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Land activities

Use our land activities to learn more about land resources in the Waikato region.

Students helping out on planting days.

Build a Tree

This is an experiential learning activity that requires students to take on the role of different functions of a tree. As well as developing important knowledge about how trees function students need to co-operate in different groups to make the whole activity work. It is important on completion of this activity to debrief students out of ‘role’.

This is a shortened version of the Joseph Cornell activity.

Each of these roles carry out actions to depict functions of a tree, as written alongside the role. Use questions to involve students in the ‘making’ such as what holds a tree up? What do the roots do? How does water get into the leaves? How does the food in the leaves travel down to the rest of the tree? Discuss the roles as you make the tree.

Select students for the following roles:

  • The core of the tree – stand tall (1 is sufficient).
  • Roots – lie on the floor surrounding the ‘core’, make 'slurp' noises to draw in water.
  • Xylem – crouch around the core, hold hands facing inwards and make 'whee' noises as they stand simulating water movement upwards.
  • Phloem – stand around the xylem, face outwards, joining hands and as they crouch down make 'whoosh' noises to simulate sugars travelling downwards.
  • Cambium – stand around xylem facing inwards, hold hands and make 'ahem ahem' noises to keep the xylem and phloem separate.
  • Bark – stand around the phloem facing outwards, hold hands in front and push them out as they make 'woof woof' noises to protect the tree.

Have the tree 'live' by everyone carrying out their actions together.


How did we have to work together to make the tree?

What are the major parts of a tree?

What does a tree need to survive? Water, sunlight, carbon dioxide.

What effect do trees have on their environment? Draw in water from the surrounding land. Helps absorb water during high water flows. Holds the soil together.

What action do you think we could take for the environment. Plant more native trees around waterways.

Special place tourists

  • If your students have studied a particular 'special place' have them form small groups which represent a 'Special Place' Tourist Bureau for your local area.
  • Each group designs a travel brochure to promote their special place to tourists and potential residents. For example, a stand of native bush, a stream, a beach, the rocky shore, or a geothermal area.
  • What sort of 'visitors' (animals) would be attracted to your special place?
  • What things have you done to enhance the area so that that particular visitor (animal) would be interested in visiting and/or becoming a permanent resident?
  • What sort of characteristics should a traveller/potential resident possess to enable them to visit/live in your habitat?
  • You might like to include photos and pictures as part of your brochure.

Don’t forget to send examples to us here at Environment Waikato.

Competitors or not (indigenous vs. introduced)

  1. Select a native animal and compare it with a similar but non-native (introduced) equivalent that is wild in New Zealand ie., birds with birds, snails with snails, spiders with spiders. Use pictures, photos, journal articles and real life examples to source your information.
  2. Make two columns, one for native the other for introduced.
  3. Compare the looks, habitat, food, behaviour patterns and breeding of the two animals, noting your findings in the appropriate column.
  4. Using the results of your study compare the similarities and differences between the two animals. Using this information as your base, make a judgement as to whether these animals are in competition with each other, have no effect on each other, have potential to be in conflict or whether they are symbiotic.
  5. Repeat this with at least five pairs of animals.
  6. From the results of your study decide whether introduced animals are having an adverse effect on our native animals and their habitat. Be prepared to justify your ideas using the findings of your research.

Some example pairings: - wood pigeon and mynah, powelliphanta (giant land snails) and garden snails, giant kokopu and trout, mallard and grey teal, katipo spider and South African spider (Steatoda capensis),

For a challenge you could try the pairs that may also be in competition because of the way their roles have developed: kakapo and rat, weta and mice, kiwi and hedgehog.

Reverse roles

Many of our invertebrates and spiders are considered 'scary and ugly' and children are often scared of them. This idea is often reinforced in common stories and fairytales like Little Miss Muffet.

  • Investigate an insect or invertebrate that the students can let walk over their hands and understand that they can not hurt them (the students) in any way. Do this through facts and proof of what the animal can and cannot do.
  • Once the investigation is complete make up a story or poem about the animal you have studied based on 'Little Miss Muffet'. Change the spider so that it is the animal that you have studied and exploit the positive things that you have found out about it. Instead of Miss Muffet running away have her pick it up and talk to it, discussing the things that she can teach other people about the animal to protect it and its environment.
  • Send your work into the Education Officer at Waikato Regional Council and we will publish your fantastic work!

Thanking plants

'Have you thanked a plant today?'

  • Sit in a circle and ask the above question seriously and look concerned when children laugh.
  • Tell everyone to hold their breath for as long as they can.
  • When they gasp for air, ask them what would happen if they were dropped on the moon where there is no oxygen?
  • Lucky for us we live on earth! But how did the oxygen get into our air? Introduce the concept of photosynthesis according to the children’s level of understanding.

