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New Zealand Science Teacher

The Virtual Walker Competition warms up

Help your students plan for some great outdoor learning experiences this summer.

paterson inlet early morning slice 565Above: Paterson Inlet, Photo: Department of Conservation.

The Department of Conservation is running a competition for primary school aged children in Term 1, 2015.

The Virtual Great Walker Competition aims to get young kiwis engaged with and learning about conservation by using the Great Walks as inspiration. It also encourages exploration of students’ own backyards.

The Department of Conservation’s Melanie Borich says the programme is all about getting young New Zealanders making connections with the natural world that lies on their doorstep.

“We know there’s a disconnect between our urban environments and our natural world,” says Melanie, “and so our education team came up with the idea for this fun learning activity to connect children with conservation.”

To take part in the Virtual Great Walker Competition, students will need to make groups of five or more. These could be formed at school or elsewhere in your community.

Running from January 26 until April 2, 2015, the competition requires participants to read up on the Great Walks and select one to explore.

The nine New Zealand Great Walks, managed by DOC, are:

  • Lake Waikaremoana
  • Tongariro Northern Circuit
  • Whanganui Journey
  • Abel Tasman Coast Track
  • Heaphy Track
  • Kepler Track
  • Milford Track
  • Routeburn Track
  • Rakiura Track

Once the Great Walk has been chosen:

  • Set some weekly walking goals, from 26 January to 2 April.
  • Match how far you plan to walk against the length of your chosen Great Walk. For example, you might aim to walk as far as you would to get to a hut, bridge or other point along your Great Walk. You might even decide to walk the same distance as your Great Walk.
  • Get out and walk! Use your local tracks, streets, parks, botanic gardens, beaches, school playground or sports field – anywhere will do!
  • Keep a record of how many kilometres your team has walked together. For example, if a team of 20 walks 2km, their total is 2km, not 40km.
  • Compare your final kilometres walked to the length of the Great Walk you have chosen.
  • Do some activities on biodiversity, history, recreation, culture and conservation value while you walk. The organisers will provide some activity ideas.

There will also be the opportunity to join a free LEARNZ Virtual Field Trip to give your class an opportunity to see and experience one of the Great Walks. This trip, focused on the Routeburn Track, will be live in February but will remain open after that time, for teachers to access the resources.

The next part of the competition involves the creation of a presentation, based on the research and experience of each group. This piece of work could be in the form of a poster, PowerPoint, scrapbook, or something else.

The winning team will be awarded a trip to do one of the Great Walks. Air New Zealand will fly one team of students, together with adults to a destination chosen for its suitability.

“We’ll choose the walk according to the size of the group, as well as its age and capabilities,” says Melanie. “We’re so lucky to have this partnership with Air New Zealand that allows us to offer an incentive like this.”

For more information, visit The Virtual Great Walker Competition page.

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