The Kids Greening Taupō programme – initiated in 2014 – is based on DOC’s Collaborative Community Education Model and was the first programme to test and pilot it.
The model has gone on to be rolled out to programmes across the country and focusses on place-based education, student-led conservation change, and collaboration across communities says Taupō-based DOC Outreach and Education Co-ordinator Kerryn Penny.
The Kids Greening Taupō Nature Connectors series – aimed at young children and families – encourages parents or caregivers to get children outside and engaged with nature through a variety of simple activities and challenges. The Online Nature Classroom is a weekly programme focussed on conservation activities, with different themes every week and a strong inquiry and observation aspect.
Online Nature Classroom activities have included identifying pests and making tracking tunnels, including information linked to DOC resources. The lessons are designed to have longevity beyond the current COVID-19 lockdown and become permanent education resources.
Kids Greening Taupō Education Co-ordinator Rachel Thompson says although it has always worked on the ground supporting schools and early childhood education centres to provide students with authentic opportunities to participate in restoration projects, the likelihood of a COVID-19 lockdown saw the organisation’s staff develop a suite of online materials for activities children could do in their neighbourhood.
“Part of our mission has always been connecting young people with their local environment, and that has become our primary focus now – we’ve been posting (online) right from day one of the lockdown,” Rachel Thompson says.
“We believe connecting to nature for mental and physical well-being is more important than ever at a time like this. Covid-19 Level 4 has given people an opportunity to really explore and get to know their local green spaces. Hopefully, our activities have helped and encouraged them to do this.”
“The Kids Greening Taupō Coordinators have done an amazing job of providing fun, practical and quality activities to engage young people and their whānau with our very local nature,” says Kerryn Penny.
“This provides a rich context for learning as well as a boost for our health and wellbeing. Our rangatahi, student leaders, continue to meet and lead this important learning and work, which has been generously shared across the country with other coordinators.”
Rachel Thompson says the Nature Connectors series posted daily on Facebook has been a key aspect in the surge in popularity across the country, which she describes as “absolutely amazing”.
“It has also been a really good chance for us to promote our brand outside Taupō,” she says.
“A lot of the feedback we’re getting is coming from teachers and schools all over New Zealand, using our programme with their students.”
Schools and groups overseas have also contacted Kids Greening Taupō to pass on feedback.
Kids Greening Taupō is an offshoot of Greening Taupō, a non-profit group, and it is part of the local Taupō Environmental Education Collaborative which comprises a range of organisations providing Environmental Education programmes and support – including DOC. The organisation has also received grants from DOC’s Community Conservation Fund to support its work.