Not every school can claim to have kiwi and long-tail bat living on their back doorstep. But then not every school is located in a quiet valley, a 40 minute drive inland from Stratford.

Makahu School students were absolutely delighted when the recorders they put out into local pockets of bush returned the sounds of kiwi calls. Not only that but positive sightings of long-tail bat, and North Island robin suggested their school could be nestled in an oasis of native fauna.

The presence of their iconic neighbours has inspired Makahu School’s Curious Minds Participatory Science Platform project which aims to investigate the distribution of pest species in their valley. A trapping project at heart, this investigation will determine the effect predators may be having on threatened species.

Makahu School principal, and main teacher to the roll of 15 students, Chris Mattock is an advocate for the environment. A keen hunter, and member of the Taranaki Kiwi Trust, Chris has plenty of motivation to conserve our unique environment but what has surprised Chris is just how engaged his students have become in their environmental investigations.

“The level of excitement and buy in from the students has been one of the highlights of this endeavour” says Chris. While the aim of the project is a step towards the conservation of local threatened species, the benefits to the school, students and community are stacking up.

The other benefit this project is having on Makahu students is the involvement of experts helping to develop their investigation. Makahu is a rural environment and Chris suggests that the students can be isolated compared to those living closer to town. “Having people come in and help with the project has opened the students’ eyes to all sorts of possibilities. The students are developing skills and getting line of sight to careers which were probably unknown to them previously. These are skills that they could develop careers around, or take back and implement on their own farm” Says Chris.

It’s not just the students that are engaging; parents and family members with farms in the area are offering their time and resource to aid the students’ investigations. “Support from the local families has been great; for a lot of them it has been a great opportunity to learn about what is living in their backyard.”

With 80 school made DOC 200 traps, a collection of gas powered self-resetting A24 traps, a motion activated camera trap, no-kill cat cages, and a myriad of tracking options; the Makahu School Pest Trapping project is well equipped to investigate the distribution of pest species in their valley, and as a result contribute to the effective conservation of threatened species in the area.

For more information about the Curious Minds Participatory Science Platform, please contact Project Co-ordinator Josh Richardson.