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Students ‘buzzing’ over nature

WAINUI Beach School had a visit from Ruud “The Bugman” Kleinpaste and shark expert Dr Riley Elliott from the TREEmendous programme who shared their knowledge of the environment to help with the school's penguin project.

Wainui Beach School is embarking on The Penguin Project: Little Blues, an initiative first started in 2018 when Wainui Beach residents discovered little blue penguins nesting under their homes.

As part of the 2021 TREEmendous Education Programme, an initiative from the Mazda Foundation, Wainui Beach School can develop a safe environment for little blue penguins in the area.

The Penguin Project aims to further the students' understanding around how they share the environment with other species. The goal is also to increase their knowledge on how little blue penguins are suited to their habitat and their response to environmental changes.

Kleinpaste also spent time providing teachers with resources to help identify ways to incorporate the environment as an immersive part of the curriculum so students can learn about nature in and outside of the classroom.

The school was one of five winning schools from around the country who each received $1000 to go towards an environmental project along with 200 native trees for their school grounds from Trees That Count.

“Once the kids understand everything in nature is connected then they will know how to look after the planet. Once the teachers get that, they can create cohort after cohort of nature-literate kids and I think from that we may have a hope as humanity to save the environment,” Mr Kleinpaste said.

He got involved with this kaupapa about 12 years ago.

“I go to schools to get teachers to realise they should teach outside.”

“Bugs are absolutely brilliant as a teaching aid as they stretch through the whole curriculum, from numeracy to literacy. They are connected to everything, they all work together in the environment,” Mr Kleinpaste said.

“Having the team from the TREEmendous Education Programme at Wainui Beach School has been an invaluable addition to our school-wide inquiry on little blue penguins this term and to our Enviroschools programme overall,” Wainui Beach School teacher Jodie Saunders said.

“Riley and Ruud's passion for the ocean and the world of insects is so infectious and they had the whole school buzzing about how valuable sharks and bugs are to our ecosystem and what we might find in our own backyard.

“It is not often that you get to have experts right in front of you and the engagement and questioning that came from our kids was next level,” Mrs Saunders said.

“Our students got to see first-hand how you can turn a passion into a career. Working with the team from the TREEmendous Education Programme has left us inspired and we can't wait to get started on taking our inquiry deeper as well as actioning some new projects.”

Applications are open for primary and intermediate schools to apply for a TREEmendous Education programme for 2022. Head to treemendous.org.nz for more information or to apply.

SHARK EXPERT: Dr Riley Elliott was keen to share his knowledge with Wainui Beach School students.Picture by Liam Clayton
OH MY BUG: Wainui Beach School students Mieka Teutenberg and Klara Pauwels are shown a weta by Ruud 'The Bugman' Kleinpaste. Picture by Liam Clayton