Year 3 inquiry into endangered birds
An inquiry into endangered birds unexpectedly led to Year 3 students helping the Department of Conservation (DOC) to release 51 juvenile kaki (black stilts) that had been bred in captivity into the spectacular Mackenzie district, near Tekapo.
Teacher Jane Radford says it was ‘incredibly exciting’ for the 31 students, staff and parents involved in the release of the kaki, the rarest wading bird in the world, which took place at Mount George Station, the home of Year 3 student, Nicholas Burtscher.
“When we arrived, DOC gave us a good briefing before we walked about a kilometre to the river surrounded by lots of snow and ice. Three DOC trucks arrived, loaded with boxes containing the birds. After they were placed on the ground the students were asked to unlatch the doors. It was an extraordinary moment to watch the young birds fly out, and poignant to reflect on the fact that only a third of them were expected to survive.”
The Year 3 group had been invited to take part in the release after Dr Richard Maloney from DOC visited St Andrew’s to speak with the class as part of their inquiry. “The children learnt a great deal about the black stilts and birds of the braided rivers from Dr Maloney who told us there are less than 100 black stilts left in the Tekapo area, mainly due to predators such as seagulls, feral cats, ferrets and stoats. About three days after his visit, an email arrived from DOC asking if we would like to be part of the release. We immediately said yes, we’d love to.”
A considerable amount of organisation went into the trip, which was postponed three times due to bad weather. “The fourth attempt was going to be our last, so luckily we got the perfect day. It was well worth waiting for.”
Jane says the inquiry and experience of releasing the birds has given the children a greater understanding of the need for predator free areas to ensure the survival of native species.
“Our whole learning in the classroom encompassed birds during the inquiry, with lots of reading and writing about the topic, which was also incorporated into our Mathematics programme.”
The children have since taken part in a project called ‘Flock’, which has seen them make a flock of model birds that have been displayed in various areas of the school to raise awareness of endangered braided river birds. They also organised a presentation to parents for a gold coin donation.
“We were so grateful to DOC for this wonderful opportunity, and the students were keen to collect some money to give to DOC to help continue the great work they are doing with the black stilt programme.”