Curious kids track critters
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.’’
Ruby Merwood, 6, and Sheldon Le Marquand check out the tracking tunnel for animal footprints.