Connecting kids with nature

‘A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.’ – Oliver Wendell Holmes

For the past 10 years, the Karioi Project has been offering young people aged 6 – 18 the opportunity to connect with nature, their community and themselves. Through hands-on activities and games, kids become familiar and comfortable with a variety of ecosystems and skills.

The younger groups learn to build survival huts in the bush, trap predators that threaten New Zealand’s incredible native wildlife and start fires with flint and steel. At low tide, they discuss the lives of sea-stars and crabs that inhabit the salty pools at the world-famous surf spots in Raglan. Becoming aware of the role of dunes in preventing erosion leads students to encourage friends, family, and even strangers not to walk through this fragile habitat in an effort to conserve plant and animal life. The students often develop an appreciation and love for a variety of habitats and, in turn, become stewards. Older students learn more practical conservation skills such as predator control and monitoring, mapping with GPS and navigating with a compass.

Karioi participants meet many superstars of their community, including world-famous kite flyers, kayak instructors, ecologists and surfers. They explore ecosystems that might be new, or discovered from a different perspective. Many students come back term after term for the changing activities and growing friendships. The programme uniquely combines youth from five different schools, and youth that might live on the same street but have never met. By learning and playing together, the students develop confidence trying and perfecting new skills and expand their curiosity while engaging with the natural world, and develop their resilience to face whatever comes.