What do you do when you're worried about the future of your school's honey bees, lavender, native bush, and alpacas?

For a group of Hukerenui School children the answer was easy - find a way to save them and make them sustainable.

Now Holly Hayes, 12, Isla Purvis, 12, Kaia Stevens, 12 and Ryan Barnes, 11 - known as RATS (Responsible Agricultural Team of Scientists) - will be representing New Zealand at an international problem-solving competition in the United States. But now they need to raise $14,000 to get there.

"It's quite satisfying because of all the experiments and hard work that went in to it and then finding out it's been successful," said Isla.

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Hukerenui School problem solvers Isla Purvis, Kaia Stevens, Ryan Barnes and Holly Hayes. Photo/Michael Cunningham
Hukerenui School problem solvers Isla Purvis, Kaia Stevens, Ryan Barnes and Holly Hayes. Photo/Michael Cunningham

At Hukerenui School, a rural school about 30 minutes north of Whangārei, learning goes beyond books.

Two years ago a team of problem solvers won the junior championship at the Future Problem Solving Programme in the US after transforming the school's excess space with beehives, native trees, lavender, maize, an orchard and a grazing area for alpacas.

While these provided key learning resources, the RATS noticed the school was struggling to maintain and grow them and were worried they were in danger of disappearing.

"They created these projects on our land but they didn't develop the knowledge so all of these projects started dying. That's where we came in ... we realised that scientific knowledge would be the best knowledge to use," said Isla.

So the RATS spent most of last year and part of this year teaching students and teachers how they can keep the resources going.

There's three large books and several pieces of paper documenting what the RATS did to achieve their goal, but it included teaching 20 classes each, doing lots of research and experiments, and creating and selling products.

As part of their experiments they discovered the best way to grow lavender and manuka and vegetables, and how to breed queen bees to grow hives.

They have also created a website - www.hukerenui.com -selling products such as chamomile and beeswax lotion, lavender bath bombs, an alpaca cot duvet inner, honey thyme syrup for sore throats, and more.

"I personally feel really good that we've given a chance for the children to get to do all of this stuff when they probably wouldn't get to do it in most schools," said Holly.

Their hard work won the community category of the Future Problem Solving National Finals in Auckland and on June 1 they leave for the US to represent New Zealand in the international competition at the University of Wisconsin.

'We're so excited," the team said.

If you want to help in the fundraising contact the school on 09 433 9895.