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Science Project Brings Students to Their Knees

New Zealand International Science Festival

MEDIA RELEASE 25 May 2009

Nationwide Science Project Brings Students to Their Knees

Is it a beetle? Is it fungi? Or is it an invasive alien? Thousands of school students from Auckland to Southland are down on their hands and knees identifying what life forms are in their playground and under their feet. ‘Meet a Metre’ is putting kids in gumboots and old clothes, getting their hands dirty and turning them onto science; it’s the brainchild of the New Zealand International Science Festival and the Department of Conservation and it has caught the imagination of Year 1 to Year 10 students from 32 participating schools throughout the country.

‘Meet a Metre’ is engaging young people in science at, literally, the grass roots level and giving them the unique opportunity to communicate online with scientists from DOC and Landcare. These experts can help students identify unfamiliar flora, fauna and fungi, determine soil types, and will eventually provide them with advice on how to enhance the health of the area they have studied.

The project involves investigating a square metre section of ground, identifying and recording species of flora and fauna, collating and presenting findings and then formulating a plan to enhance the area.

Project Moderator, Monika Fry, says, “Students are learning about biodiversity and ecology in their own school grounds and the reports that are coming in are so enthusiastic. It’s really got kids excited.”

Sightings of spotted millipedes, landhoppers, prowling spiders, spectacular white fungi and an errant blue hair ribbon are beginning to be posted on the project’s interactive website. Hot off the mark in the ‘Invasive Alien’ competition were Koraunui School in Lower Hutt and Limehills Primary School in Southland both of which had no problem in identifying a perennial land gobbler- pampas grass.

For plants that are harder to identify the students visit weedbusters.co.nz and to check out bugs with no name, Landcare’s website has a kid friendly classification system that starts with bugs with legs leading to bugs with 6 legs, 8 legs and many legs. There’s a general consensus among teachers that kids are fascinated by bugs even if some have to pick the ‘creepy crawlies’ up with tweezers.

What all seems like fun to the students is being directed into some worthwhile missions. At Abottsford Primary School in Dunedin students are actually looking at a large area of the school known as the 'native section' to see how it could be sustained and made more accessible to the whole school.

At Cockle Bay Primary School in Auckland Year 6 students are looking at improving the ground around a new building, Year 5 students are looking at where to put the team fruit trees and vegie garden and Year 4 students are looking at where to replant around the extended pool area.

‘Meet a Metre’ Moderator, Monika Fry says the ten-week project that began in late April is already proving a huge success and has the potential to be the catalyst for planting the seeds that will grow into tomorrow’s new scientists.

www.scifest.org.nz/meet_a_metre/

ENDS

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