Cu­ri­ous kids track crit­ters

The Tribune (NZ) - - FRONT PAGE - RICHARD MAYS

Track­ing tun­nels have proved a hit with chil­dren at Palmer­ston North’s Mil­son School.

Over the past four weeks, Melissa Colville’s year 2 and 3 classes have used peanut but­ter and cat food bait to lure crit­ters into im­pro­vised cor­flute tun­nels placed around the school grounds to leave their foot­prints be­hind.

‘‘Track­ing tun­nels are used by DOC staff to find out which kinds of crea­tures are in gar­dens, na­ture re­serves or na­tional parks,’’ Colville said.

‘‘An­i­mals and in­sects walk across an ink pad to eat the food and leave their inky foot­prints on the tun­nel floor.

‘‘The chil­dren leave them out on Fri­day and col­lect them on Mon­day, and then find out what kinds of an­i­mals there are in the school grounds.’’

The track­ing tun­nels had been ex­tremely pop­u­lar. Of the school’s 126 pupils, 60 had put track­ing tun­nels as their first choice sci- ence ac­tiv­ity, with just 24 se­lected to take part.

‘‘The kids are so ex­cited by it they are talk­ing about it at home, and their par­ents have come into class to find out more about it.’’

The chil­dren ex­am­ined and iden­ti­fied the tracks with mag­ni­fy­ing glasses. Brodie Lit­tle­john, 7, de­scribed how the tun­nels at­tracted an­i­mals by of­fer­ing food, shel­ter and a safe place.

Colville said en­gage­ment in the project had re­sulted in an out­pour­ing of writ­ing by her pupils.

‘‘It’s a con­fi­dence thing - you see them col­lab­o­rat­ing and dis­cussing what they have got and what they might get.’’

Among the crit­ters iden­ti­fied from their tracks were ants, weta, cock­roaches, slugs and snails, mice, a rat, a hedge­hog and a cat.

The class had en­joyed a visit from the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion’s Abi Wight­man talk­ing about preda­tors and the Preda­tor Free 2050 cam­paign.

’’They were quite ex­cited when they found a hedge­hog had vis­ited the tun­nel, but Abi ex­plained that hedge­hogs eat birds eggs and are preda­tors.’’

Par­ents had been in­vited to reg­is­ter their chil­dren on­line with DoC to earn Kiwi Guardian medals for their track­ing tun­nel re­search. A pho­to­graph of the chil­dren could also be used on a DoC brochure.

Colville said it had been a won­der­fully pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘I love science and science ex­per­i­ments, and ev­ery term I want to pass on that love.’’

PHOTO: MUR­RAY WILSON/STUFF

Ruby Mer­wood, 6, and Shel­don Le Mar­quand check out the track­ing tun­nel for an­i­mal foot­prints.

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