Nature’s little warriors

Out of a combination of sheer whimsy and curiosity, I signed myself up to become a KCC Co-ordinator last year.

I had always wanted to smuggle myself onto our Kiwi Conservation Club (KCC) trips.

For the past six years, I have worked as Forest & Bird’s web editor and I’d always look longingly at the kiwi crèche visits and offshore overnighters and quietly cursed the fact that I was 30 years too old.

Indeed, when I first started the job at Forest & Bird, I would discreetly take home large bundles of KCC magazines for a little bed-time reading or ‘research’.

Let’s just say that my inner child has always been very much alive, however, in recent years I felt like this fresh-thinking had been censored out of existence.

A KCC kid painting a decoy fairy tern model that will be placed on our new artificial site on the Kaipara harbour.

A KCC kid painting a decoy fairy tern model that will be placed on our new artificial site on the Kaipara harbour.

I wanted to see the world through the eyes of our young eco-warriors, to re-connect with nature and – through this educational role – get a good grasp on nature’s rules.

I also had a small hope of perhaps teaching the next generation a thing or two about nature.

So I signed myself up to become a KCC co-ordinator.

I had visions of myself leading gaggles of enthusiastic eco-warriors to bird rescue centres, zoos, coastal birding spots and perhaps to some off-shore island sanctuaries.

Since then, I have run two activities – a fairy tern decoy painting event and a lesson on NZ’s natural history to a group of sea-scouts.

And it turns out that these little greenies had a lot to teach me. At each event, the questions would come thick and fast.

Accepted truths had to be fully unpacked and explained – as the questions ‘why, why, why’ burbled forth from the mouths of these curious babes.

It’s exhilarating being in the firing line, and also, quite disarming. There’s no-one to defer to and – gasp – no google.

So far, I have fielded questions about everything from the diet of our fairy tern to our kakapo’s breeding fickle habits. Often, the questions are quite bonkers.

One young fella: “Why do we need hydro-dams? Why don’t we just rub bark together to create fires? “
Me (silently reeling before I composed my answer) “Perhaps! But it’s better to have electricity – we like lights and heating, eh? And there’s always wind-farms, solar energy and geothermal plants that can help to create electricity?”

The freshness of their ideas and their colourful thinking really buoyed me.

Our conversations would travel deep into the land of the ridiculous, lurch into the land of the impossible and then, when it had strayed too far, I’d vainly attempt to steer the conversation back to reality-ville.

These kids had the kind of playful thinking that I liked. Their uncensored thinking and can-do attitude did great things to my battle-weary soul.

And they could totally out-nerd me. In fact, some of the kids came to the outings with large natural history books tucked under their arms, so they could look up facts (and perhaps cross-check my ramblings?!).

So before each event I would swot up so that I could impress these pint-size examiners.

A few years back, I felt like I had killed off half of my brain and given google the job of information storage and retrieval, so I could concentrate on more pressing things. Now, I’ve reclaimed that part and I’m the proud owner of a noggin that’s firing on all cylinders.

All in all, this new side-line job has done me a wonder of good. My brain is growing back, my sense of wonderment is restored and – thankfully – I’m managing to keep a couple of steps ahead of these little nature nuts.

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If you would like to become a KCC Co-ordinator, please contact our KCC Manager, Tiff Stewart (t.stewart@forestandbird.org.nz).

To see a video of the fairy tern painting event, see here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4tQazDkK68

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3 Comments

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  1. June 9, 2014 10:09 pm
    Kim Herrick says

    What a brilliant way to engage young hearts and minds in nature activities. Sounds like a fun place to volunteer!

  2. June 11, 2014 12:17 pm
    Robyn du chateau says

    Fantastic example of the generosity of a F and B staff member. It is a spirit that under lies the organisation . How old are Kcc volunteers generally??

  3. June 15, 2014 9:08 am
    Margi Keys says

    KCC volunteers have ranged in aged from 18 to 80. Actually our oldest KCO, Muriel, retired at 82. She’s still going strong at 88, taking an interest in our KCC, wanting to know how each event went. Marvellous. Our three founding KCOs got an Old Blue for their services to conservation a few years ago.

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