Getting out into nature

Issue: Volume 99, Number 13

Posted: 14 August 2020
Reference #: 1HA9q2

New Zealand’s educators are being encouraged to get students into nature during Conservation Week.

An annual initiative led by the Department of Conservation (DOC), this year’s Conservation Week runs from 15 to 

23 August and has a theme of ‘Nature through new eyes’.

DOC’s Director General Lou Sanson says the theme reflects on the value to people’s wellbeing of time spent in nature: something which he believes the education sector and teachers can embrace in term 3.

“Take a little time in nature for the wellbeing of you and your students,” he says. “Get them out of the classroom and into the natural environment; it can be the local park, beach or riverside, or even the school’s immediate grounds.

“Encourage your students to look, listen, breathe and feel nature.”

Shake up routines

Lou says outdoor learning in nature can help increase students’ critical thinking, creativity and ability to reflect – and also shakes up the classroom or laboratory routine for classes. 

“DOC has a pallet of great conservation education resources linked to The New Zealand Curriculum,” he says. 

DOC education resources are curriculum-linked for Levels 1 to 4, although they can be adapted outside of these levels. From nature taster cards, aimed at getting started in the outdoors, to fully integrated inquiry units, they provide a real-life context for teaching and learning. 

A range of conservation topics can be found, including protecting local green, marine and estuarine environments, learning about specific New Zealand threatened species and learning important kupu taiao i te reo Māori.  

DOC education portal

The education portal on DOC’s website(external link) includes a search function, which allows educators to specify the habitats, education level and curriculum level they are interested in.

Numerous international surveys are indicating fewer children are experiencing nature directly, with many playing indoors and plugged into virtual networks, far removed from nature and with a limited understanding of biodiversity and its importance.

“Conservation Week is a great opportunity to change that,” says Lou. 

“It might take a little bit of logistical planning, but the rewards will emerge when children have that sense of wonder when they’re out in the natural world.”

Lou says DOC chose a wellbeing focus for Conservation Week 2020 in light of the global Covid-19 situation – in particular the lockdown – and how it has led to many people pausing to reflect on the important things in their lives.

“Many New Zealanders found solace while doing daily exercise during the Covid-19 lockdown through engaging with nature on visits to local parks, beaches and waterways.”

Further details about Wellbeing in Education(external link) and the funding to address wellbeing needs as a result of Covid-19.

In addition, two resources within the Social Sciences(external link) learning area provide curriculum content focusing on student engagement with nature. These are Pūtātara: A Call to Action(external link), and Climate Change: Prepare today, live well tomorrow(external link) (which has an accompanying Wellbeing Guide).

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 8:10 am, 14 August 2020

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