Biodiversity project sparks students’ interest

West Eyreton School students have gained a greater understanding of the importance of biodiversity while learning how Waimakariri Irrigation Limited (WIL) is helping to protect native species in its raceway system.

WIL biodiversity project lead Dan Cameron says the joint project with year three and four West Eyreton School students and Enviroschools was triggered by the discovery of several eels in WIL’s raceway which runs through a lifestyle block owner’s property.

West Eyreton students investigate invertebrates collected from WIL’s raceway opposite the school

“The landowner was keen to protect the eels and to enhance their habitat, so we approached the school, and it was perfect timing as it fit with an inquiry project they were about to start.”

The five-week biodiversity investigation involved hands-on learning with students visiting the landowner’s property and exploring the raceway opposite their school.

Deputy principal Lisa Duff says the project has helped to enhance students’ understanding of the important role eels play in the ecosystem.

“Some students had never seen an eel before and there were a few negative impressions of eels but by the end of the project everyone wanted to help protect the eels.”

Lisa says WIL operations staff member Russ Carmody helped students to understand how WIL’s raceway system operates in one of the learning sessions.

“A lot of the children had no understanding of how an irrigation system works and where the water comes from and where it ends up so we had a lot of rich learning about how the system works and its importance to the local community.”

Enviroschools community facilitator Toni Watts says the student-led inquiry helped deepen connections with the environment and a sharing session at the end of the project provided a starting point for students to apply their learnings in their own backyard.

“We had amazing presentations ranging from poems to dioramas and plays. The students would love to see a pond created to provide a refuge for the eels so we will have to see how we can work together with the landowner to make that happen in the future.

“It’s really important for the next generation to feel like they can take action to make a positive difference to their environment and I think that examining what’s around you at a local level can create change.”

WIL biodiversity project lead Dan Cameron explains how the raceway system works to a group of West Eyreton students.