Teamwork makes the stream work

Issue: Volume 98, Number 4

Posted: 11 March 2019
Reference #: 1H9rvf

Central Hawke’s Bay students are following their passions by restoring the local river and making their school a better place to be.

William and Cam rake the limestone over the weedmat.

The Mangaotai creek wraps around three quarters of Argyll East School and provides plenty of outdoor learning opportunities for the 70 students who attend the school.

Students often lead environmental projects and are assisted by their teachers. Their most recent endeavour has been to replant the area surrounding the creek and learn about riparian margins.

Teacher Rose Hay says students began by requesting the regional council to remove the cracked willow that was hindering the flow of the Mangaotai creek.

Noticing there were many weeds, such as convolvulus, blackberry and privet, remaining in the creek area, they formed a Mangaotai committee to spearhead the rest of the project.

“It’s very science-based where the children are looking at the flora and the fauna, identifying what should grow and live there, so looking at the biodiversity of the area, looking at sustainability and taking on that kaitiaki role of looking after our land and our awa, our river.”

The school is surrounded by two and a half hectares of farmland. Its environmental focus began as early as 2005, when a farm club was formed to give children the opportunity to use the school land as a learning experience, alongside farmers in the area. Students learned to raise calves and lambs and then sold them at the local stock sale. The money raised was used to upgrade fencing and purchase more stock.

After the school’s board removed macrocarpa trees another environmental project to create wetlands began in an area quite close to the classrooms.

“The kids said, ‘What are we going to do with all the weeds now growing here?’. Then we brought in an expert and did a plan where the kids worked out what they wanted there and designed pathways and bridges.”

Being passionate about the environment has helped students with their learning in many areas of the curriculum, Rose says.

Jonty, Archie and Regan climb the cracked willow blocking the Mangaotai.

“Starting with the farm club all those years ago, it’s just pure engagement of children,” she says.

“We created a pontoon and the eel viewing platform, so that involved a lot of technology.

“English is covered as children are researching, interviewing experts, taking visitors around, writing signs and writing to sponsors.

“There’s the Māori and te reo Māori aspect where we’re looking at the culture and the history of the area from the Māori perspective as well as Pākehā influence. We learned the names in Māori of the animals and the plants and what Māori use them for.

“As numeracy goes it’s the measuring of the area, doing the path and working out how much wood and gravel and mulch we need.”

This environmental focus is now included in the school’s curriculum and is an integral part of teacher planning, Rose says. The key competencies of thinking, relating to others, managing themselves and contributing, are reflected in the project management aspect of the learning.

Students build bridges that span the wettest part of the wetland.

The next step is to continue working on the corridors of planting and to maintain the areas that have already been planted, she says.

“It’s very easy to plant, but it’s maintaining it. The kids are really good at saying, ‘It’s really weedy out there, we need to do something about it.’”

In terms of fauna, students are continuing to learn about raising farm animals and are also learning about trapping pests, which reflects a localised curriculum.

“We had calves last year, so that was a great experience for some of the town children. We have chickens and we want to get some eggs and raise some chooks this year.”

Students gained literacy skills by writing monthly reports on the calves’ progress and articles for the weekly school newsletter.

Through an inquiry approach, students researched whether they would be able to have chickens at the school. Their inquiry covered breeds of chicken, cost of food, selling of eggs, best feed, coop design and construction. They built models of coops and presented these to the board. This helped them gain the technological skills which then allowed them to build the final coop with the help of an ex-principal and a grandparent.

Community involvement

Principal Julie Thelwall says students have a real love for the environment and really care for it.

“Their understanding and their knowledge of plants and animals in the environment is fantastic; it’s amazing to hear them talk to visitors to the school and I learn from them as I walk around too,” she says.

Jonty helps create paths in the wetland by rolling the limestone.

“Through having reflection days about our environment the kids have developed their own ideas for sustainability that we try to embed throughout the school; that’s always happening and their creativity comes through in solving different problems that might arise.”

Another important aspect of the environmental focus is the community involvement, Julie says. As part of the respect and manaakitanga areas of the curriculum, the school gives guests a gift as they leave.

“It’s important for the kids to have their families involved, working together with the wider community.

“A lot of the trees that they planted were from seeds that they’ve collected themselves. Today we’ve still got lots of trees here to be able to give gifts that have come actually from the kids growing the trees themselves.” 

Argyll East School won a $500 grant from the Rivers Engineer Group for their riparian project, to go towards eliminating the plant pest problem on the banks of the Mangaotai and plant native flora.
Students researched which plants could be used to form a riparian margin and the vertebrates (trout, native fish, kōura and tuna) that lived in the stream.
Once the plantings are fully established, the school expects the creek will become a healthy waterway, as data from stream monitoring would suggest.

What students are saying…


We had to organise with parents and people to see how we could help make the Mangaotai the cleanest it could be. We cut down the willows and cleared the area and we also had to work as a team and include other people’s input.

I think it’s important because the younger kids will be able to spread the message about taking care of our environment and it’s also important to make our school look and feel nice. It also teaches us teamwork and to apply yourself at anything you can do.

I learned to look after our environment while it’s still healthy, clean and a happy place to be in. I also learned that if you have your mind set you can achieve if you work as a team and some people don’t have a Mangaotai or that land at their school so we should look after it, because if we’re not careful the waterways will be filled with rubbish.


I was in the original Mangaotai committee so we were the ones who designed it and asked the playgroup and all the classes what they wanted. We made up a plan of what we wanted and then we asked to build it and did it.

I think it was important that everyone got involved and helped out and helped be part of our team.

Students build bridges that span the wettest part of the wetland.

I learned about Māori history, about the people who came here and how they got their food and water and all about the animals and the pests and the weeds and the plants that we had to get rid of or plant.

Our next step is to connect the Mangaotai to the wetland to create a corridor for the animals and birds to go from one place to another.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:09 am, 11 March 2019

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