Citizen science is helping pupils from Wanaka Primary School become better informed about the changes and challenges facing Lake Wanaka.
With support from the government initiative Curious Minds, the Touchstone Project has conducted a series of projects to understand what factors affect the level of water quality in the lake.
Project co-ordinator Chris Arbuckle has been helping local pupils over the past three years make stronger connections to Lake Wanaka.
Many of the projects focused on understanding what was flowing from urban areas into the lake.
The effects of new subdivisions had been explored, “a lot of sediment flowing off areas where buildings or subdivisions have been put in”.
That had raised interest in the management of stormwater drains from these new areas, Mr Arbuckle said.
Pupils had collected rubbish in areas such as Bremner Bay, analysing what sort of items ended up on the lake.
There were several ways rubbish could get into the lake, and by sorting through it pupils were able to see one way rubbish got into the lake was through stormwater drains.
“Often the stuff in the stormwater drain will be from their houses.”
The pupils learned items including plastic toys could end up in stormwater drains.
“The idea is that after three or so years you have got a lot of children who have learned the story of the challenges of water quality in the lake, and that is going through multiple age groups,” Mr Arbuckle said.
Wanaka Primary School teacher Markus Hermanns said the “best classroom” for pupils was the outdoors.
Taking part in the water quality projects was a “unique and fabulous learning experience” for pupils, giving them the opportunity to connect with the “precious environment right in front of their doorstep”.
He believed children were motivated to protect what they know and love.
“So with bringing the kids out and making them aware of the uniqueness and vulnerability of our environment and lake, I hope to plant a seed that will grow into environmental awareness and foster an intrinsic motivation to protect our beautiful environment,” Mr Hermanns said.
Children from the school over the past few years had investigated the health of streams by looking at freshwater invertebrates, had conducted beach clean-ups and analysed the rubbish collected, and looked at stormwater drains and their catchment areas.
The pupils were working on a project to put signs on the drains around town to make people aware that the water went directly into the lake.
They were also looking at the native species that lived in and around the lake.
“So there is a lot of things happening – the students and myself just love every activity we do,”Mr Hermanns said.