The nature connection programmes run so far this year at Whenua Iti have connected almost 1,000 tamariki with outdoor experiences to develop a love of nature that supports their learning, wellbeing & sense of belonging.
A highlight for local primary schools has been the Mini Outdoor & Environmental Adventurers Programmes that are offered to the junior classrooms to extend student’s experiences of the natural world through exploration, play, asking questions and discussions.
“The benefits to the students are huge, learning, sharing, participating & working together in nature – (the programme) provides an experience that we cannot replicate at school,”– Teacher
“The activities are designed to explore the concept of kaitiakitanga and to help nurture a relationship between the children and the world around them,” explains Catherine, one of the kaiako on the programmes. “We spend the day outside playing games, being active and completing activities such as bug hunts, or taking them on a burma trail through the ngāhere blind-folded to get all their senses in tune with their environment and acknowledge Tāne Mahuta. There is also an element of challenge in the day to build confidence & teamwork skills. Having fun with their friends outside is a big part of the experience – if they enjoy being outside in nature, in the future they will be more likely to help protect it.”
The programmes also tie into the school curriculum and aim to support classroom learning. “The benefits to the students are huge, learning, sharing, participating & working together in nature – (the programme) provides an experience that we cannot replicate at school,” noted one of the teachers.
The focus on connecting to nature is part of a larger project that received Jobs for Nature funding earlier this year to engage children right across Te Tau Ihu (the Top of the South). We understand the significant benefits to mental health & wellbeing by spending time in nature, as acknowledged by the NZ Mental Health Foundation, and are looking for more ways to offer nature connection activities across all our programmes for all age groups. We continued this programme development during lockdown to support schools & families, producing a series of nature connection activities available free from our website to download. The activities included making nature mandalas, building a waka, becoming a Backyard Tracker and designing a bird feeder. As a fun challenge, tamariki who completed 5 activities went into a draw to win prizes.
Dana Carter, our Project Lead, was wrapped with the response.”We had lots of entries, and were really excited by the amount of engagement we had. There were even schools from Auckland who got involved!,” she says . A huge Ngā mihi nui to Zoe Lovell from Māpua School who won the Whenua Iti backpack, and James Fraser from Brightwater who won a spot on one of our Whenua Iti Holiday Programmes. Mahana School & Motueka South School won the school prizes and each received 25 native plants from the Whenua Iti Community Nursery for their school’s efforts in taking part in the activity challenge.
Thank you to the amazing support from community sponsors NBS, Pic’s Peanut Butter as well as funding from the DOC’s Community Grants Fund and The Motueka Community Store in being able to run the Mini Adventures Programmes. Tēnā rawa atu koutou ki ngā tautoko mīharo!