Today the drizzly weather didn’t deter the Otatara Kindergarten from exploring at the Southland Community Nursery and learning more about birds following on from their inquiry at kindy. After walking through the orchard spotting a few birds we spent some time in the education centre. We discovered how birds use the trees that the nursery grows for nest building, homes, food (berries) and insects. Meeting our soft toy friends the pukeko (who likes wet areas), the Kereru (who is the only bird in our NZ forest with a beak big enough to eat the berry of the miro tree), the fantail or piwakawaka (who loves to eat insects), the tui (with a tongue like a paintbrush to sip nectar) and the bellbird or korimako (who has a beautiful singing voice) was followed by a treasure hunt for the different birds that live in the local surrounding habitat by matching up pictures with parts of the painted murals on the wall of the education centre. Time spent exploring the habitat tunnel and reading some books was followed by kai and then a walk to the bush. Donna the duck was on the pond, the bush was discovered and we silently listened for birds after we sang to them! We checked out the apples that are set out to feed the birds and then learnt the actions to the “kiwi bird” song. Thanks Otatata Kindergarten for visiting - I hope you continue to have fun spotting birds at your place.
Posted: 26 June 2019
Eight intrepid bush kindy explorers arrived dressed for any weather and full of excitement and energy. We trotted through the apple orchard following the cabbage tree Southland Community Nursery signs along the path. We talked about the pest traps around and what kind of pests they are keeping out of our forests. The bright red apples still on the tree were seen. We shuffled our feet through the soggy Autumn fall leaves knowing they had fallen off the trees. We smelt the leaves of the bay tree, then a hen over the fence caught the eyes and attention, before we counted how many case moths we could spot within the berry enclosure - quite tricky due to their wonderful camouflage. Routine and rumbling tummies set us off on a trek to find a spot for some kai, first back towards the carpark and for a closer look at the pest traps, before finally agreeing to go to the classroom (nature education centre). The doors of the habitat tunnel were explored and talked about with inquiring minds wanting to know what was behind each door. Once tummies were satisfied we went out around the bush track. We noticed the seeds on the forest floor, looked at how we collect seeds for the nursery to grow plants, noticed delicate fungi, talked about how the Rances are protecting this bush area forever (with a QEII covenant), commented on the wet ground (of the kahikatea swamp forest) and went fishing in a wet puddle in the forest! We checked out the seeds inside of the mingimingi berries and sat and marvelled at the forest we had just walked through. After some lunch we sowed some mingimingi seeds, filling the tray with dirt, flattening it with some blocks, sprinkling the seeds and covering with stones.
These fantastic inquiring minds thought about and wondered about things they weren’t familiar with and their noticing was only distracted by excitement at being at a new place, with so many things to see and explore. I learnt lots about their bush kindy site too.
Posted: 26 June 2019
A cold clear starry night for Matariki celebrations saw us taking a close up peak at the nearly full moon through the telescope. 16 children from 2-12 years old (and a number of enthusiastic adults) explored and got stuck in with all the activities on offer. We made seed balls using mingi mingi (Coprosma proprinqua) seeds, flattening our clay, sprinkling some seeds (just like baking someone mentioned!) and then rolling up into a ball. Nature art (without sellotape, string, staples or the hot glue gun) inspired some wonderful creations of kites, brooms, dream catchers, birds and various throwing items. The challenge of making a circle, or tying bits together were approached with great thinking and problem solving. A quick rendition of the Matariki macarena before eating some kai, followed by the much anticipated toasted marshmallows squished between chocolate thin biscuits completed our fun night. Standing around the fire was warm and smokey!
Posted: 18 June 2019
Posted: 10 June 2019
An enthusiastic group of year 6-8 students from Rimu School arrived with a plan – they wanted to learn all about growing native plants from seeds and cuttings. The large group was divided into two with Bronwyn taking a group around the bush and Chris taking the cuttings group.
Chris’s group learnt first all about seeds as that is the best way to propagate or grow new native plants. Chris explained that seeds provided plants with diversity, as opposed to cuttings which are a clone or exact copy of the plant. Thinking about what equipment we might need to take cuttings and some good answers were: the plant, secateurs, pots, some said soil (but we actually use river gravel), rooting hormone powder and labels. Chris had collected some hebe branches and everyone had a go at making some cuttings. The group learnt about the process – cutting a tip of the plant, measuring 12-15 cm and cutting below a leaf node and removing ¾ of the leaves, dipping in rooting hormone and putting in river gravel. After doing about 4 trays of 40 cuttings we went out to look at the currant bushes and learnt that the same technique can be used for those as well. The worm farm was looked at as a bonus!
Bronwyn’s group went looking for and collecting seed. We looked at all different kinds of seeds - tī kōuka/ cabbage tree stripping the white fruit off the branches and squeezing out and counting the small black seeds; the sticky pittosporum species of seeds in pods, both kohuhu and tarata; the fleshy red fruits of kahikatea with the black seed on the outside that had collected on the shade cloth laid out on the forest floor; the cocoa bean lookalikes pōkākā seeds; the blueish fruit of mingimingi with two white seeds on the inside; the spores on the underside of fern fronds; the bright orange seeds of Astelia; the black seeds of harakeke in the big pods now mostly empty of seeds; the empty seed pods of Koromiko (Hebe salicifolia); broadleaf seeds, the hard small pods and seeds of mānuka, the shiny black round fruit of seven finger and many others - including some weeds. We talked about eco sourcing - collecting seed locally and the benefits of this, the need to identify what seeds you are collecting (as we really don’t want to sow weeds!!) and the need to identify NZ native plants, naming and dating the bags that you put your collected seeds into, the different preparation of different kinds of seeds (before sowing), colonising or nursery plants v canopy tree species and the seasons - noticing what seeds are around now to collect and what plants at this time of year have only empty seed pods or no seeds. We also looked at the recently sown trays of seeds in the nursery and the shade clothed protective boxes that we put them in and talked about the use of weed free seed raising mix and stones. Back in the education centre we looked at some other seeds including kōwhai and miro (and the link with kereru for this species of tree) that had been collected previously. We even talked about why there is no need to stratify seed in Southland for the species we were looking at because of nature doing this for us - some great discussion and questions from a switched-on group of learners.
All together as a big group we acted out how a forest works and started to distinguish between colonising and canopy tree species, with colonising tree species growing up to provide the shelter needed to attract birds and to provide the environment needed for the big canopy tree species to grow. Learning about the different NZ native tree species and what ones are colonising or nursery species and what ones are canopy tree species will be important for any creation of a native area at the school. It was great to have this group of learners alongside us learning about the ways to propagate native plants. We look forward to hearing about their learning and what they might start up at school.
Chris and Bronwyn
Posted: 4 June 2019