In brief: Learning about lakes
To mark Conservation Week, Hamilton Zoo hosted local Waikato school students at Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park.
The free education day on 10 September saw more than 170 students from nine Waikato schools attend the event, and the students were able to learn first-hand how they can contribute to the sustainability and protection of New Zealand's precious ecosystems and inspire others through conservation.
NIWA's Tracey Burton joined in the celebrations, with a series of talks on the Waiwhakareke Lake and others like it in the region.
"The purpose of the talk was to get the kids to connect with the lake environment, and to discover something new. I talked to them about how peat lakes are created, what makes them special, the flora and fauna they support and ways in which they can help to protect them.
"To help them learn about life below the water surface, an aquarium display setup was used with live plant samples and photo props. This made it easy for the students to visualise and discuss the types of things we can find in New Zealand lakes and the benefits of having an all-native ecosystem compared with one that has been compromised by invasive species," says Burton.
"An 8.6kg longfinned eel played a starring role in my talk, and the kids loved the opportunity to get up close and personal with these remarkable creatures that many wouldn't normally be able to. There were many squeals of delight as they discovered their placid nature and soft, velvety skin.
"With many kids opting to spend more time indoors on computers and gaming consoles, it's these types of experiences I believe are the most important. It's imperative that students have opportunities to connect with our natural environment to develop the compassion needed to make more environmentally responsible decisions in the future."