how indigenous people would have lived in that environment. This led to further thought about aspects of the peninsular that might deserve special care because of their importance in Māori culture.

E kore e ngaro, he takere waka nui – nā Kupe
We will never be lost: we are the hull of a great canoe.

Tour guides Christian and Watene.

A special opportunity arises to explore kaitiakitanga

It was clear that more opportunities were needed to explore these aspects and in 2019 the solution arose in a unique way.

Christian Mauriri and Watene Campbell, two year thirteen students at Te Kura Kaupapa o Ngā Mokopuna, had been developing a tour of sites of historical significance as part of their English programme and they needed practice taking others on the tour.

Enviroschools and Te Aho Tū Roa worked with Zealandia and Predator Free Wellington, to bring together forty teachers from the primary schools of Motu Kairangi.

Walking in Oruaiti Reserve.

Te Kura Kaupapa o Ngā Mokopuna welcomed them with a whakatau before Christian and Watene led the group on a hiking tour of the peninsular starting at Seatoun Beach beside their school and finishing at Oruaiti Reserve.

They visited significant sites along the way including Te Aroaro-o-Kupe and Oruaiti Pā.

After the walk they returned to discuss some of the deeper issues behind including environmental action in the curriculum. There can be divided views about the appropriateness of some actions such as pest eradication.

One thing everyone agreed on was that the act of kaitiakitanga, and protecting and caring for our unique biodiversity and ecology, needs to be taught alongside the action students are taking. The experience prompted further action for some teachers.

Springboard for relationship building and further learning

The tour reinforced for Worser Bay School the significance of their school being built on a pā site. John, a teacher at Worser Bay School found the tour experience really valuable:

“This is an awesome experience. We really want to acknowledge the historical importance of our school grounds by meeting with mana whenua and designing something together.”

Many saw the value in sharing their new knowledge with their students. And as part of the Puanga and Matariki time of reflection in 2019, students from schools on the peninsula had the opportunity to do the same tour and talk about some collective action they may take as a result.

“I learnt new things about a place I come to all the time!” – Student participant

Students gather at pou commemorating Kupe and Hine Te Aparangi.