Caring for the environment  |  26 Oct 2023

It’s a sunny morning in the Spencer Park Forest, and the kids from Room 22 at Avonhead School are having a ball.

So far, they’ve seen a hedgehog, learned how to build shelter if they are ever lost in bush, and soon they’re going to be sampling fresh huhu grubs.

Christchurch City Council’s Education Teacher Chris Duggan is guiding the Year 5 and 6 students though the Forest Explorers programme, a Learning Through Action school programme.

Mr Duggan has worked in the team for over two decades and loves sharing his enthusiasm for the environment with Christchurch’s kids.

“For me it’s a privilege to teach kids about sustainability and our natural environment. The kids are always so enthusiastic and it’s great to be part of their learning journey.”

The Forest Explorers programme has been run by Council’s Parks’ Education team for approximately twenty years. Participants learn about forest safety, teamwork and the species that live in the bush.

Pete Johnson, Team Leader Education Programmes, says the Forest Explorer program is hugely popular and records consistently high satisfaction levels.

“Each year we have around 15,000 participants. We are a team of five who are incredibly passionate about what we do. We love sharing our enthusiasm and knowledge with kids and adults alike.

“Our message is connection with our environment, learning to look after what we have, and enjoying the beautiful natural spaces we have in Canterbury.”

Avonhead School teacher Alex Coburn-Woods says her students really respond to the team’s passion for the environment.

“These are the kind of trips that you remember as a kid. It’s a great opportunity to get out in the outdoors, especially if that’s not something they get to do regularly.

“Learning about our native species from the team makes the kids really care about them too.”

The Education team have a contract with the Ministry of Education, and schools from around Canterbury take part in the program. Preschools, community groups, at risk youth and senior groups also participate.

Mr Johnson says the team have established and nurtured a strong relationship with local schools, and schools bring their students back year after year.

Learn more about the programme here: Forest Explorer - He uri a Tāne : Christchurch City Council (