Big audience for blue penguins on Coast

Rebecca and Shelley Hersey with LEARNZ mascots

A potential audience of 120 thousand school children was focussed on West Coast blue penguins in late September.

Teachers and support staff from LEARNZ  joined DOC, and Rebecca Gibson Helene Roehl from the West Coast Blue Penguin Trust to bring to life  blue penguins and seals for children from throughout New Zealand.

LEARNZ is an interactive student experience.  Using the internet students can take part in field trips in remote areas and interact with experts they would never normally meet.  Students view edited videos which are uploaded daily and question experts through live audio-conferencing, web board and diaries.

They were in the Buller area for three days from 28 September studying blue penguins near Charleston and seals at Cape Foulwind.

Barrie Matthews from LEARNZ says by the end of the field trip the students will know a lot about the species.  They study background material leading up to the field trip, complete activities and are able to submit questions to experts during the field trip.

“There is always one child, if not a complete class, who get completely captivated because LEARNZ makes it so real for them,” he says.

West Coast Blue Penguin Trustee Rebecca Gibson represented both DOC and the Trust during the field trips.  LEARNZ filmed Rebecca and colleagues monitoring penguins and seals.

“The blue penguin trust has five years of data and research about the penguin populations near Charleston so the students will study population trends.  There is 20 years of research about the seals at Cape Foulwind,” she says.

“These populations are well monitored and we already know they are in decline compared to other areas of New Zealand.  I have heard some of the students’ questions are pretty in-depth so luckily I have marine and bird experts Don Neale and Chippy Wood to help me provide answers”.

28 out of 38 West Coast schools have at least one teacher registered with LEARNZ.  Over four thousand teachers are registered New Zealand wide.  The programme is available free and teachers can sign up at any time.