Today's students are tomorrow's environmental kaitiaki (guardians). The Kids Restore the Kepler programme enables Fiordland students aged 3-18 to develop a sense of connection and involvement with nature. This sets the foundation for the kind of future we will have.
What children learn in school today will undoubtedly influence how they tackle the environmental problem-solving they are going to face as adults. When viewed in a global light, the environmental challenges we face can (quite rightfully) seem overwhelming. This project enables children to see that both individually, and as part of a group, they can make a difference.
Kids Restore the Kepler is an extraordinary project. As well as having conservation goals, relating to the biodiversity, there is also a strong focus on integration with curriculum-based education in what renowned Bugman Ruud Kleinpaste refers to as "the largest practical outdoor classroom in NZ".
Focusing on learning that creates positive change, instead of dwelling on negative problems, provides an abundance of learning possibilities that benefits the children, the ecosystems and the wider community.
There are over 450 students attending schools in Fiordland. Beginning at preschool and continuing through to Year 13, the Kids Restore the Kepler education programme is in the process of being fully integrated into the various curricula. The project involves four enviroschools: Fiordland College, Te Anau School, Mararoa School and Fiordland Kindergarten, as well as Southern Stars Early Learning Centre.
Connections, knowledge, critical thinking and creativity are fundamental to foster appreciation and respect of the natural world.
We are facing huge issues (from climate change to water quality, from decline in biodiversity to pollution). It is important to equip young people with the knowledge and skills to make a difference.
Not confined to a rigid strategy or vision, to be able to be inclusive, make a difference, think critically and inspire change.
What we learn
The educational component within the programme outlines four main themes that are critical to effective student participation in the project;
The programme provides students with an ongoing and tangible connection to nature. Connecting students with nature in their everyday lives is the first step in the project as people will want to protect what they understand and feel connected to.
Think of 'connection' as akin to 'ownership', and you have pretty much got it!
Once connection is established, students welcome the opportunity to learn relevant knowledge and skills that can be used to benefit the biodiversity within the ecosystems. This can be as simple as preschoolers marvelling at a cave weta during morning teatime through to implementation and analysis of trapping tallies, bird count data or freshwater data for older students.
It is important to teach young people about the environment as it is now, what it was like before and the impacts that we as humans can and do have within this context. Through Kids Restore the Kepler, students develop a range of skills and knowledge which enable them to meaningfully contribute to the project.
The restoration component of the educational outcomes involves students implementing these knowledge and skills set through a range of curriculum based activities and experiences. Essentially this is where theory transitions from the conceptual into actually 'doing stuff' as part of the restoration programme.
Through this hands-on delivery, the sense of connection and ownership is further enhanced.
Taking time for reflection allows learners to consider what they have understood and investigate possible steps in improving the project. They are also encouraged to pass on their knowledge to other students and the wider Fiordland community.
The Kids Restore the Kepler education programme aims to help Fiordland's young people, together with the whole community, better understand and appreciate the natural environment, which sustains us, and commit to do everything possible to protect and enhance it.
In a sense, this educational model assumes its own ecosystem, with all aspects impacting on each other!