St Joseph’s School in Waitara used to have a problem. The school is built on the site of an old riverbed and every winter their rugby field got boggy. So in 2010 they built their own wetland! Great solution – but that was only the beginning.
“The wetland is about 10 metres wide and 100 metres long and runs the length of the rugby field,” says Years 6-8 teacher, Rachael Gibbons, “The children helped with the design and it has a bridge and a little pond and decking for an outdoor classroom. Creating the wetland has helped with the drainage problem and it has been planted out with native trees as part of the school’s involvement in the Enviroschools Programme.”
There are currently 89 students at St Joseph’s, with 4 classes covering Year 0 to Year 8. With their own wetland on-site, the students are now keen to make their wetland area more wildlife friendly.
“Last year the juniors set up bird feeders in the wetlands. There are lots of sparrows, but that’s not very exciting,” Rachael explains. “The kids want to encourage lizards and other native wildlife so we applied to be a Kiwibank Predator Free school and were accepted at the end of last year.”
Since the beginning of this year the children have been learning about the purpose of predator control and carrying out research to find out what predators live in their wetlands.
“We put out chew cards and ink cards for a month and that was exciting,” says Rachael. “The kids were out every day checking the tracking cards and we had an information sheet to identify the tracks. We found we had a lot of rats. Then Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) came in and did a big talk about their work in making Taranaki predator free by 2050.”
Chauncy Ardell from TRC gave the kids some hands-on help as well.
“Chauncy helped the students make traps to sell as a fundraiser and together they sold 26 traps to school families who are now trapping at home,” says Rachael, “And TRC supplied another 50 traps which we sold to New Plymouth Airport.”
Rachael’s students took a day off school recently to visit the airport and help with trap installation.
“They decorated and numbered their traps and used a map of the airport to choose where to put them,” says Rachael, “The airport is going to report back on the trapping and now the airport is promoting more trapping to the surrounding farms.”
Back at school the wetland trapping programme is going well too.
“The kids check the traps every day,” says Rachel. “We got a lot to start with. Now, after 6 weeks of trapping we’ve caught 17 mice and 11 rats! It’s very kids-driven,” she adds. “The kids have taken ownership and they’re very much into it. There were no lizards tracking in our tracking tunnels, so now the kids are researching how to get lizards and make a lizard home.”
With predators being steadily removed, lizards and other native creatures will hopefully find the purpose-built wetland an ideal home in the near future. The kids from Kiwibank Predator Free St Joseph’s Waitara can’t wait!