At the end of 2022, Mountains to Sea was fortunate to work with Carterton Kindergarten, delivering our freshwater mini programme, The Whitebait Connection. For under-5s, we incorporate a lot more games, storytelling and songs, and simplify and shorten what we usually teach. It allowed us to discover Lake Wairarapa and learn of its creatures and why our water bodies are special.
In our first class we learnt about our local catchment: our mountains, rivers, lakes and sea. We played an action game to help us remember the names of our catchment and understand where water goes when it rains.
In the next class, we learned about what sort of creatures live at Lake Wairarapa… Fish! All fish have different jobs and superpowers. The tamariki were introduced via slides of these ika and we sang a song about our Kokopu Tuna (long finned eels).
We then learned how to catch our water bugs by pretending we had a river running through the classroom and that different bugs can tell us different things about the water. We also played a game similar to Simon Says about the names of these bugs and how they move.
Finally, it was time for a field trip! Being out and about at Wairarapa Moana and discovering its mysteries is a feeling that runs deep for me because my ancestors were here before me doing the same things but different with a different purpose. Spending time out at Wairarapa Moana helps me feel connected to Te Ao Māori, Papatūānuku and my whānau who have come and gone.
Twenty students came with us to Lake Domain Reserve, with their teachers and parents.
Before we start we karakia to thank Papatūānuku for letting us explore her waters and to keep us safe. I set some hinaki traps the night before and we caught a lot of eels, some common bullies and freshwater shrimp.
The students had turns releasing the eels using a hand net and lots of bravery and we sent the bullies down the fish slide and into Lake Wairarapa.
It's always awesome to see someone experience something for the first time - especially those tamariki who are wary of catching and releasing an eel, but who put on a brave face, do it and find out that they love it.
Kids with their parents also scoop up the waterbugs at the edge of the lake so the students could use their trays and magnifying glasses to identify what they found.
It was awesome to see the retention of info the kids learned during the classroom sessions and using that knowledge in the field. A few of the kids remembered the names of the bugs and were quite excited to see them in real life.
The kindy teachers took on board all of the information they learnt and expressed how they too discovered new things about our freshwater ecosystem and how valuable, fun and informative our programme was. They even gifted us a jar of homemade jam and a Manuka tree.
I think it's important to provide opportunities for our tamariki to connect to the environment and get out there to discover what sparks their curiosity and interests.
I hope now they discover more places and projects in their backyard and to share with family and friends how cool and special our Lake Wairarapa is.
Many thanks to Carterton Kindergarten for working with us on the programme and supplying the photos.