Tales from the Trail
Whenua Iti Outdoors – Nature Connection Programme

Whenua Iti Outdoors have been delivering outdoor and adventure based programmes for over 30 years, and are passionate about providing quality experiential learning programmes, to benefit both individuals and the communities they come from.

In partnership with local iwi and conservation groups, they developed the Kaimahi for Nature Connection Project, which seeks to provide nature connection experiences to as many tamariki and rangatahi in schools, iwi and community groups as possible in the Top of the South, within the Kotahitanga mō te Taiao Alliance regions.

Funded by Jobs for Nature through the Department of Conservation, the initial project is in its second year, and now looking to extend the reach of the programmes to the community of Te Tai Poutini. As part of the Programme, students from North School and South School visited the Kawatiri Coastal Trail in May.

The programmes are designed to connect tamariki to environmental sites of local significance, by focusing on nature connection experiences that are fun and enhance classroom learning. The students participated in activities such as grass whistle blowing, predator tracking, stream testing, tree planting, drinking bush tea and listening to a local Māori story to connect and learn about the Martins Creek Wetland.

Guidance was on hand from teachers, local DOC Rangers, Jenny Chandler and Pete Graham, and Ecologist Richard Nichol, who all contributed their local knowledge, and providing welcome support. Students arrived on foot from Carters Beach and were welcomed at the Whare along the Pūwaha Section. Following an introduction, students broke into groups to undertake the exercises. 

A further visit by children from St Canice’s was made in late May, with the Programme considered a great success. The Kawatiri Coastal Trail was the first location to host The Tamariki Tiaki Nature Connection Programme, as Whenua Iti look to extend the Programme across the Top of the South.

Nature connection is about feeling part of nature. Being in nature regularly and intentionally allows children to experience the interconnectedness of the world around them, explore it and learn from it. Being connected to nature can stimulate creativity, improve focus, and build confidence.

Programmes at primary level incorporate learning about the world around us, while immersed in the outdoors. Younger participants develop a connection with nature through fun, exploration, and guided discovery.

The Aims of the Project

The goals of the Kaimahi for Nature Connection project are to:

Enhance the wellbeing of tamariki and rangatahi
Increase  tamariki and rangatahi’s knowledge of the natural world and their connection to it
Increase the connection between schools and conservation groups and local natural areas
Improve long term environmental and biodiversity outcomes

The team at Whenua Iti Outdoors have had some fun creating engaging nature connection activities aimed at tamariki from age 7 to 14. There are different activities to choose from, each requiring simple materials that can be found at home, at school or in your garden. If you would like to have some fun with nature, you can find the nature connection activities here.

In addition to the nature connection programmes, Whenua Iti are also working with secondary schools and local community organisations to offer other programme opportunities to the West Coast communities. You can find more information about Whenua Iti here.

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