At the end of Term 1 the Year 12 and 13 biology students from Tamaki College were lucky enough to go on a field trip to Rotoroa Island.
This amazing island used to be a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre, but nowadays it is a newly established conservation site for native New Zealand wildlife. Read on to find out what the trip had in store for our students!
Students enjoyed the ferry trip over, especially using binoculars to look at gulls and blue penguins (korora) and working together to recreate that iconic scene from Titanic... Thankfully the ferry didn't meet the same fate as the Titanic, and we were able to get our first glimpse of the island.
Once we were all on Rotoroa students walked to the 1860's schoolhouse - the road provided a really nice view of the island we would spend our day exploring! Our guide Greg then gave an honest talk about the realities of keeping Rotoroa pest-free. Students learned about the many different ways to trap and humanely kill possums, stoats, rats and weasels that can reach the island.
Once the talk had finished, Greg produced some possum, stoat and ferret skins. At first the students were grossed-out but then curiosity prevailed! They enjoyed taking selfies with the skins, passing them to each other and asking Greg lots of questions. After the talk 5 students said they would be happy to come and share what they learned about pest control with some of my Year 9 classes!
After morning tea we split into two groups and off we went to help Greg with some research. Students took turns setting up simple tubes with banana and pieces of paper that had a strip of ink down the middle. The banana tempts animals into the tube and the ink ensures animals leave prints all over the paper as they walk. Researchers can then use their knowledge of prints to tell which animal it was, whether it is a pest, and whether they should lay traps. Greg also showed us how watery gum from Harakeke flax can act as a natural second-skin to help heal burns and eczema.
We then did a lot of walking (including up a huge hill) with Greg stopping along the way to show us different traps, a huge weta, traditional Maori plant uses, how to use a tracking radio, and letting students use tablets to help identify different animal prints.
After lunch students got to use the radio tracker to find soft-toy animals that had transmitters on them (the toys had to be hidden off the ground or the cheeky Weka would have run off with them), practice banding bird-legs and using binoculars to read band patterns from a distance.
It was a big day - lots of sun, lots of walking, lots of learning - and quite a few of the students fell asleep on the way home! I hope they enjoyed themselves as much as I did and are looking forward to their next trip to Tiritiri Matangi!