In praise of adventure

By Dionne Christian

Indulge curious minds and they will never stop discovering, says Dionne Christian

Riley and Steve Hathaway. Photo / Richard Robinson
Riley and Steve Hathaway. Photo / Richard Robinson

What kid doesn't like exploring, but how do you make that a lifelong passion?

Inspired by the National Geographic Live talk from film-maker and adventurer Bryan Smith, we asked daring discoverers and creators how they started and how they would encourage inquisitive kids. Here are some places to fuel your young explorers' adventurous spirits:

On the water

Explorer and conservationist Bryan Smith says his parents weren't great adventurers but encouraged the family to enjoy water-sports. Bryan started kayaking at university, and his passion has seen him paddle rivers in India, Peru, Russia and all over North America. Bryan's advice is to start any adventure activity slowly - no grade 5 white-water rapids on your first trip - to gradually build skills and confidence.

Canoe & Kayak offers a range of kayak courses from beginners up, tours and entry to the Yakity Yak Kayak Club. The beginners' course starts off in a swimming pool, safety briefings and trip planning, before training at Lake Pupuke and working up to paddling the Hauraki Gulf.

In the water

Father and daughter underwater cameraman Steve Hathaway and young ocean explorer Riley Hathaway, 13, love getting out and seeing the country. As a youngster, if Steve and his siblings got bored, their science teacher father would assign them mini natural history projects to work on.

Steve and Riley have just filmed the second series of the Young Ocean Explorer TV show where Riley meets various marine biologists and scientists. Both recommend the Goat Island marine reserve at Leigh but say waters off nearby Tawharanui Regional Park are equally as spectacular. As the country's first open sanctuary where conservation, recreation and farming are integrated there's a great variety of land-based flora and fauna to discover too, exciting to budding ornithologists.

Riley also recommends Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium as a calming place where kids are gently introduced to the marine environment. Take the time to read the information and you'll learn loads, she says.

To find projects to get involved with, check out naturewatch .org.nz where you'll find researchers looking for ordinary people to join their "citizen science" projects: help collect data, monitor animal, bird or insect populations, or participate in species counts.

Beyond the beach

Auckland War Memorial Museum Head of Natural Science marine biologist, Tom Trnski, grew up in Melbourne, venturing with friends' families to explore beaches and bush.

Tom says the museum is a superb place to see natural and human history collections and to join workshops, family activities and school holiday programmes. Explorama, when kids get to be scientists and learn from museum curators and experts about life in the museum and the Domain, is a must for budding boffins.

Tom says delving into beach rock pools and going for bush walks are great ways to engage young minds, starting with the Waitakere and Hunua Ranges on our doorstep.


Collections of critters in museums may spark an interest in entomology.

Auckland Zoo carnivore keeper Anneke Haworth grew up surrounded by animals so developed an appreciation for wildlife from an early age. She acknowledges there were "bumps along the road" getting to her zoo job, but says keeping positive and having an open mind is all important. Zoo staff captivate and excite people about nature and wildlife, but Anneke also recommends spending as much time playing outside with kids.

On stage

Theatre-maker Tim Bray says exploring can be about testing the limits of your imagination and the visual and performing arts do that. Tim made his first shows when he was at primary school - his parents built him a puppet theatre.

He started his own theatre company in his late 20s. As well as shows (this holidays it's The Little Yellow Digger stories) Tim offers school holiday theatre workshops to explore what goes on backstage, with tours and talks by some of the creative team.

Up in the air Stardome Observatory public programmes manager Jill Jessop was encouraged by her father to look at the stars


Tim Bray Productions (above) and the Stardome Observatory (left) offer workshops for kids.

"I couldn't believe it when no one else at school knew where the Southern Cross was". She left school at 14 because she found it wasn't stimulating enough but spent her youth doing her own research, joining the Auckland Astronomical Society so she could answer more of her son's questions. The society has a young astronomers group (aged 6 upwards); the older kids do their own research projects.

Jill says for a young stargazer, regular visits to the Stardome Observatory are a must. There is a full calendar of varied planetarium shows, exhibits and, especially in school holidays, workshops.

The virtual world

The Mind Lab technologist and teacher Damon Kahi is a former cabinetmaker who went from using computer-aided design programmes to working in visual effects and then teaching. Damon says his parents allowed him to pull things apart as long as he put them back together again.

He does the same with his kids, telling them frustration is cool because it means they're challenging themselves.

At The Mind Lab, kids (and sometimes their grown-ups) test themselves with game development, robotics, augmented reality, 3D modelling, film-making, electronics and science. The Mind Lab runs term-time courses - from ages 4 up - as well as holiday programmes.

Digging up the past

Archaeologist and lead conservator for Antarctic Heritage Trust, Sue Bassett, says that a family trip to Europe, visiting the buried Italian city of Pompeii convinced her it was possible to have a job which involved travel, indulged her passion for the past and was not nine to five.

She has worked everywhere from Middle Eastern deserts to tropical rainforests and on shipwrecks. Sue's team's work can be seen in the Still Life: Inside the Antarctic Huts of Scott and Shackleton exhibition at Auckland War Memorial Museum (until October 5) bringing to life the historic huts where early polar explorers lived and worked.

You can also learn about what's happening to conserve this history on the ice today.

Need to Know

Extreme Adventure on the Edge: "Vertical Feats and the Man Who Can Fly" - Bryan Smith National Geographic Live, October 1. Bookings ticketmaster.co.nz or on 0800111999. nglive.org

Canoe and Kayak: canoeandkayak.co.nz

Tawharanui Regional Park: Takatu Rd, Omaha; open 6am- 9pm (summer hours) or 24 hour pedestrian access. regionalparks.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/tawharanui

Kelly Tarlton's Sea Life Aquarium: Daily 9.30am-5pm. kellytarltons.co.nz

Auckland War Memorial Museum: Daily 10am-5pm. aucklandmuseum.com

Auckland Zoo: Daily 9.30am- 5.30pm. aucklandzoo.co.nz

Stardome Observatory: Opening hours vary. stardome.org.nz; Reasons for Seasons is the Observatory's October school holiday programme.

Auckland Astronomical Society: Young Astronomers Club meets on the first Friday of the month. astronomy.org.nz

The Mind Lab: themindlab.com

Tim Bray's Theatre Workshops: Ph (09) 486 2261 The Little Yellow Digger September 27 to October 11. Ph (09) 489 8360 timbrayproductions.org.nz

- NZ Herald

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