“They thought I was doing one of my 'jokes' when I told them seahorses are in our local moana,” says Pearl. “One of the year 6 girls, who I had told when she was a year 2 that we had seahorses locally - and who thought they were a mystical being like a unicorn - was leaping with excitement after snorkelling, as she had seen one!”
Ngāti Toa School's students have taken part in both Mountains to Sea Wellington’s marine and freshwater education programmes over many years.
Pearl says by experiencing first-hand what’s in our oceans and streams, it empowers tamariki to be responsible and make informed choices.
With a marine focus, students learn about oceans and why it’s important to take care of them and snorkelling skills for exploring it; with a freshwater focus they learn about rivers and streams, what lives there and how to protect them.
“Tamariki have been given opportunities to learn about their local environment, how it interacts, their responsibilities, what to look out for to care for their environment, the cycles of healthy harbours, awa, moana, water cycles, how to snorkel and recognise what is in the water,” explains Pearl.
It’s not just a fun, outdoor module for students (although it is that too!) - it changes the way young people see the environment around them.
“They now care,” says Pearl. “They want their ocean to be clean and safe for what lives in it. They want to swim, snorkel, kayak, waka ama and sail in their moana. Having been taught about the life of the ocean, has given them a deeper understanding, and snorkelling has compounded this.
“I have taken senior classes to pick up rubbish from their awa, harbour's edge, and around the seashore. Other teachers at school also do this, especially Judy Cross and Bronwyn Pope.
“I have got them contributing to planting at school, at Onehunga Bay with Robyn Smith, planting at Whitireia with the Greater Wellington Regional Council, and with Amanda Dobson, Enviroschools, at school and at our Hukarito Awa.”
Pearl herself is also a convert. After seeing the joy of students after they went snorkelling at Titahi Bay in November, she thought she’d try it out for herself. She came to a free community snorkel there in December with a couple of her moko, and then to the next one in Island Bay with another - she can’t get enough.
“I am very thankful and appreciative that Mountains to Sea have made it possible, by holding free community snorkelling events, with amazing teachers and all the gear supplied, plus the volunteers who are very helpful.
“This has enabled me to take part, and introduce my mokos and ex-students, to the joy of snorkelling. Being given the opportunity to snorkel in a variety of areas, really shows the effects of what is happening in the environment. It is a whole new world under the water. And so peaceful, relaxing.”
Two of the students who participated in the marine programme last year had mixed feelings, but both still said they’d go snorkelling again.
“It was really fun,” said Serena Special-Strickland, 10. “But it was really scary at first too, because there was a bunch of seaweed. I saw this yellow-eyed fish that was kind of scary.”
Eleven-year-old Tiaki Solomon was less phased: “It was fun. I found this starfish, a huge one.”
Mountains to Sea Wellington offers education programmes for schools and community groups, with a marine focus on terms one and four, and freshwater in two and three. Funding may be available for school’s with less resources. Please contact us to find out more.