Children energised by the wonders of the New Zealand bush

Author: Jean GoldschmidtDate: 18/05/23

Winter clothes today; boots, long trousers and the raincoat at hand for the dank, dark miserable day. White horses whipping up the waves found the ferry rolling sideways and passengers glued to their seats. Sitting indoors for a change, I smiled and added comments to the conversation between guides but my mind was on the children we would be guiding today. Was I over it? Did I really want another dose of young children? Already in their groups the children came off the boat and lined up on the concrete in a manner which showed thorough preparation – so a good start.

Away as group four, I marched up the path with eight ten-year-sold and the teacher behind me. She explained the children were in three groups, birds, environment and she took the māori component but she felt she still had a lot to learn. With full participation, they quickly found all the berry colours on the tawapau. After the constant rain, all heard the gurgling water rising up the māhoe. Everyone found a perfect skeleton leaf which they matched with a green living leaf. At the edge of the bush, the pōpokotea/ whiteheads flitted back and forth over our heads until one briefly landed on the track in front of us. These special little birds with heads dipped in white paint move in families and whisper loudly to each other. But today, the tīeke had monopoly over the ground feeding. When we were on the rise and ahead of two groups on the shortcut, our group turned to see a kererū resting on its own, before it suddenly took off don’t the track towards the wharf. Being higher we had a great view of the two groups ducking and laughing as the kererū flew into them. How no one was knocked over by the flying bird will remain a mystery to most of us but the scientists have studied the extraordinary eyes of birds.

Left: TīekePhoto credit: Lucas MugnierRight: PōpokoteaPhoto credit: Judd Patterson

These fabulous children knew the story of how the tīeke got its brown saddle and at the hihi nesting box one girl told us that the female finds all the base sticks with the male contributing a couple. Then using her body to demonstrate she stood tall, puffing out her chest she imitated the male hihi calling “Look at the fine nest I have built”. Seeing the actual nest she brought her story to life. At lunch, another guide Neil began telling the same story told to him by the headmaster who walked with his group. Neil promise to tell the teacher we guides thought a great job had been done in preparing the class for the Tiritiri trip. At the pūriri tree another child said how a teacher had shown them a real pūriri moth and again that child related the story. To have children really energised by the wonders of the New Zealand bush brought home to me how teachers can inspire learning. This delectable group, which now once had to be told to stay on the track, with a motivated teacher, so keen to learn and share left me in high spirits. These enquiring minds completely washed away the morning’s doubts.

Returning down the shortcut alone I bush-bathed, enclosed by life-giving trees I absorbed bird calls filtered by smells and silence. Wonder of wonders. I emerged renewed.

Left: KererūPhoto credit: Martin SandersRight: Enjoying the bushPhoto credit: Carolin Wille

School Visits

Bring your students to Tiritiri Matangi


Growing Minds Programme

If your school has an EQI of 430+ you may be eligible for our Growing Minds funding


Guided Walks

More information about the Guided Walks