Schools newsletter May 2018

This edition: Pukeiti Rainforest School - an outstanding venue for environmental education.

Tēnā koutou katoa. It has been an action-packed first term for me and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with lots of awesome schools and learning groups from around the region.

We’ve been out in the great outdoors, with lots of hands-on learning about rocky reefs, stream habitats, rainforests and wetlands. This issue of our Schools in the Environment newsletter (SITE) focuses on the Rainforest School at Pukeiti, featuring the activities we’ve been running with schools over this last term. If you’re interested in booking a trip, it’s worth having a look at the Pukeiti Rainforest School study Unit to see the broad range of activities on offer.

Pukeiti Rainforest School study unit [PDF, 1.9 MB] 

These activities can be adapted to suit the learning focus of the class and so if you are interested in running something slightly different, feel free to get in touch.

Sacred Heart Girls College students check whio food during their stream study.

Sacred Heart Girls College students check whio food during their stream study.

For example, we were able to adapt our existing stream study to suit a request from Sacred Heart Girls’ College. Having seen whio (blue duck) on a fieldtrip to Turangi, students from the College were keen to investigate what whio feed on in Taranaki. Blue ducks don’t occur in the streams that run through Pukeiti Rainforest at the moment, making it an ideal location to study whio food without disturbing the ducks. We found a diverse range of juicy bugs including some supersized stonefly, magnificent mayfly and chunky dobsonfly larvae. We also calculated macroinvertebrate community index (MCI) scores of over 130, indicating
excellent water quality, as you’d expect for pristine rainforest streams.

Dr Emily Roberts

Dr Emily Roberts

To book a trip to Pukeiti Rainforest or any other field trips and lessons, email me at, the sooner the better to get your preferred dates. We are here to provide advice on any aspects of environmental education relevant to TRC responsibilities.

Please feel free to call (0800 726 222) or email ( if you have any queries about how we can help out.

Pukeiti Rainforest School

Pukeiti Rainforest covers 360 hectares, consisting almost entirely of indigenous forest but with approximately 25 hectares of cultivated  gardens. The rainforest provides an important source of food and habitat for wildlife, enabling ecological linkages between the Kaitake and Pouakai Ranges.

Since 2013, the Council has been running the Rainforest School  at Pukeiti, enabling students to experience first-hand the high diversity of native plants, birds and invertebrates. The rainforest  provides an ideal setting to learn about ecological threats and how these threats can be managed to enhance native biodiversity values.

Field trips to Pukeiti typically run between 10am to 2pm and incorporate a rainforest walk and one other activity of the school’s choosing. Here are some of the activities run so far this year:

Stream study

The streams that run through Pukeiti are pristine and shaded, providing great habitat for freshwater macroinvertebrates. Students will  learn:

  • How to collect and identify stream macroinvertebrates
  • What role these bugs play in the freshwater ecosystem
  • How the species present indicate the health of the waterway.

Creepy crawlies

Pukeiti provides home to an amazing diversity of invertebrates that play a crucial role in the rainforest ecosystem. They decompose  leaves, pollinate plants and provide food for native birds, reptiles and other invertebrates. This activity involves hunting for bugs.  Students will learn:

  • How to use pitfall traps to collect creepy crawlies
  • How to identify invertebrates using NatureWatch NZ and other online guides
  • The different roles that these species play at Pukeiti.

Pot a plant

This activity makes use of the abundance of native seedlings at Pukeiti by potting some of them up to grow and spread the biodiversity
values to your school or backyard. Students will learn:

  • How to identify native seedlings
  • How to transplant and pot up the plants
  • How to care for the plants when taken back home or to school
  • What wildlife the plants will attract when they are fully grown.

Bioblitz Pukeiti Rainforest

Possible new species of cave weta.

Possible new species of cave weta.

We are working with schools to find and identify as many native species as possible in Pukeiti Rainforest, building a growing picture of  biodiversity within the Key Native Ecosystem. Observations are being recorded in the BioBlitz Pukeiti Rainforest project on NatureWatch  NZm where experts from around New Zealand help with the identification of the uploaded images.

From school visits during last term alone, we managed to record 123 observations and 80 species including a flowering easter orchid,  blooming scarlet rātā vines, a possible new species of cave wētā, a freshwater limpet that glows in the dark, bellbirds galore and New  Zealand’s smallest indigenous skink the copper skink.

We had help identifying species from a wētā evolutionary ecologist from Massey University, an orchid expert from Northland, an aquatic  entomologist at NIWA and a botany curator at Museum of New Zealand Te Papa.

Download the full newsletter in PDF format:

SITE newsletter 85 - May 2018 [PDF, 1.2 MB]