Go Gardening joined school children at this year’s ‘Eye on Nature’ in South Auckland.
Eye on Nature
Eye on Nature brings kids and their communities face to face with scientists and passionate environmentalists from around New Zealand. This award winning environmental education event is held each autumn among the totara trees at the northern tip of Auckland Botanic Gardens. The beautiful location with its backdrop of native bush is just off the southern motorway - where urban sprawl meets nature.
Eye on Nature is run by Manukau Beautification Charitable Trust with the support of Auckland Council and the Auckland Botanic Gardens. Environmental Partners are both local and national organisations, including Forest & Bird, Moths & Butterflies Trust of NZ, The Bee Lady, Sustainable Coast Lines, Leagasea, The Compost Collective, Gardens4Health, Roots Creative Entrepreneurs, and Love Food Hate Waste.
The event hosts around 1,500 primary school students who attend school-only days during a week culminating in a free family day for the whole community on Saturday. Each year there is a different theme and this year, the theme was ‘Edibles - from the ground to the table’.
On Thursday we joined a group of lively year five and six pupils from Dawson Primary on a series of interactive learning stations. First up was Bee Lady, Sara Russ who had children enthralled with her vivacious presentation about pollination. Sara was enthusiastically assisted with audience participation as kids matched flowers with their fruits and butterflies with their host plants. This engagingly simple exercise used string and beautifully painted props produced by the Manukau Beautification Charitable Trust.
Next came a bush walk guided by the Auckland Biodiversity scientists. Impressively, real live tui and pīwakawaka (fantails) showed up just at the right time as the children were introduced to native plants with large painted models of the birds that feed on them.
Then it was time for an activity looking at what’s in a healthy lunch box. Here, the children created their own tasty snack using vegetables and healthy dips. Nicole Stanton of the Manukau Beautification Charitable Trust says key goals of this year’s theme were to encourage sustainable food solutions while promoting the message that ‘our environment provides food so let’s look after it.’
Saturday’s family day, which attracted well over 8000 visitors, offered further attractions including the chance to join Bug Man Rudd Kleinpaste on a bush walk to discover native bugs and insects. A giant maze, Sticky TV presenters, cultural performances and live music added to the fun atmosphere and sense of occasion. Festive games encouraged children to learn all about what’s in their backyard.
The big idea is that the environment provides food, so let’s look after it!
At the Gardens4Health tent volunteers advised on low cost sustainable vegetable gardening. This organisation provides free, practical advice on setting up and maintaining school and community gardens across Auckland. In the Legasea tent there was an opportunity to hold a real fish while learning about looking after our precious marine resource, including the correct way to safely release undersized fish back into the sea. The Bee Hive offered a chance to taste test honey while learning all about our bees. With Love Food Hate Waste, kids could make a smoothie and learn what to do with left-over food.
Eye on Nature’s creative art competitions are an annual highlight. These involve kindergartens through to secondary schools and include wearable art, cooking and other creative art competitions. In this year’s garden art competition children had to present plants they had grown in unusual containers.
With the theme ‘Funky Garden Art’ the 2017 Wearable Art competition attracted sixty entrants from primary and secondary school students around Auckland.
‘Eye on Nature is all about inspiring children with activities that promote eco practices’, says Nicole. ‘We want to plant a seed and grow a young mind.’
Pīwakawaka created by the children at Cosgrove Primary School featured in the creative art competition.