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Summary Page: Wetland Biodiversity - journey to a rare inland high country ecosystem
Term 1 starting 11 March 2014.



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Grab your life jacket and board a jet boat near the mouth of the mighty Rangitata River. Over two days you will jet-boat the braided Rangitata River from the sea to the base of the Southern Alps. During the journey you will stop and explore the river ecosystem. When you reach Ō Tū Wharekai you will get to know the plants and animals that make this place a very special high country wetland. Note: weather and other factors out of our control may influence activities during this field trip.

Wetlands play a vital role on planet earth so this trip will fit perfectly with big ideas like landscapes, water, plants and animals, migration, threatened species and conservation. This trip is a 3-day journey from the sea to the mountains, so be prepared for the unexpected! Ask your class if they'd like to do this one! Enrol.

In preparation for this field trip you will learn about:

  • the special place Ō Tū Wharekai, high up in the South Island's Rangitata River valley
  • the special nature and importance of wetlands
  • the significance of water and wetlands to Māori, particularly Ngāi Tahu
  • threatened native fish, birds, lizards and plants
  • ecosystems and the interconnectedness of wetland life

During the field trip you will:

  • ride a jet boat up the spectacular Rangitata River
  • get to know DOC rangers
  • see how rivers connect places and people: how the surrounding land affects the river and how the river affects fish, birds and people
  • discover the secret world of salmon
  • climb into your waders to search for freshwater fish and invertebrates in the braided rivers
  • investigate wetland recreation such as sport fishing
  • explore inter-montane basins of inland South Canterbury
  • discover the plants and animals that threaten our wetlands
  • gather people's different points of view about this wetland
  • see how special plants and animals within this ecosystem are interconnected and how they have adapted to survive in this harsh alpine environment
  • catch skinks and geckos in a fall trap and eels in a fyke net
  • monitor the wrybill population that lives on Canterbury's braided rivers and discover what is being done to counter threats to these species and their surroundings
  • get your feet wet to learn how wetland plants affect water quality
  • go snorkelling in an underwater forest in Lake Clearwater
  • go bird watching at the lakes to look for the rare Australasian crested grebe
  • gain an appreciation of the special value of Ō Tū Wharekai to Māori
  • (by the end of the field trip) have ideas on how you could help restore a wetland ecosystem near your place

Where you will go

Your destination is a wetland, Ō Tū Wharekai, way up in the heart of the South Island high country. Ō Tū Wharekai includes the Ashburton Lakes and upper Rangitata River that have been crafted through the ages by glaciation (creating a stunning landscape used for filming Lord of the Rings). The Hakatere Conservation Park, centred on the Ashburton Lakes, was opened in October 2007. It has habitat for native fish, trout, salmon, water birds, threatened native plants and aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates. It is one of the three national Arawai Kākāriki project sites focusing on the ecological restoration of the most precious wetland freshwater sites in New Zealand. In many parts of the world, wetlands have important roles but they are under threat at the same time as awareness of their importance is growing.

Learning Areas/Levels

Science: Living World Levels 1-4, Nature of Science Levels 1-4, Planet Earth and Beyond Levels 2-4; Social Studies: Place and Environment Levels 2-4, Identity, Culture and Organisation Levels 2-4, Continuity and Change Levels 2-4

More Curriculum

This field trip has support material for Social Studies AO Level 1 How places in New Zealand are significant for individuals and groups. Level 2 How places influence people and people influence places. Level 3 How people view and use places differently. Biology 91155 Demonstrate understanding of adaptation of plants or animals to their way of life. Earth and Space Science 91190 Investigate how organisms survive in an extreme environment.

  • Vision, Values, Key Competencies, Principles, Literacy and Numeracy

    By their nature, LEARNZ field trips integrate with the higher levels of the NZ Curriculum. Participation encourages development of the Key Competencies around Thinking, Using language, symbols and text, Managing self, Relating to others, and Participating and contributing. Teachers indicate this in testimonials. LEARNZ field trips have support and activities for Literacy, with opportunities to develop skills in Listening, Reading and Viewing and in Speaking, Writing and Presenting. More about LEARNZ as a Reading Resource and student writing opportunities with LEARNZ. Select LEARNZ field trips have support and activities for Numeracy, encouraging the development of skills in Number and Algebra, in Statistics and in Geometry and Measurement.

  • ESOL

    As well as providing visual and audio material and access to real experiences, LEARNZ links well to ESOL Principles, especially Principle 3 Maintain and make explicit the same learning outcomes for all the learners. How can I make the lesson comprehensible to all students? How can I plan the learning tasks so that all the students are actively involved? Do my students understand the learning outcomes? Principle 4 Begin with context embedded tasks which make the abstract concrete. How can I put these concepts into a concrete context?

  • What's in a Field Trip

    Every LEARNZ field trip has its own newly-built, self-contained web site ready for integration into your teaching and learning programme. Teacher Support has curriculum integration, resources, newsletters, support and evaluation. Prepare Students provides opportunities for student inquiry on two sets of image-rich background pages at reading levels 2 years apart, (students can click to have those pages read to them out loud), online interactive and other activities to check students' understanding, and a glossary. During the field trip there are live tweets on twitter, and daily additions such as a diary, video clips, profiles of the experts (ideal careers education), a photo gallery, and ambassador (mascot) page updates. Live web conferences via Adobe Connect enable teachers to managed students putting prepared and spontaneous questions to experts (recorded for replay). After the field trip, teachers are encouraged to take further action with their class in the community or to go on a related field trip, or to invite a guest speaker, or to present what they have learned to a wider group. Teachers also fill in an online evaluation (more about reflective practice), the field trip prize winner is drawn, and the final newsletter is sent. Content remains online for continued use.

  • How teachers use LEARNZ

    View teacher comments in testimonials and in the LEARNZ Group on the VLN. There are two main ways teachers use a LEARNZ virtual field trip with their class. Firstly, a LEARNZ field trip is ideally an immersive, engaging, synchronous, online learning experience with real-time components and a myriad of opportunities for teachers and students. Secondly, and less ideal but still effective, a LEARNZ field trip can be used as a retrospective experience where the resources such as photos, text, activities, videos and audioconferences/web conferences comprise a unique collection of authentic, contemporary New Zealand teaching and learning material.

  • What Now

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Introductory video for this field trip: Watch, embed or share on Vimeo or click below to watch here.



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Andrew the LEARNZ Field Trip Teacher.

Meet Andrew, your LEARNZ Field Trip Teacher

Inquiry Topics: aquatic insects, biodiversity, birds, Canterbury, conservation, environmental action, fresh water, lakes, land use, life cycle, native species, pests, plants, rivers, sustainability, threatened species, wetlands

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