Birds, butterflies and local learning links

Issue: Volume 98, Number 1

Posted: 25 January 2019
Reference #: 1H9qc7

By following their children’s interest in birds and bugs, kaiako at Picton Kindergarten are helping children learn about conservation, whanāungatanga and kaitiakitanga.

Looking after the environment is important to four-year-old Holly Browning.

“We don’t want plastic in the sea because it kills the animals,” she says.

But Holly isn’t the only child at her kindergarten with this kaitiakitanga (sense of guardianship) over the land – the wider community of Picton Kindergarten, including parents and whānau, have similar values.

Head Teacher Jo Huntley says “cultural locatedness” guides the kindergarten’s curriculum and is a core part of its teaching and learning philosophy.

“We live in a seaside town surrounded by bush and have the Marlborough Sounds as our classroom and playground. Many of our families this year are involved in enviro-groups, including the Kaipupu Point Wildlife Sanctuary, Picton Dawn Chorus, Conservation Kids and Department of Conservation,” she says.

“The children and the families drive our conservation projects and it’s something that they’re really, really passionate about, so through that cultural locatedness our curriculum comes. We invite the children, parents and community members to share their expertise with us and through these experiences lots of fantastic learning occurs.”

Through the Exploration | Mana aotūroa strand of Te Whāriki, children are supported to explore, learn from, respect and make sense of their world.

Curriculum inclusion

Children are supported to explore, learn from, respect and make sense of their world.

The kindergarten has incorporated this environmental interest into different aspects of their curriculum by focusing on monarch butterflies, bugs, birds and pest control.

All of these topics are also interwoven with each other and the local community.

Initially, a trip to Kaipupu Point Wildlife Sanctuary sparked the children’s interest in learning more about the Rowi kiwi they had seen.

“We heard that two kiwi were going to be at the sanctuary but were unsure exactly where they might be. This meant our walk along the track became a bit of a kiwi hunt. The children checked every nesting box they spotted and finally we found them. It was an unforgettable moment,” Jo says.

The kindergarten was also visited by a retired teacher who is heavily involved with the sanctuary.

“Mr John visited us at the kindergarten and brought boxes of taxidermied birds so the children could really see them and touch them and learn about them, like the difference between ones that eat insects and ones that eat nectar, by looking at the beaks.”

Exploring insects as a food source

By looking at the anatomy of kiwi, including why they had long beaks, the children’s interest evolved into an exploration of insects and how to protect them, so native birds could have an adequate food source.

“It led more into what can we do for our kiwi to help them,” Jo says.

Children learned about Rowi kiwi at Kaipupu Point Wildlife Sanctuary.

“We created bug motels, we set some up in our kindy. Then two of our boys made a wee instructional manual on how to make them at home. It led also into looking at houses, then birdhouses, so we looked at nests and we made our own little nests. The learning journey was led by the children asking questions and wanting to know more.”

The kindergarten also focused on monarch butterflies and joined a tagging programme led by the Moths and Butterflies of NZ Trust.

“We were sent the tags from the Trust and couldn’t wait to join something much bigger than our little kindy. Tagging the butterflies was a delicate process where we carefully place a tiny sticker on one of the butterfly’s hindwings. These stickers only weight 0.0006 grams, so they don’t affect their flight,” Jo says.

“Some of our older children held them while we put them on, then got to name them and release them.”

As part of the tagging programme the children helped to record the gender and physical condition of each butterfly.

“So we got to do all of the scientific side of it, collecting data, learning about the differences between male and female monarchs. We then held little competitions and invited families and the children to share facts about butterflies. We got some really amazing stuff that the children and families all researched at home.”

Involving families important

It was important to involve families and the wider community in the children’s learning, Jo says.

“We had heaps of caterpillars so we gave them all out to people to look after them at home and we made up little tagging kits with the children so they could take them home and tag their own butterflies when they hatched,” she says.

Picton Kindergarten incorporates environmental learning into different aspects of their curriculum.

“The new entrant class at Waikawa Bay School adopted some of our caterpillars so they got to be involved in all of this learning too. This created a real link between here and school. We wrote down lots of questions about what we wanted to know about the caterpillars – how they were going, how were they looking after them and how big they were – so it was a bit of a pen pal situation. Then they sent them all back with answers and photos.”

This learning about insects then extended into conversations about wasps eating caterpillars.

“It’s one thing that we’re tagging the butterflies but actually the wasps eat the caterpillars, so we’re already researching ways of how we can put out traps and catch the wasps and protect the butterflies. We’re in the process of making a little butterfly habitat and we’ve been growing swan plants from seeds.”

Building kaitiakitanga

By learning to care for the environment, the creatures in it and the connections between them, children are able to build kaitiakitanga.

“Growing our understanding of kaitiakitanga is a big part of our kindergarten philosophy. Establishing connections with the natural world and caring for it, not only just for the animals’ wellbeing, but understanding how this affects our own wellbeing. It is hard to explain wairūa but we discuss the feelings associated with seeing our butterflies take flight for the first time and when we heard the kiwi at the sanctuary make its little noise,” Jo says.

As well as the natural and physical domains of the Exploration strand of Te Whāriki, this learning connects to belonging, she says. The Belonging | Mana whenua strand of Te Whāriki identifies the importance of children having a sense that they are part of a wider world that respects the Māori world view of a child’s connection to the natural environment, whenua, atua Māori and tipuna.

“It’s quite a nice feeling, that wairūa where we get to help other things and they give us that wairūa back – when you see a butterfly, it makes you smile.”


What children are saying…

Holly Browning, 4

Holly’s mum is involved with the Dawn Chorus. When the children learned how to set and check traps, Holly shared the knowledge she had from home with her peers and teachers.

She spotted more traps when the class went to see the kiwis at Kaipupu Point Sounds Wildlife Sanctuary.

“One kiwi had its bum out and one didn’t [top and tailing], it was like one long one. In the traps there was little drips that melted and then the stoats go in,” she says. “It’s to keep the native birds safe.”

Macey McArtney, 4

Macey says kiwis have long beaks “so they can pick some animals up and eat them”. She learned this as part of the class visit to the sanctuary.

“We drived [sic] on a bus and then we walked up a hill with somebody and then we walked and walked and we saw a bird up on the trees. Then we walked and walked again and then two people were allowed to come and then there was the kiwi in its nest and it had a baby. It had two eyes and a beak.”

Only two people could see the kiwis at a time so they wouldn’t be scared. This was the first time Macey had seen a kiwi since she was very small.

Macey also learned about butterflies. She says to tag a butterfly “you just got a stick and you just put the sticker on the butterfly and then you stick it on”.

The class raised caterpillars to learn where butterflies came from. Once the butterflies were were big enough, they were released into the wild.

“We were letting them go to feed on some honey, because they want to go on flowers, they want to go on kowhai, yellow ones,” Macey says.

“There was a chrysalis here and it wasn’t going to turn into a butterfly and it was really sick so we had to leave it alone and it’s wings won’t fly, it was all crunched up.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 12:52 pm, 25 January 2019

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