Ruud Kleinpaste: Connections with nature

Natural connections

With the school holidays approaching and the often changeable winter days, here are some of my observations on how to connect kids with nature. I have noticed that bombarding children with science and scientific principles is generally not a good introduction to working in and with nature. Each person has different interests and they are the ones who make the connection.

Provided by Ruud Kleinpaste

If you have kids, there’s no doubt everyone is different – you might like to run outside. While the other is content to play with lego; or build roads with trucks, set opossum traps; Technology. Another likes to draw or paint, read a book or take part in role plays….

When working with students or teachers, I often tell stories, use the language, or play the piano. And all of these activities have a very beautiful connection with our natural world.

D:  My Docs  Environmental Education DoC etc  2014 onwards  ART  kowhai and giant undisturbed habitats.jpg

Image by Kate Parker – Kowhai and the Giants

For example, Ilast week I received a book from Kate Parker “Kowhai and the giants”And basically it’s Predator-Free NZ via a historical journey in story format. Well that’s what I see in this book … bBut you can also interpret it as an indigenous story of the discovery of Aotearoa. It is a magical creature “Kowhai” who collects light for giant trees, in a land in perfect ecological harmony. “Kowhai” climbs trees and lives in this ecosystem with all the – now – rare birds of our country. These scenes were originally designed as three-dimensional dioramas, lit from behind. Carefully cut out some trees and vegetation that you can totally lose yourself in and In inspiring images that take you back in time. And then the boats come… with people… and rodents; a lot of ships, a lot of people and a lot of parasites …scary stuff. As far as I know, we are the only species (on the planet) that can tell stories and that – in my opinion – is one of the most powerful ways to get us out of the mess we find ourselves in.

Painting – for the program:

A few years ago I saw some real first drawings by a very famous New Zealand painter; he made these drawings when he was 7, 8 or 9 years old

D:  My Docs  Environmental Education DoC etc  2014 forward  ART  Don Binney art  Binneys Weka sm.jpg D:  My Docs  Environmental Education DoC etc  2014 forward  ART  Don Binney art  Binneys kiwi sm.jpg D:  My Docs  Environmental Education DoC etc  2014 forward  ART  Don Binney art  Binneys Tui sm.jpg

Here is a weka, a kiwi and a tui and notice how he wrote a “W”, a “K” and a “T” on these pictures – as if he discovered the alphabet if its art! By the way, if you look at these drawings, you might recognize the very beginnings of Don Binney’s artistic career!


Listen to the sounds of nature – what do you recognize? Who sings ? Can you transcribe the notes of the bellbird, blackbird or yellow hammer?


Some teachers are able to create school productions from the stories you find in nature. Connections between caterpillars and their host trees, predators that hunt their prey and weta using second-hand dwellings made by a driller, deep in a tree … much more exciting than Shortland Street!


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