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Leeston students learn about environment at Irwell River mouth

Nearly 80 Year 3 & 4 students from Leeston Consolidated School took their learning to the mouth of the Waiwhio/Irwell River for a Kids Discovery Plant-Out Monitoring Day organised by Te Ara Kakariki and supported by Project Tinaku.

The children were hosted Lou, Emily and Laura from Te Ara Kākāriki, Nicky Thorne from Enviroschools Waitaha, as well as Brittany Smith and Johanna Blakely from the Project Tinaku as they measured biodiversity inhabiting the Irwell River.

Surveying the wildlife can help inform us about habitat health and assist with future restoration planning.

The resulting data has been recorded on iNaturalist, an online site where students share what they observe in nature and learn about New Zealand’s flora and fauna. Scientists have been identifying unknown species.

Brittany is developing a plan to improve and regenerate this area for education and recreation purposes in the future and was keen to see how the kids interacted with the environment.

The students participated in a Minibeast Safari to find and identify invertebrates living in the old logs and under the trees.

They found a thriving and diverse community of insects and spiders, including some impressive orbweb and nurseryweb spiders. This indicates the native habitat is maturing.

Planting a larger, dense area of native planting would provide more shelter and food resources for invertebrates.

The students discussed the important roles of the invertebrates in nature, including decomposition and pollination.

Brittany Smith Project Tinaku talks with students about the proposed Irwell River project and getting their ideas.

The students then searched through the trays and gee minnow fish traps to identify species living in the water.

The students found low tolerance species, including snails, arthropods and a pea clam. There were abundant common bullies and an inanga in the fish traps. This indicates that water quality in this habitat is generally low.

Planting Carex secta and other riparian species along the river banks would provide more food and shelter for aquatic wildlife.

Shading and enriching the habitat will allow more sensitive species of invertebrates and fish to thrive.

The Tinaku project will again team up with Te Ara Kakariki and Leeston Consolidated School to carry out another Kids Discovery Plant-Out Day in May.

Children from  Southbridge School also re-visited the planting site on the Legg’s farm recently to check up on the plants they helped with last spring and practice some maths and science skills out in the field. The project is also helping to fund an exciting new planting project with the school.

All these education activities fulfil some of the key goals of the Tinaku Project and Ellesmere Sustainable Agriculture,  to foster a love of the environment, promote an interest in the primary industries and to grow and nuture the next generation of kaitiaki of our land and waterways.

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