DOC arranged for Seaweek field trips and art activities for a number of schools between Cobden and Haast, including a penguin inspired day with Hokitika Primary School children recently.
The objective of the sessions was to (a) connect children to nature at the beach and then (b) cement that connection and learning through art activities. The days were led by community artist, Kate Buckley, who created a magnificent blank treasure map for each school, with some crafty tea stains and selective singeing.
The West Coast Penguin Trust joined forces with DOC rangers to lead a field trip for 50 children aged 5-7 to the beach just north of Hokitika. There, they discovered penguin footprints as well as seagull footprints plus the usual human and dog foot prints.
Dividing into two, one group used plaster of Paris to take casts of footprints and explored the muddy sand of a temporary lagoon for crabs with DOC Rangers Antje and Nicole, while the other learned about blue penguins and their adaptations for life at sea and on land with Trust Manager Inger and volunteer Lucy, and then the groups swapped.
The penguin group found a few penguin tracks over the sand and got down low to discover a penguin’s eye view of the challenges ahead, including dogs and an erosion sand cliff to climb.
They found that sometimes weeds, such as blackberry, can create an effective shelter for penguin burrows and they learned that a penguin could swim to the Hokitika river faster than they could walk there!
Zoe Watson, primary school teacher and writer of the Trust’s penguin and seabird education resource, joined the field trip and brought her dog, Ellie, demonstrating that dogs can safely share the beach with penguins when they are under control.
Back at school after lunch, the children looked at taxidermied penguins, both blue penguins and the other West Coast penguin, the Fiordland crested penguin, in a bit more detail. A microscope connected to the computer picked up the detail of a penguin claw and a stoat’s teeth!
The children tried walking about like a penguin and then they spent some time creating wonderful works of art to be added to the treasure map of the beach.
Kate, the leader of the day’s activities, drew a map of the field trip beach onto the treasure map and then the children added their art including penguin footprints on the sand and crabs in the lagoon.
Thank you to Kate and to DOC for an excellent day out, giving the children a wonderful day to discover and enjoy their local beach.