Pupils take the plunge with programme

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Students from a Northland school have gone from snorkelling in the school pool to encountering sea life in the ocean.

Kokopu School students had been waiting a while to plunge into the ocean after having their trip to the Poor Knights Marine Reserve was cancelled twice. But on Friday students, parents and teachers from the school were finally able to explore the underwater environment as part of a programme led by Experiencing Marine Reserves (EMR) which encourages experiential learning.

Students learned about marine biodiversity and conservation in the classroom, then learned to snorkel in the school pool and finally got to test their skills in the ocean.

EMR Northland coordinator Harriet Thomas said the trip took place over several days, allowing the whole school the opportunity to experience the reserve.

"It's so rewarding to be able to get both students and parents along to experience the Poor Knights for themselves, a lot of them would never have the opportunity otherwise.

The Poor Knights looks great in books and pictures, but it is nothing compared to experiencing its remarkable scene for yourself."

She said students got to see triplefins, leatherjackets and an octopus.

They also learned about kina barrens - an area where larger fish are generally in low abundance, resulting in an increase in kina numbers which graze the majority of kelp available, taking away habitat.

The next part of the programme encourages students to demonstrate kaitiakitanga - guardianship of the marine reserve.

Room 2 at the school did a beach clean up at Ruakaka.

Teacher Tama Weavers said it was "fantastic" to get children taking action. "The biggest joy of the day was the great discussion that came from the children when discussing why they thought the rubbish was there and what they could do to change it."

- Northern Advocate

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