The hauora (health) of the environment is deeply connected to our own – both physically and mentally. The actions we take to help our local environments will make a positive difference in the wellbeing of our community. Nature-based learning will play a central role in enabling the next generation to develop the skills and knowledge needed to do so.
Plants, Possums and Birds – Oh My!
Otago Boys High School borders the Town Belt and has used the concept of kaitiakitanga in the junior science, Year 11 science, and biology programmes.
In 2017 and 2018 cohorts of students developed projects that focussed on the biodiversity of the bush area behind the school. The students used chew cards, tracking tunnels and transect lines to monitor rodents in the bush and determine how many of these rodents visited the school grounds by night. As a result of their findings, the school purchased A240 CO2 traps which reduced the number of possums that ventured into the school grounds and buildings.
The Y13 cohort of Biology students extended this concept to collect data on plant species diversity in the Town Belt. They completed assessments in linking abiotic factors in microclimates within the Town Belt to plant plasticity. Other students collected data on soil pH, fungi distribution and bird calls.
Of note were two award-winning Science Fair projects. Liam Connolly studied the ‘accent’ of tui on a transect from one end of the Town Belt to the other end. Isaac Lee and Guy Rattanapan designed and built a website in collaboration with the chair of the Otago branch of Birds New Zealand, to collect and store data for the Dunedin Town Belt Five Minute Bird Count citizen science project.
– Pru Casey, Previous Head of Biological Sciences (OBHS)
Creating an Orienteering Course for Pre-Schoolers
Fifteen Year 12 and 13 girls from my outdoor education class recently created and ran an orienteering course for the Bush Kids of Early Learning at Flippers. We used the Backcountry Navigator app. In turn, the pre-schoolers taught the older girls how they tracked predators in the Town Belt using chew cards and tracking tunnels. The reciprocal tuakana – teina teaching and learning philosophy engaged both groups of students. The older students were astounded at the ease in which the pre-schoolers navigated their way through the bush unafraid and uninhibited. They were also surprised that they were able to articulate the value of protecting the bush and the importance of keeping the environment predator-free, at such a young age. From this experience some Year 13 students developed strategies to enable them to build deeper connections to the environment for a local journey experience and assessment later in the year. In the future we hope to further develop reciprocal learning opportunities, in particular to grow our students’ environmental ethos and connect with other local schools involved in predator tracking and trapping in the Town Belt.
– Shannon McNatty, Outdoor Education Teacher (OGHS)
Creating a Virtual Town Belt
John McGlashan College students are developing a Virtual Reality experience of the Dunedin Town Belt. It will be an immersive and integrated teaching tool that includes information about the Māori and colonial history and ecology of the Town Belt, as well as how people can use it as a place for recreation and a place for positive change. We also hope that it makes the beauty of the Town Belt accessible to the wider community including local residents and visitors. The project will take about 5 years to complete. Two year 9 boys are currently developing their coding and design skills in Unity and Unreal, and they will collaborate with other Town Belt Kaitiaki teams for the content. This project presents a range of complex problems and the students have to develop solutions using a wide range of critical thinking and problem solving. We are hoping to have a functional alpha for testing soon, and will add in Town Belt content once we enter the beta design phase.
– David Beazley, Year 7 Teacher (John McGlashan College)