Tiff Stewart, manager of the Kiwi Conservation Club explains its work.
The KCC was established in 1988 by the Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society of New Zealand, in order to involve and educate children in conservation. KCC caters to young people aged between five and twelve. Our vision is that through the Kiwi Conservation Club, young New Zealanders will come to enjoy, understand and love New Zealand’s unique natural environment, and will begin to develop the skills to actively care for it.
The Kiwi Conservation Club is an effective means of spreading Forest & Bird’s conservation message. We have three main avenues for reaching our members. One is our nature conservation magazine for young people – Wild Things. The second is the ever-evolving KCC website. The third strand is our nationwide network of local groups – ‘KCC branches’ – run by volunteer coordinators. These local branches give KCC members the opportunity to gain first-hand experience of conservation and the natural world, by participating in monthly KCC adventures.
Weaving these three strands together are some underlying principles. The first is that first-hand experience is one of the best teachers, so we aim to ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’ our members about the wonders of our natural world. The next is that the information we, as an organisation, deliver is scientifically accurate and up-to-date. And we want to remember always that plain old good fun is a very powerful tool!
The KCC branch adventures have a special point of difference that sets them apart from many other youth groups. We don’t require that our KCC Coordinators are trained educators or guides. Rather, we stipulate that parents or guardians must accompany children on all KCC trips. While this might seem to be a limiting factor, in reality it has led to a beautiful situation. KCC adventures are frequently punctuated by adults exclaiming “I didn’t know that!”, and the benefits of lighting the spark of enthusiasm for conservation in whole families is easy to appreciate. This does mean that our KCC Coordinators are a very special group of people, undaunted by the need to plan and run trips to cater for preschoolers to young teenagers, plus any configuration of parents, grandparents, and friends.
KCC Coordinators manage these needs in a variety of ways – sometimes trips might have a lower age limit, sometimes overall numbers will be limited, sometimes trips are not pushchair appropriate – but more often than not, all are welcome to join a trip, and everyone has an interesting and inspiring time.
The KCC Coordinators also have to be a special breed as the adventures they could plan are almost limitless – from a two hour Saturday afternoon fossil-hunt along a river bed to an overnight camp including bat-detecting, stargazing, glow-worm science and stories from local history; KCC Coordinators are incredibly adaptable and imaginative people!
Two recent trips illustrate the diversity of KCC very nicely. One event, organised by North Shore KCC branch, was called ‘Stunning Skinks and Gorgeous Geckos’. KCC members from across the Auckland region were invited to spend an afternoon learning about our amazing native lizards – and, wonder of wonders, they were able to hold and touch the rare reptiles (an honour usually reserved for a small number of permit-holding scientists). The event inspired sheer delight, and a life-long love for lizards!
A very different weekend-long camp inspired North Canterbury KCC kids. One of the highlights was using bat detectors to ‘listen’ for native bats. The biggest challenge was an hour-long walk through Cave Stream, which has carved out a pathway beneath the limestone of Castle Hill.
Being underground and in water for such a long time challenged members big and small, and their feelings and sense of achievement are reflected in these thoughtful haiku:
Cave rocks freezing cold
scary moving slowly through
getting out is bliss
cold and scary deep and wet
slippery and fun
Dark dripping wet cave
can I do it I wonder
success light at last
For more information on the KCC, click here.
This article was first published in NAEE’s journal, Environmental Education (Vol. 107). To read more articles like this, you can join the Association and receive three journals a year.