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Students get down and dirty for science

Students get down and dirty for science

Grubbing around in the long grass and dirt catching spiders, poking through prickly shrubbery in the dark after lizards and braving chill mountain streams for fish and insects were all part of the scientific fun for 170 students participating in the Nina Valley Ecoblitz near Lewis Pass this past weekend (March 14-16).

Schools from throughout Canterbury participated in the three day science education project organised by Hurunui College, Lincoln University, the Department of Conservation (DOC), Environment Canterbury and the Hurunui District Council.

The Ecoblitz was an opportunity to combine scientific study with an educational opportunity for highschool students who might not normally get exposed to university level science research. Supported by scientists, university students and their assistants mainly from Lincoln University, the youngsters happilly helped out with recording plant, animal, insect, bird, reptile and mammal species down to the smallest level in survey plots located in the Nina Valley and near the Boyle Outdoor Education Centre.

Chair of the organising committee Tim Kelly (Hurunui High School) said the feedback from the schools and the pupils was fantastic.

“Highlight of the project for me was the number of youngsters enthusiastically reporting they had seen lizards or set wax tabs for possum surveys. Others were excited to have been allowed to handle various creepy crawlies from the world of the forest floor and go electric fishing to study the fish species in the streams. We had students pearing down microscopes and seeing how scientific data is uploaded to computer tools for analysis and indentification.

There was a huge degree of infectious enthusiasm, meaning the weekend went really well with lots of real learning taking place. I’m sure we’ve helped produce some budding scientists from this experience.”

The weather also played ball for the weekend with the predicted weather bomb holding off, allowing all planned outdoor activities to be completed.

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