“The air we breathe is one very important reason to be grateful to plants. But there are others - at least 100 of them in our circle” ...

  • Admire a child’s shirt. 'What is it made of?' 'Cotton'. 'What is cotton?'
  • Continue around the circle, picking on items of clothing, foodstuffs, books, paper, pencils, etc.
  • Do not exclude items which are not obviously plant-related. Trace their history and the chances are that you will find a connection. For example: woollen bush-shirt - sheep - grass. Allow time to discuss additional benefits: water and soil conservation, wildlife habitat, building materials, fuel, and recreation. Can the children add others?

At the end of the discussion, send the children in different directions to say thank you to a plant of their choice.

Thanking Plants is from In Touch. Nature awareness activities for teachers, leaders and parents. Cathy Macfie, Longman Paul, 1987.

Forest shapers

New Zealand forests look pretty stable and static within the context of our human life-span. We rarely notice much change in them as casual observers. However there have been, and will continue to be, many factors that change the shapes and patterns of forests in New Zealand.

Some of these markedly change the way a forest looks from the outside, others act invisibly, slowly changing the structure from within. Forest health has many parallels with human health! Change can be perceived in many ways by human observers, and is often a personal perspective.

  1. A list of some of the factors that shape our forests is provided below. Can you add any to the list?
  2. How does each of these forest shapers affect the forest environment?
  3. How quickly do they operate to cause the changes you have listed?
  4. How often might these shapers occur in New Zealand forests? Daily? Monthly? Yearly? Once in your lifetime? Other time scales?
  5. Which of these occurred prior to human arrival in New Zealand?
  6. Which of these shapers could humans manage to prevent our forests from changing?
  7. Which of these should we manage?
  • Climate change
  • Cyclones
  • Disease
  • Drought
  • Earthquakes
  • Fire
  • Floods
  • Glaciation
  • People
  • Pests
  • Succession
  • Volcanoes

Role plays

Hold a mock resource use consent hearing. Other resources that might help you with this are:

  • Seaweek ’95 secondary schools’ Marine Reserves Kit for one on setting up a marine reserve
  • resource consent information on this website.

Other hearings that could make good role plays are the Waikato River pipeline or a city or district council’s application to discharge treated sewage.


Survey your local neighbourhood on what they recycle and why they do or don’t do it. Write letters to your local newspaper with the results or to your local district or city council asking them what they are planning on doing to encourage their residents to recycle.

Obtain copies of the 'Environmental Weeds - Delightful But Destructive' colour brochure from the Waikato Regional Council. Have your students go home and survey their gardens to identify what plant pests are growing there.

They can then quiz their parents on their awareness of which plants they consider to be plant pests. Please note that some of the plants listed in the 'Delightful But Destructive' pamphlet are not necessarily on the official plant pest list. This means that it is okay to grow them in private gardens but they should be contained and not propagated.

Clean-up day

Hold a clean-up the school grounds (or any other area that your school or class visits - e.g. the beach) day.

Students can survey the rubbish they collect by:

  • sorting it into categories
  • discussing or constructing flow charts showing the chain events that may have caused the rubbish to be there
  • determining, if it was left there, how long it would be before it disappeared and what effects it could have on the environment (e.g. both physically and socially).

Remember to provide protective gloves if students are collecting rubbish!

Planting day

Find out if there are any community planting days happening in your area. Get in touch with your local Care group to find out if they are planning any planting days.

Alternatively, consider growing your own trees to help community groups control soil erosion, plant out streamside margins and enhance wildlife habitats (see Trees for Survival story for more information on how you could do this).

Adopt an area

Many reserves are neglected areas with serious litter problems and are often overgrown with ‘weeds’. Consider adopting an area like this near your school and tidying it up.

Click here for information on plant pests in the Waikato.

Identify the Tree Game

Collect old calendar photos of trees and use them for quizzes, such as pegging a picture to the back of students. They then must circulate the room asking three yes or no questions of each person, to see if they can identify the tree on their back.

Create a Food Chain

Create food chains beginning with the tree and make a list of all the things that might have a relationship with the tree, for example tree - fantail - slater- bark - lichen- spider - warbler and so on.

  • Each student can then become one of these with a label and stand around in a circle.
  • Using string or wool starting from one point each student needs to link themselves with another thing in the circle and say why they might be related, for example the fantail might eat the slater, the slater might live under the bark.
  • Conclude by looking at the 'web' that has been created and discussing the interactions between the things and the tree! (This activity can be varied and modified in many ways. This is a variation of the Web of life game in Hamilton City's Enviroschools Toolkit).