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Project success recognised... Menzies College science pupils who were instrumental in the school receiving the Southland Community Environmental Action in Education Award (from left,) Joshua Read (17), Sam Smith (16), Arese Poliko (17), Kailey Yeoman (17) and Menzies College head of science teacher Kit Hustler. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Education award for Menzies College

The Menzies College year 12 science pupils’ study of fish life in the Mimihau River has resulted in the group snapping up the Southland Community Environmental Action in Education Award.

The award was given as part of the 2018 Southland Community Environment Awards.

As a result, the class received $1150 for the school’s science department.

Menzies College head of science Kit Hustler said the idea for the project had come from when he was living in Auckland and completed a similar project.

Many of the boys “bought into it and it turned into a hands-on exercise that was relevant to what they do in the classrooms”, Mr Hustler said.

“It worked for those boys and then when I moved down here I knew the rivers and what have you and I spoke to [Southland] Fish & Game and they were really keen to get it going,” he said.

Mr Hustler said Fish & Game had been fantastic, lending the group nets, giving pupils permission to use its tagging guns, giving tutorials and helping set up nets and tag fish.

“Then they said ‘you guys are on your own’, and that’s the idea.

“It’s outside of the traditional mode of teaching, where the teacher is an expert and knows everything and I was deliberately vague about some things I knew answers to, because I wanted them to figure these things out. . . It took them a while, but the more we did it the better they got at it.”

Mr Hustler said the pupils were now at the stage where they would not ask at all and would instead find out the answers for themselves.

Menzies College was also given 50 salmon eggs by Southland FishGame.

Mr Hustler said the first batch did not work at all.

“They then gave us a second batch and gave us 50 eggs and 45 hatched, and we’ve had them in the lab ever since.”

“Fish & Game loaned us the tank, chiller, filter and all that sort of stuff and gave us two batches of salmon eggs.”

Mr Hustler said Wyndham Primary School was also involved as part of the area’s community of learning, so pupils would come to look at the fish and wrote down what they saw.

“We let about 25 of the fish go and we had the primary school pupils come too and we made a bit of a big deal of it.”

“We let them go behind the racecourse into the Mataura River and what was really interesting was some of the junior school kids wrote little messages for the salmon.

“The one message that stuck in my brain was ‘good luck salmon, you’re going into the Mataura. Watch out for the trout and we promise to try and keep the environment in good shape so that you can come back.”‘

Mr Hustler said receiving the Environment Southland award was a real buzz.

“I guess it’s the first time that these kids have realised that what you do at school is valued by the community and valued by other people other than parents, family, teachers.”