Introduction to Ecology in the Aotearoa Bush

Introduction to Ecology in the Aotearoa Bush

One great thing about the internet has been the ability to see what others around the world are working on with their children and to get ideas about how one might introduce certain ideas. I'm also aware of linking things to our local environment so they are relevant to my learners, being in a small country of 5 million people sometimes there are not 'montessori' resources already made however the pay off of using an example of  things from ones own location is immense!

What is outside your window or within a short drive of your place?

For us it isn't deserts or woodlands or rainforests.

We live in a temperate all be it windy climate! We have a large tree outside our school window which is often home to introduced birds. We also like to go for bush walks which is perhaps where the interest below came from.

I noticed M standing by the window frequently calling out the names of birds, he was particularly taken with the Tūī. Seizing on this interest I found that there was a garden bird survey on so M's dad taught him about talleys and M set to work recording the number of birds that he saw. 

On my list of focus areas for this year I had written ecology. The focus areas are not units as such but key themes I want to pull out of our Montessori studies. 

M is also very interested in the pest control traps around our local rohe (area) and often stops to look inside. One pest animal that he often talks about is stoats. 

Using both of these has points of discussion I cut out pictures of various animals from the Aotearoa New Zealand bush and discussed with M and C* which animals ate which other animals.  I introduced them to arrows and we talked about how the arrows indicated where the 'energy' went.

(C is an older child from another family who comes to learn with us).  

M compared his prey and predator relationships with  C.

We then talked about how animals can be in many food chains. This wasn't new information as the children had already seen this when they looked at each others work. 

I made a food web of the bush and isolated each individual food chain on different sheets of paper before showing the entire food web. I asked some questions about what would happen if there were none of a certain animal or plant to check understanding that this would have ramifications on multiple food chains. This also bought up the idea of what would happen if there were more of something, which led to a discussion around reproduction rates. The Kiwi for example does not reproduce as fast as stoats. 

The next day we came back to the food web. I read to the children a book from a Ministry of Education resource about children in the South Island who were working together to trap pests to help wildlife. We stopped often for the children to ask questions and comment. M was vocal about us not killing the stoats but taking them back to England. 

I had a range of scenarios relating to the food web. We talked about a few of them. I then asked the children to choose a scenario to write about.

 This is M's writing. I found it interesting that while he agreed that stoats are bad he also didn't want to kill them. 



I wanted to focus in a bit about food chains. I introduced the idea of producer and consumer. 


I made a very simple work sheet for the children to cut out and put back together and had a 'control' sheet too. 

We have been dipping in and out of the Atua book by Gavin Bishop. The children are very familiar with the creation story and the off spring of Papatūānuku and Rangi.

After learning that Tāne Mahuta was his Mum's favourite we looked at some of the rakau (trees) of the ngāhere (bush) and talked about their role in Te Ao Māori.  There was particular interest in the Kōwhai since we had looked at the kōwhai a lot last year when looking at pollination. 

The next day we came back and looked at the whakapapa (genealogy) of Tāne Māhuta and the tree offspring he and his wives had. This led to another discussion about how western knowledge said trees came to be compared to Māōri knowledge!


During these longer lessons (My lessons tend to max out around 15 minutes) M often takes himself away and sits on the periphery. While C and I were looking at the whakapapa above M went away and drew the story of Rānginui and Papatūānuku, when he had heard we had finished he invited us over to have a look.


We are going to continue our look into ecology and Te Ao Māori by looking at NZ trees and rongoa (māori traditional medicine using plants).   


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