Year 7 and 8 students from Ngunguru school are taking part in an ecological literacy and kaitiakitanga programme which provides students with experiences to develop empathy for the natural world.
Students take time to connect with the natural world in an effort to protect it.
Programme Facilitator Loen Hope says, "The Earth Ed programme is an ecological literacy and kaitiakitanga programme and the basis of the programme is providing experiences for children to help them develop empathy for the natural world."
Ngunguru school has developed an annual programme in partnership with Dive Tutukaka, taking students diving in marine reserves like the Poor Knights Islands to show them the beauty and biodiversity of New Zealand's oceans.
Students say, "It teaches you how to be a kaitiaki to the environment and how to protect it and respect it."
"It's really cool to be out here."
"Seeing all these fish around here swimming really happy, it makes me want to do some more for the fish that aren't."
According to the latest national report from the Ministry for the Environment on our marine environment, New Zealand's oceans, coasts and marine wildlife are deteriorating due to increased pressure from humans. Earth Ed programme facilitator Loren Hope says that people's attitudes must change in order to reverse this.
Hope says, "By bringing them out to places like the Poor Knights Islands, they can experience first hand the magic of this habitat and the biodiversity within them. You can't ask children to save something unless they have that empathy and that connection with it."
Students say, "When you go to the beach you can teach people and tell them to respect the ocean and the beach, and now we know why we shouldn't litter and what we're protecting."
Some students who took part in the programme suggested that the New Zealand Government create more marine reserves in order to save our marine environment.