Ko Au te Awa, ko Awa te Au
In 2021, the Te Ararata Stream team took on a Curious Minds project to study how a local stream can be transformed through restoration efforts.
More than 90 students participated in the project, collecting data from three different stretches of the stream with riparian margins ranging from established native trees (planted in restoration projects in 2017 and 2018, respectively) to a stretch that had no stream restoration works at all (bare lawn).
Monitoring protocols included tree audits, soil sampling, terrestrial invertebrate counts, aquatic macroinvertebrate counts and freshwater quality testing with Wai Care kits. By the end of the project, students could see that there was a correlation between the age and diversity of replanting efforts to the rise of biodiversity gains and ecosystem processes. This showed the community that there were clear benefits to restoring and maintaining healthy stream environments.
In 2022, the team expanded their mission with a new project, "Ko Au te Awa, ko Awa te Au," which investigated the specific impact of urban densification on their stream. The team grew from 90 to 160 tauira, who volunteered over 2,000 hours to advocate for and clean up their local awa.
Pragna Patel, project lead, reflected on how the stream project had raised the profile of the stream. "The local communities saw us regularly in our high-vis vests and greeted us warmly," she said. "It broke down barriers of fear, as inhabiting reserves is often considered risky business. Some of the community members even reclaimed the right to inhabit these areas as a result."
One of the most inspiring aspects of this story is the participation of a group of refugee children from Burma. For these children, the project provided valuable exposure to scientists and scientific concepts. Many of them have reflected on how the project has changed their perspective on science and made it more enjoyable for them.
The Te Ararata Stream team is a shining example of how young people can use their passion for science to make a real difference in their communities. Their work is a testament to the power of collaboration, the importance of environmental stewardship, and the transformative potential of science education.
Watch the video below to learn more about the Te Ararata Stream team's journey: