A small army of young children will head to Mount Maunganui this weekend to help a 'local hero' look after one of the region's most idyllic landmarks.
On Tuesday, the Bay of Plenty Times published Nathan Pettigrew's call for people to help with a community clean up of Moturiki (Leisure) Island on Sunday after he discovered the place strewn with rubbish and fishing junk.
But of those people he thought might help, he did not expect a crew of about 50 eight and nine-year-olds.
Greenpark School teacher Ben Brock came up with the idea to help out, which incorporated some of the school's challenges for children to support and help the community and the environment.
''The children were desperate to help the community, the penguins, and Nathan.''
Mr Brock said many of the children knew Mr Pettigrew, who had been to the school several times helping with school trips and showing the school his videos and photos of the marine life he encountered while out kayaking in Tauranga Harbour.
''The children have a huge respect for what he does.... He is a bit of a local hero to some of these children.''
The support has been incredible. I just can't believe that people would go out of their way like that but feedback all around has been so positive.
Mr Brock said when children wanted to make a difference to their community and the world, it showed there was a bright future.
''Teaching should be about [real life] experiences and making a difference. Reading, writing, maths and science can then be related to those experiences. That is the best way to learn. These kind of experiences will stay with the children forever and they can be proud that they have made a difference.
''In turn, I am proud of them.''
Mr Brock said the wider school community had also got in behind the cause, with several teachers joining in on Sunday and school parents making a 'family day out' to support the community and environment.
The school's values were based around curiosity, open-mindedness, perseverance and empathy, he said.
''We also have a motto in our class this term which says 'it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness' - Eleanor Roosevelt. This is our way of lighting a candle.''
Mr Pettigrew said the response had been amazing and he was especially heartened that young school children were so eager to help.
''The support has been incredible. I just can't believe that people would go out of their way like that but feedback all around has been so positive.''
The support has been such, he said he was concerned there wouldn't be enough rubbish for everyone to collect.
Mr Pettigrew said he had been stopped in the street by people who read the story and supported his stance on looking after the island. Some have said the story was being shared around the world by people using it to do similar events in their home towns, he said.
''I'm very humbled by it all,'' he said.
''For me, it's not about other people picking up rubbish. It's for people to realise not to put it there in the first place.''
Year 4 student Louis Dickey said his 5-year-old brother would be helping him on Sunday.
''We need to help the little blue penguins and other animals, they could be in danger if we don't clear up our rubbish. We might never see blue penguins when I'm older if we don't do something now.''