Executive Summary

New Zealand’s unique ecosystem has drastically changed since the arrival of humans approximately 1000 years ago. Before this time, the land was mammal free (except for native bat species) and made up of plush flora where 80% of the native plant species were endemic to New Zealand. With the arrival of the Māori people, forest coverage went from 80% to 50% and with the arrival of the Europeans the rainforest decreased to 23% and the wetlands were reduced by over 90%. With the arrival of humans and the introduction of predator species, like the possum or stoat, the unique fauna and flora that made up New Zealand began to decrease and the need to take action to protect the environment became a necessity. By taking action, New Zealand strives to become “predator free” and works to restore the native ecosystem that originally made up New Zealand.

Currently there is a large push to educate children about conservation in hopes of making conservation efforts a social norm. There are many programs around the Wellington area, but they are all focused on different conservation topics. Due to the many number of programs out there, it can be hard for someone to find a program they want.

The Kaitiaki Kids program aims to bring together many conservation programs into one central program in hopes of giving children a more well-rounded education about conservation by utilizing the knowledge and resources of the programs that are currently in Wellington. The Kaitiaki Kids program is still in its initial stages of development. The goal of this Interdisciplinary Qualifying Project is to aid in the initial development of this program by researching what is currently available for conservation programs and how the Kaitiaki Kids program might be structured.

In order to accomplish the task of designing a new program, we interviewed experts in conservation and education to better understand what constitutes a successful program, what are the most important conservation topics children should learn today, and what resources are needed to develop a new program. To analyze each interview, we transcribed the interview and then used color-coded themes to highlight common quotes among the interview discussions. Then, by looking at common themes, we were able to ??? identify best practices (which ones)?? To supplement this, we also conducted online research to identify current conservation programs in the Wellington area. Through our research, we found forty programs in the area that were focused on educating children about conservation. Lastly, our sponsors asked us to propose a group of modules and programs to serve as the basis of the Kaitiaki Kids program.

To propose these modules and programs, we developed a set of criteria from our interviews to use as a method of analyzing the forty programs we found. The criteria we used to select our final recommendation of fifteen programs included:

  • Providing hands-on activities for the children
  • Engaging children in nature
  • Enhancing critical thinking skills
  • Producing deliverables; activities that the child completes after the program for continual learning
  • Designing programs that last longer than a day to solidify the knowledge the children gained in the program
  • Balancing fun with educational activities
  • Involving parents

With the information gained from the interviews, we also determined conservation topics that experts felt children needed to be educated about within programs. These conservation topics were used to develop the modules that will become part of the basis of the Kaitiaki Kids program. The fifteen programs have been divided up within each module, as can be seen in the diagram below, to recommend a possible way to structure the Kaitiaki Kids program.

2015 Project 5

We are proposing a Kaitiaki Kids program that consists of six modules, based on conservation topics experts found critical for children to learn about, as well as fifteen programs based on our criteria developed from our interviews. As this Kaitiaki Kids program is still in development, these modules and programs are subject to change. Currently we view the Kaitiaki Kids program being structured where each child must partake in all of the programs within each of the modules, in order to complete each module and earn some sort of measure, like a badge. Once the child has completed all of the modules, they then can graduate as a Kaitiaki Kid.

From our interviews, we also identified gaps within conservation education efforts in Wellington and New Zealand that we deemed important for our sponsors to recognize when developing their program. These gaps were determined through our discussions, as many of our interviewees brought up aspects they felt were lacking in conservation efforts today. Many of our interviewees stressed the need to have outreach opportunities in order to attract children of different backgrounds and to hopefully increase participation for the programs within the Kaitiaki Kids program. In order for the lessons taught in the programs to become part of the child’s lifestyle, it is important to have programs that last longer than one day. This means that the program either needs to last longer than a day or have deliverables or actions that the child must conduct after the program is completed. Another gap experts have noticed is that programs need to have a broader approach and focus on conservation as a whole, rather than specific topics. This gap is one of the reasons why our sponsors developed this idea of the Kaitiaki Kids program.

Another major gap discovered through our research and interviews was the integration of conservation within school curriculums. In New Zealand, there are many programs that are incorporated into school curriculums, but there are some challenges they face, such as money, time, and resources. However, although there are many challenges, our interviewees stressed positive outcomes as well. The hope is that by having more conservation programs integrated into schools, it may lead to conservation efforts becoming a norm in society, as children will grow up learning about it on a more regular basis.

Since the Kaitiaki Kids program aims at incorporating many programs from different organizations, we see that it would be difficult to tailor it to each individual classroom. However, we recommend that our sponsors research into possible ways to develop the Kaitiaki Kids program into an afterschool program as it could generate considerable interest among children and make conservation a social norm.

Lastly, as you can see in the diagram above, modules regarding outdoor health and safety as well as plant identification do not have many current programs that focus specifically on those topics. We also did not find programs focused on topics such as water pollution or climate change, though these are topics that our research and interviewees suggested to be important for children to learn about. We therefore recommend that programs and modules be developed in the future in order to enhance these conservation topics. Since many of our interviewees brought up getting resources as being one of the hardest things to come by when developing programs, we suggest that our sponsors look into utilizing the resources other organizations already have. To do so, we feel that the Kaitiaki Kids program needs to focus on developing strong relationships with the potential organizations that have programs within them, for existing organizations have the resources to create new programs and will have the ability to help promote their organizations.

Back to Top