The Ōtātara Outdoor Learning Centre (OOLC) on the EIT | Te Pūkenga Hawke’s Bay Campus in Taradale has partially reopened following Cyclone Gabrielle and has a new student (ākonga) addition.
Mark Caves, EIT | Te Pūkenga Environment and Sustainability Coordinator, says they are looking forward to opening the centre to ākonga, and then in the near future, to the public again.
“Our goal is to get as many different schools from within EIT | Te Pūkenga using the natural outdoor space. One good way of doing that, is redirecting some of the existing curriculum activities that the ākonga may have, to be taught in the outdoor space, instead of in the classroom.”
“We want to encourage lecturers (Kaiako) to change some of their activities and projects that might have been focused elsewhere to then focus the activities up at the Ōtātara Outdoor Learning Centre, with an environmental or sustainable focus. We can then improve the biodiversity and the use of the centre, as well as providing engaging real-life content for ākonga projects. It adds value to the Learning Centre, and it makes it more interesting and educational for people to visit.”
Most recently, a Lizard Lounge has been established at the OOLC. Project Lizard Lounge (PLL) is the brainchild of Bachelor of Applied Science (Biodiversity Management) ākonga Aimey Tahu (Ngāpuhi).
“When I started, we didn’t know if there were any lizards in the area at all, but later found out that a pest tracking tunnel had been found with lizard prints. Since then, we have been lucky enough to see a few lizards, confirming what we’d hoped, that they are there.”
Aimey says she wanted to create an environment for lizards to not just survive but thrive.
“Through the creation and restoration of three ideal lizard habitats at the OOLC and in the EIT | Te Pūkenga Gully that are low-cost, low-maintenance, rescalable and easily replicable, PLL aims to benefit existing lizard populations (increase local species richness and abundance) and increase local biodiversity and by extension enhance ecosystem services within the project area.
“It also aims to provide an all-ages educational space where individuals can learn about native lizards and their conservation, including tracking of lizards and pest-threat species, and back-yard conservation.”
The Lizard lounge was implemented last month. “It’ll be exciting to watch it grow and get onto the rockery sites later in the year.”
Aimey says the OOLC has been “incredibly beneficial” throughout her degree.
“It’s nice to have an outdoor space to go to. It just puts it into context what you’re learning a bit more.”
If you would like to know more about what the OOLC can offer or to make bookings please email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://www.eit.ac.nz/campus/otatara-outdoor-learning-centre/