Do you have children or young people who are interested in getting out in Nature? We’ve been hearing about the benefits for kids, of getting into the outdoors - apparently it even boosts brain development!

The 50+ local environmental and sustainability organizations that make up ENM work in a range of areas – biodiversity, water quality, food security, waste minimization, urban design, alternative energy, and active transport. Many are happy to involve children and young people in their activities, introducing them to the natural environment and sustainable living. Check out the list of member groups; some of these groups are aimed at, or are particularly suitable for, children or young people.

Education and Trips

The Kiwi Conservation Club (KCC), the junior section of Forest & Bird, is aimed at children from 3 to 13 years old. Its aim is to encourage children to enjoy, respect, understand, and love their natural world. There are 34 active KCCs, with over 1600 members, including individual children, family groups and schools. KCC Manawatū  trips have included looking for fungi at Totara Reserve, visiting the waste water treatment plant, and helping plant Pingao, a native plant which helps stabilize sand dunes, at Tangimoana Beach. Join at http://kcc.org.nz, or contact the Manawatū  group on manawatu@kcc.org.nz or phone 021 0827 0819.

For 14-25 year olds, Forest & Bird Manawatū  Youth organize activities such as field trips and social events. Local members of this group recently wrote a submission on the Palmerston North City Council ten-year plan, and presented it to Councillors in person. Find them on Facebook.

Palmerston North Girls’ High School has an Enviro Group, to promote, inspire, and carry through environmental awareness, responsibility, and action at the school and in the wider community. Current and recent activities include a vegetable garden at school, an energy conservation “switch off” campaign, and compost and recycling bins around the school. The group encourages walking and biking to school. Last year the group held a youth enviro conference, challenging the youth in the Manawatū community to think and live more environmentally aware. Contact Dr. Heather Meikle, Head of Biology, on h.meikle@pnghs.school.nz or 06 357 9194 ext 878.

Volunteers of the Wildlife Foxton Trust are developing a visitor and environmental education centre on the corner of Main, Union and Harbour Streets. For those interested in creepy-crawlies, several native and non-native skinks and geckos are kept on the site, as well as native fish. Check​​​​ the Wildlife Foxton website for more information; contact info@wildlifefoxton.nz about visiting the centre and seeing the skinks, geckos and fish. The Centre is adjacent to the Manawatū Estuary, an internationally significant wetland rich in bird life, where global migrating birds spend the southern hemisphere summer.

Palmy Parks and Reserves

A great place for families in Awapuni is the Ahimate Reserve, by the river. This was formerly known as Waitoetoe Park; the name change reflects the historical pa site that used to be located here. Several pedestrian/cycle tracks run through the park, connecting to longer walks by the river, popular with walkers; the park is off-leash for dogs throughout. A group of mountain bikers have developed a series of tracks and jumps in parts of the Park. At the river, there is a small rocky ‘beach’ surrounded by relatively shallow, swimmable water and a jumping cliff. Volunteers including the Ahimate Reserve Community have done extensive native planting in the park over the years, with children from Riverdale School and Kindergarten helping too. If you’d like to find out more about these activities, find the Ahimate Reserve Community on Facebook.

The Pit Park is in the former quarry by the historic Hoffman brick kiln. Volunteers the Pit Park People have, over the years, transformed the Pit into a lush urban park with extensive native plantings and its own wetland, while the City Council has developed easily accessible paths and seating. Native birds now thrive in the park; one park visitor told me how she watched a kingfisher catch itself a lizard for breakfast recently. The regular working bee, on the third Sunday of each month at 1:30pm, is family-friendly. All welcome to stay for a cuppa afterwards. The Pit Park is at the Vogel Street end of Featherston Street, with entry just before Tweed Street. Find Pit Park People on Facebook​​​, or phone Marise on 06 354 0062.

On the second Sunday of each month at 9am, volunteers get together at the Apollo Butterfly Park in Milson, where special plantings have been made to support monarch butterflies and other butterfly species. Children from local kindergartens have also contributed to the work in this park, which is often host to large swarms of butterflies. ​​​​​​​Find them on Facebook​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​.

Playing Palmy!

Back in March 2015, Heather Knox and a small group of like-minded parents set up the Manawatū  Family Microadventurers group with the aim of connecting local families that like getting out and about in the great outdoors. The group was inspired by Alastair Humphreys' book "Microadventures" which encourages everyone to get outside and enjoy some adventures that are close to home, cheap, simple, short and yet very effective. Adventure is a state of mind - especially when you have small children! Their Facebook group now has over 600 members.

From this group, the Palmy Dirty 30 Challenge was developed – 30 fun, free things to do in the great outdoors in and around Palmerston North or further afield. Check out the website to find a PDF version of the challenge sheet to print off. Participants can use #PalmyDirty30 on social media to share their wild experiences, which include hunting for natural treasures, brewing up stinky magic potions and having water fights. Find them on Facebook.

The hugely successful Palmy Rocks group was also started by the same group of parents. The idea is simple, to create art and spread happiness by painting rocks to hide around Palmerston North, or wherever you may travel to. The goal is to encourage creativity, exploring and community. If you find an art rock, take a picture, share it on their Facebook page if you'd like, and either keep or re-hide the rock.

The Passport to Play Palmy is another community-led, free, family focused invitation to get outside and explore the Palmy area. Produced in collaboration with PNCC, the two Passport to Play Palmy booklets, downloadable from the Passport to Play website, guide you around Palmy parks or along the river, with suggested activities, and “stamps” to collect from each place.

Leadership

If you know someone between the ages of 16 and 20 who is passionate about the environment or about sustainable living, they may want to consider joining ENM as Youth Committee Member. The youth member has full discussion and voting rights, although s/he cannot be held legally accountable for the actions of the committee. The committee takes a mentoring responsibility, supporting the young person as they continue to develop governance and leadership skills in the environmental sector. Email coordinator@enm.org.nz if this sounds like you!