Wave-riding kids to learn from nature

SVEN HERSELMAN
Last updated 11:30 31/10/2012

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Picton-based children's environmental education programme Conservation Kids hopes to take its classroom offshore next year, taking kids out to meet the sea life they have been learning about.

"It's all a matter of funding. We have applied for charitable trust funding and if it comes through then we will hopefully be able to start taking the kids out into the Sounds," said Conservation Kids founder Tash Luxton, who works for Dolphin Watch and Nature Tours in the Marlborough Sounds.

She and Larissa Ruakawa, of Star Dance Academy, started Conservation Kids in November last year after Tash noticed a large number of kids coming out to Nature Tours.

The demand for marine education aimed at kids grew and the group went from catering to 20 children to about 40.

At present all the outings are land based, although efforts are made to bring live animals for the children to see when possible.

"We have had a kiwi, penguins and wetas which DOC [the Conservation Department] bring for us," Tash said.

"We are sponsored by Dolphin Watch, but we aren't able to actually get the kids out on the water and see many of the animals in the flesh."

The programme runs a session for kids aged 5 to 8 and one for 8- to 12-year-olds, with a focus on Marlborough Sounds wildlife.

Parents, older children and some young adults have also got involved.

"I would love to be able to get kids out on a regular basis, so that they can call enjoy this amazing environment.

"Schools can't always afford to get the kids on boat trips either," said Tash, who has a background in zoology and veterinary nursing. Before marrying and settling in Marlborough she worked with animals around the world, including as a zoo keeper in Canada.

A number of kids from Conservation Kids raised funds at the Picton Spring Market, selling cupcakes made by dedicated volunteer Launa Webster.

They made $120, which will go towards their funds for next year.

"It's not a huge amount but it all helps, and it was great to have the community support us like that," Tash said.

For more about Conservation Kids and what they get up to check out their website conservationkids.co.nz, search them on Facebook or contact Tash on conservationkids@hotmail.co.nz or 021 101 0818.

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- The Marlborough Express

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