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  Services » Regional Services » Environmental education » Resources for teachers » Classroom activities » Special places activities

Special places activities

The Waikato region has many ‘special places’, ranging from well-known tourist spots to more secretive places known only by locals. There are many things you and your class can do to make sure these special places remain for those following in your footsteps.

Photograph of a school's 'special place'

A region of many special places

Most of us are familiar with the well-known tourist spots around our region. For example we have the:

  • beautiful and majestic Huka Falls
  • stark and desolate Tongariro National Park
  • mighty Waikato River
  • mysterious limestone caves in the King Country
  • hot and steamy geothermal areas from Ruapehu to Hot Water Beach.

We also have internationally recognised wetlands at Miranda, the Kopuatai Peat Dome and Whangamarino wetland. And lets not forget our fantastic swimming and surf beaches.

Photograph of students discovering what lives in a local stream

Places special to your school

Many of us have a particular ‘corner’ or special spot we really enjoy visiting. It might be a patch of bush, a local stream or pond, or a local park. Wherever it is we can all play a part in protecting it for others to enjoy in the future.

Schools can play an important role in protecting special places in your local area. Schools can get involved in:

  • restoration projects, for example, planting an area with native plants
  • maintenance programmes, for example, weeding and ‘releasing’ seedlings
  • monitoring programmes, for example, stream sampling
  • education projects, for example, telling people about the importance of your special place.

‘Special place’ activity

This activity gets your class to take on the role of a ‘Special Place’ Tourist Bureau for your local area.

Divide your class into small groups. Each group decides on a place that’s special to them. For example, it could be a local patch of native bush, a stream, beach, rocky shore or pond. Then get them to design a brochure to promote their special place.

Get each group to think about the following questions when designing their brochure:

  • 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? For example, you could think about what food/nesting sites are available.
  • What sort of characteristics should a traveller/potential resident possess to enable them to visit/live in your habitat? For example, do they need to be able to fly or swim?

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.

Get your school involved

Get your school and local community involved in protecting our ‘special places’ by:

  • starting a native plant nursery - get help from Trees for Survival(external link)
  • planting the native trees and shrubs grown in your nursery
  • fencing local streams
  • recycling your school’s waste
  • carefully and sparingly using sprays and chemicals
  • creating beach accessways.

Find out about Landcare and Beachcare care groups, and see if there’s a group located near your school. Do they have any projects your school could get involved in?

Special places to take your class


Where ís your favourite stream for finding bullies? What do you think lives in the stream at the bottom of the farm?

The Waikato region has many areas of fresh water. We have the longest river and the biggest lake in New Zealand. Check out our information about rivers, lakes and wetlands in our Region.


Where ís your favourite beach for the summer bathing or the midwinter plunge? Will it still be the same in 2020? Can you school help a local Beachcare group?

The Waikato region has approximately 1,150 km of open coasts and estuaries. Nobody within our region lives further than 111 kilometres from a coast. We have sandy and rocky beaches and estuaries that are great places to take students.

The eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula has several estuaries and wide sandy beaches, some of them with many dunelands. The western coastline of the Coromandel Peninsula has rocky, narrow beaches with some sand and some gravel beaches. There are four large estuaries with the intertidal flats of the Firth of Thames that are an important habitat for wading birds.

The West Coast of the region has long sandy beaches with large dune areas behind them next to the river mouths. The coastline is renowned for its strong winds and the great left-hand surf break at Raglan. There are three large tidal estuaries that provide important natural habitats for plants and animals.

Find out more about our region’s coasts.

Geothermal areas

Did you know that Orakei Korako has over 30 geysers? Have you seen a geyser blowing its top?

The geothermal areas in our region are ideal places for you to study ‘active’ geothermal activity. Find out more about geothermal resources in the Waikato region and check the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Science(external link) for more information.

Native bush

Where is your nearest stand of native vegetation? What will it look like in 20, 50 or 100 years time?

Find out more about native forest fragments in our region.

Special plants and animals

How many native birds visit your school on a regular basis? What other wildlife do you have living in your school grounds?

Some native species are unique (endemic) to the Waikato region. For example, Archey’s frog is only found in Whareorino Forest (south west of Te Kuiti) and in the Coromandel Range.

Our region also has endemic insects, such as the:

  • Te Aroha and Moehau stag beetles
  • Mercury Island tusked weta
  • Mahoenui giant weta.

We also have unique plant species:

  • Hebe pubescens on the Coromandel Peninsula
  • Hebe awaroa on the West Coast.

Many plant species found in our geothermal areas are common only in the Waikato. These include some ferns that are usually associated with tropical areas.

What can your school do to help protect our native plants and animals? That boggy patch down the back of the school could be the perfect area to be converted into a native wetland area. The scruffy garden that has been bugging everyone for years could become a perfect place for a native tree area that will encourage birds and become a great learning resource in the future.

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