Outdoor education has taken on a new meaning for Paparoa Street School pupils who have joined forces with Christchurch City Council rangers to restore Rutland Reserve.
The children are engaged in the future planning and development of the park and their roles as kaitiaki (guardians).
The park – identified as a potential “learning landscape” – environment changed when natural springs appeared following the 2010-11 earthquakes, making the area wetter.
Rangers – supported by the Council’s Community Partnerships Fund and the Papanui-Innes Community Board – have been working with the pupils over the past six months, encouraging a connection with the neighbouring park.
The school has also been developing a culture narrative with support from Ngāi Tūāhuriri, strengthening the pupils’ connection to their local environment through storytelling.
Along with Ngāi Tūāhuriri, the youngsters are working together to name two of the reserve’s post-earthquake streams and looking into renaming pathways.
Council Parks Programmes and Partnerships Manager Kate Russell says children appear to be more aware of their environment and the need to take care of their world.
“Youngsters, generally, are becoming more involved, thanks – in part – to the ‘Greta Thunberg effect’,” Ms Russell says.
“It’s important that young children have a voice in their community and that their opinions are valued,” she says.
“By including pupils, teachers and parents in the park work, it helps to develop a strong sense of community in the neighbourhood. The pupils have already realised that they can make a difference.”
The youngsters have planted two kahikatea – a gift from the Riccarton Bush Trust – in the reserve as the first step to recreating a kahikatea forest.
As part of developing their abilities to “think like a scientist” they have also visited The Groynes and Travis Wetlands with the Council’s Learning Through Action programme to learn about ecosystems before applying those outdoor lessons to the reserve, planting the edges of the new streams with grasses and providing input on landscaping.
The students, who have studied native trees and the insects at the park, will take part in an upcoming wellness day at the reserve, with nature and loose parts play.
Ms Russell says the school community is taking an active role in a very meaningful project.
“They are all helping to protect valuable ecosystems and indigenous biodiversity while enhancing a very popular local landscape and having a lot of fun along the way.”
School Board of Trustees Chairperson Hirone Waretini is excited about where the learning is taking the tamariki (children).
“It aligns with a Treaty-based approach (Partnership, Protection and Principle) but also takes children into some cutting-edge territory learning about environmental science,” Mr Waretini says.