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Kiwi kids across the country have in the past six months joined a nationwide nature adventure making more than 3,000 kids guardians of the land.
Toyota Kiwi Guardians is an outdoor activity programme run by Toyota and the Department of Conservation (DOC) in a bid to encourage children to explore the natural world and earn unique medals while doing it.
Ongoing research recognises that engaging children’s senses in the natural world, particularly between the ages of six and 10, encourages them to take ownership of their environment and develop behaviour greatly needed for a sustainable future.
“Limiting time in front of screens shouldn’t make parents feel guilty,” says Alistair Davis, CEO of Toyota New Zealand.
“Inspiring our children to experience the outdoors and be involved with nature can be equally, if not more exciting, especially when there are medals up for grabs.”
More than 3,000 medals have been redeemed since the programme launched in March 2016.
The programme now has 45 sites and activities across the country - including five ‘take action’ at home activities - and will have 55 in total by the end of 2016.
Children can earn Kiwi Guardian medals by working on a variety of conservation tasks at home and in their local parks, from becoming pest detectives to weed warriors, and even tracking their cats along the way.
During the month of September, DOC and Toyota teamed up to help kids redeem the 'Explorer Medal' - a limited edition medal for conservation week.
Manawatu Toyota held a Nature Hunt event during the September holidays at The Victoria Esplanade with around 150 budding young environmentalists teaming up to get in on the activities.
Manawatu Toyota’s Susannah Cowan says the number that turned out for the school holiday event exceeded even the most optimistic projections.
“At the most we were expecting between 20 and 30 kids, but the emails flooded in and it quickly escalated, and ended up attracting 160 kids and their parents - more than 300 people.”
Participants embraced the elements and got stuck into tasks such as identifying native plants, animals and the colours in nature, and seeing what information they could find by searching through The Victoria Esplanade.
“The programme has children and conservation at the forefront and it proved to be a fantastic opportunity for us to support our unique community and grow local kids’ awareness of our environment.”
One six-year-old environmental enthusiast, Zachary Deller, was keen to be part of the Kiwi Guardian programme and earn his Explorer medal. He took part in the Nature Hunt and says “I enjoyed learning about caterpillars and learning that they can’t eat too many leaves at once”. His cousin (six and a half) Cameron Meade said she enjoyed seeing the ‘sparkly rocks’ in the trees and also enjoyed discovering things on the hunt she admits to mostly enjoying “eating sausages”.
Tasman Toyota supported its local DOC team and the Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust during the first weekend of Conservation Week with giveaways and a BBQ. Kids and their families participated in a nature scavenger hunt, qualifying them for Kiwi Guardian medal.
Blenheim Toyota, Landscape Marlborough and DOC joined forces to host a tree planting session at the Taylor River Reserve (Blenheim). Around 50 people attended and happily ate sausages cooked by the Blenheim Toyota staff, next to a display of Hilux.
The arboretum at Taylor River Reserve is a collection of trees from around the world, celebrating the people from all corners of the globe who live in Marlborough.
Toyota and DOC also provided kid-friendly conservation activities with certificates and Kiwi Guardian medals for those who participated, including helping kids to become ‘pest detectives’ by building great pest tracking tunnels.
GWD Toyota invited all of its staff and members of the public to Seaward Bush, a small reserve area on the outskirts of Invercargill, for a short nature walk, and looking for backyard bugs!