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Inspiring next generation of conservation leaders

21 schools on and near Wellington’s Miramar Peninsula are participating in Predator Free Schools, an innovative environmental education programme which offers students the opportunity to become conservation leaders in their school and community.

The programme was launched this week with two workshops hosted at Worser Bay School (28 Feb) and Evans Bay Intermediate School (1 March). Each school has nominated four student reps to attend the workshops, and these kids leave with all the equipment and skills they need to champion predator control at their school.

Eight-year-old Worser Bay pupil Keir McDonald already had an idea of how important getting rid of predators is for our native wildlife.

"Birds and weta and animals come back, then you can see the rest of what your future is, your imagination, your dreams," he said.

Children met DOC’s Predator Free ranger Richard Johnston along with his specially trained pest-detection dogs Flint and Kowhai.

Kids will learn about predator control in the New Zealand context, will be monitoring to find out what predators may be around, taking action and studying ecological outcomes such as seeing an increase in native birds. The focus is on the wider outcomes of conservation, rather than on ‘killing’ pests. The vision is to roll this programme out across to more Wellington schools.

It forms part of Predator Free Wellington, whose mission is to rid Wellington of rats, possums and mustelids so that our natural wildlife can thrive.

Predator Free Wellington Project Director, James Willocks says “In Wellington, somewhere in the vicinity of 5,000 households are participating in the predator free movement. Lots of kids are already trapping alongside Mum and Dad at home, so being able to integrate this into the classroom with wider context about why we need to do this is really exciting for the future of conservation in New Zealand. The features of this education programme will see young New Zealanders becoming confident and capable in science and technology and applying these skills to lead communities in to predator free action.”

The programme ensures a pathway from early education right through to secondary schools, with Zealandia working with early education centres through to intermediate schools and Papa Taiao delivering the programme to secondary school students.

Papa Taiao has been awarded an Unlocking Curious Minds grant to deliver the Predator Free Schools programme to secondary schools in Wellington and Northland. The distinctive feature of this project is that it will be integrated into and across the technology, science, enterprise and sustainability curricula providing NCEA achievement standards and delivered through authentic project-based learning experiences. It will then scale-up across New Zealand.

Zealandia has been leading environmental education programmes in Wellington for a number of years, delivering more than half of all conservation learning experiences in Wellington schools and turning young people into conservationists in their own environments. Within the Predator Free Schools project, Zealandia’s educators will be coordinating and delivering a predator tracking and trapping programme for kura kaupapa, primary and intermediate schools in the Miramar project area and Rongotai Isthmus buffer zone.


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