Thursday the 1st of July was a great day for the Pohatu Penguins team. My cousin Ave and I were invited to participate in Te Mātāpuna Mātātahi | Children's University day at Lincoln University which aims to raise children aspirations for higher education and encourage lifelong learnings.

This extra curriculum program has 2 components: “Passport to Learning for children aged 7 – 14 years” and a “Passport to Volunteering for young people aged 14-18 years”.

The two of us went to share our story and what we do to protect wildlife and native forest in and around our working sheep farm on Banks Peninsula. Also with us on the day was Enzo, my 1 year old, third son and mascot.

We were to work with four classes during the day, with mixed ages from 8 to 14 years old. This was a great opportunity to try out our new world building activity and educational tool that we had been working on over the last few months.

The day was an early start with just over an hour drive from Akaroa to Lincoln. Luckily my little baby Enzo, being the third child, is used to being dragged along with me on fun adventures at any given moment. He sat happily in the back of the Pohatu Penguins tour bus, enjoying the spectacular views of Banks peninsula out the window while Ave navigated the winding, hilly roads with expertise.

We made it to Lincoln with time to spare which turned out to be very lucky as we then proceeded to get ourselves hopelessly lost on campus.

What a sight we must have been. Two grown women, ladened down by bags, laptop, folders and a healthy sized one year old on the hip. Enzo took great delight in the bumpy ride as we ran around the maze which is Lincoln University.

Bumpety, bump we went with no sign of human life on the quiet campus until at last we stumbled across a friendly looking teenage girl wearing Pjs and slippers. She was a student of Lincoln university who very kindly directed us away from the dorm rooms and back to the actual university.

Finally, we caught up with the group and with some help from a volunteer student organizer, we were escorted to our class room. It was about a ten second walk from where we had parked.

After working up a sweat, we rehydrated and began setting up for the first group of students to arrive.

The rest of the day went very smoothly. Each session began with a PowerPoint presentation of Pohatu/Flea Bay, explaining who we are and what we do to protect our wildlife, native forest and run an eco-friendly and sustainable business to provide the funding needed for our projects. This presentation was a perfect introduction to our world building activity.

In groups of four, the students all picked a large poster of a landscape. There are four different options:

  • A coastal farmland with a bay,
  • A lake surrounded by hills and a stream,
  • A seaside city with mountains in background,
  • A public beach with car park, a few holiday batches, hills and a river.

Each group was then invited to choose several native trees and plants to place on their landscape, along with several native species. These are small, hand drawn pictures cut out called asset tokens.

The students really enjoyed being creative with their landscapes. There was a lot of excited chatter, ideas and planning going on in each group. It didn’t take long till each group was finished and sat, smiling with pride in front of their creations.

But the smiles did not last long as Ave and I had an evil plan to sabotage their worlds. Using hidden tokens, we went around each landscape, infecting them with all sorts of environmental problems and potential issues such as; predators, gorse, plastic pollution, unmanaged rubbish, dogs off the leash and naughty humans braking rules.

The reactions from the students were priceless. Yells and groans of disagreement and dismay. The drama of it all was wonderful and we couldn't help but enjoy it. Very rarely do adults get the chance to inflict the chaos in a classroom.

But the smiles quickly came back when we revealed the solution tokens. A table full of different kinds of predator traps, hunters, DoC rangers, responsible farmers, signage of all kind from dog parks to fully protected reserves. Public toilets, recycling stations, fencing and many other tools and solutions to help.

The students really seemed to enjoy finding the solutions and getting rid of the problems on their landscapes. Small pictures of stoats, hedgehogs and gorse were disregarded onto the floor for little Enzo to quickly grab and gather them up for us.

The last part of the task was to name their project, tell us how they funded it and what were a few of the main steps they took to protect their environment. This was my favourite part of the day. It was wonderful to listen to all the kids’ ideas and strategies.

The activity was a success and we made sure to thank each class for their input and for allowing us to use them as guinea pigs. I can't wait to try it out again, with a few minor improvements.

Back we went to Akaroa, bubbling with excitement. Once home I changed out of my Pohatu uniform into my Akaroa karate club gee and Enzo and I went off to teach our kids karate class.

What a day!

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