They might not know it, but kiwi in the Mangonui area have 140 of the best friends they could wish for at the local school.

Nurturing the local kiwi population is high on their list of priorities, and with the help of their teacher, Ryan Kiely, volunteers, and a Kiwibank Predator-Free Schools grant, they've set up an impressive pest trapping operation.

Mr Kiely, who says he can see the sea from his classroom window, has no regrets about making the move from Hamilton a couple of years ago.

"I'm loving it," he said.

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"There's native bush on the school property, and it's a 15-minute walk from the school to where the local pa site is being restored. A kiwi was found there recently, and the kids were pretty excited."

Finding a resident kiwi probably meant much more to the Mangonui children than it would to most youngsters.

"We purchased six DoC 200 trap mechanisms, a bunch of wood and some tools — drills, saws etc. The children measured an old trap out and drew up plans from their measurements.

They use all the tools themselves, except the skillsaw, and they've learnt to measure twice and cut once. They've hammered all the trap boxes together and cut a few little pieces themselves. They love it," he said.

They had also been investigating what introduced predators were hanging out around the school grounds.

"We've put out tracking tunnels and chew cards at the school," he added.

"The younger children like playing with the ink, and there were a few little smudges resembling fingerprints when we checked the tracking tunnels. The other big thing is getting them not to eat the peanut butter."

Inquisitive juniors were one of the reasons that the seniors would not be decorating their trap boxes.

"We're keeping them as stealth traps, so that little fingers don't poke," Mr Kiely said.

The tracking tunnels provided a "heap" of footprints, however. They had been overrun by rats and mice, and the children suspected weta had been there too. That had been a great conversation-starter at the school, and the juniors were now hoping to make a garden for skinks.

The first rat trapped had produced a mix of disgust and excitement, but some of the children were already experienced trappers, courtesy of their involvement with the Friends of Rangikapiti. They checked the traps there once a week, and lot of them were active pig and possum hunters.

"They're very boisterous boys and girls — they love building things that kill and in turn protect our local wildlife," he added.

Planting was also on the curriculum, focusing on native plants that will support birdlife.

There was also a good deal of plant identification, and this term they were seedling house to raise native plants. At last report they had propagated more than 400 native seedlings.
And while it might be fun, it all demanded a real effort.

"Planting is a lot of hard work for the kids. The soil here has a lot of clay, but they always rise to the challenge," Mr Kiely said.

"They're quite creative kids too. We planted some little seedlings and rabbits liked them, so they've been coming up with designs for tree-protectors, their ideas including weaving flax and using old cotton T-shirts rather than plastic bags.

"Because our school is right on the ocean we have a big focus on recycling and plastic. There are no rubbish bins at our school. If they bring it to school, then they have to take it home again. It makes everyone really conscious of recycling and what they buy."