Conservation is about our natural environment and the plants, animals and birds that live in our very own backyards, school playgrounds, local parks and reserves. Nature is all around us!
Conservation education provides students with a real-life context on which to base their learning and an opportunity to apply their learning to authentic local community opportunities.
Many studies show the positive links between direct experiences in nature and children’s mental, emotional and physical health and wellbeing. The studies show that regular direct access to nature can:
- boost our immune system and reduce stress and anxiety
- improve concentration, learning, creativity, cognitive development, co-operation, flexibility and self-awareness
- prevent childhood obesity.
All of the latest education resources on the Department of Conservation (DOC) website are based on their integrated inquiry learning cycle. The cycle is a process for guiding student-directed learning and co-constructing a pathway of inquiry when learning in a conservation context.
Inquiry learning is a constructivist approach where the student is at the centre of learning. Students form and develop a learning inquiry to investigate aspects of a particular topic and build a depth of understanding through questioning, thinking and research. The teacher supports this process and guides the students through their inquiry learning journeys. This teaching model incorporates a variety of thinking skills, information literacy skills and science capabilities and can integrate well with digital technology.
Teachers and students can select material and parts of activities from the resources to suit their learning inquiries.
The resources are not meant to be taught from beginning to end but can serve as a pool of ideas to draw from.
Concepts from te ao Māori are woven through DOC’s education resources:
- Mauri – all things are united through mauri, the life force or life essence. People are part of the natural world and connected through mauri. The mauri of the natural world has been weakened by pests and habitat destruction, but we can restore mauri by looking after our environment.
- Mana means respect, power and authority. Everything in the natural world has mana.
- Tapu means something is sacred. Every part of the natural world, including ourselves, has tapu. Some places have a tapu placed on them if they are sacred or for spiritual reasons.
- Manaaki means to look after and take care of. It is our responsibility to manaaki (care for) our natural resources.
DOC’s Big Picture values are drawn from the Māori perspective of the natural world. Use these as a starting point to explore your own values about the natural world.
For more information about te ao Māori and how to incorporate these important concepts into your teaching, visit Māori history in the NZ Curriculum.
These four webinars use DOC’s Protecting your local environment resources to model how conservation education can support student inquiry into a local natural environment:
These four webinars are based on DOC’s Whio Forever resources and model a process of student inquiry into conservation:
- Diving into inquiry with whio
- Why learn about whio?
- Inquiry outside the classroom
- Taking action for conservation
The balance between our uses of the land and the impacts this has on water quality provide an authentic opportunity for cross-curricular learning. Use Rivers and Us – a context for learning to delve more deeply into the concepts as well as the key aspects of environmental education that underpin local stream monitoring and subsequent action.
In Creating connections with nature, meet researcher Dr Danielle Shanahan who is investigating why nature is important for all of us. Julie Whitburn explored the importance of early nature connections.
For more on conservation, check out the Hubs topic. Remember, you can use the filters at the top – for example, see just activities or the range of citizen science projects.
We also have collections of useful resources from the Science Learning Hub and others in our Pinterest boards:
Additional resources to support learning from the Department of Conservation:
This article has been written by Adrienne de Melo, Outreach and Education Coordinator – Kaiwhiri Whaimātauranga, Department of Conservation – Te Papa Atawhai.