Statistics inspires community engagement with conservation

11 August 2017
Environmental Education for Sustainability Strategy and Action Plan cover image

Associate Professor Rachel Fewster is delighted with the success of the Department of Statistics CatchIT programme, which is now a case study in the government's new Environmental Education for Sustainability Strategy and Action Plan.

The CatchIT programme is a partnership between the Department of Statistics, the Forest Bridge Trust (a community trust in the Rodney area) and local primary schools.

It involves a system to help everyday Kiwis manage predator control trap lines, and share their results online.

The Forest Bridge Trust works with local Rodney schools to give each student a variety of traps, teach them and their parents how to use them, and support the community in using the CatchIT system to record and celebrate results.

CatchIT allows people to enter the location of their trap lines, bait stations and tracking tunnels using the Global Positioning System (GPS), and collate their results into meaningful maps, graphs and statistics.

"We're thrilled at the partnership we've built with the Forest Bridge Trust,” Associate Professor Fewster says.

“By combining their expertise in hands-on community conservation, and our analytic tools, we've found a powerful way of getting children excited about both conservation and science.

“We've developed child-friendly graphing tools and also a computer game, "CatchIT-Experiment" that encourages children to think like scientists while having fun and collecting points. 

“Conservation activities provide a great opportunity for authentic science learning, while making a real difference to the environment at the same time. 

“The children love analysing their own data - especially to find out who has been the most successful trapper!”

The Trust has worked with seven local primary schools so far (Kaipara Flats, Tomarata, Ahuroa, Leigh, Pakiri, Matakana, Tauhoa) with new schools in Wellsford, Wainui and Tapora about to start.

Feedback from parents of children participating in the programme has been extremely supportive and positive:

“What an incredible project you guys are working on! My son is so excited by it… Every morning he is the first to wake and excitedly jumps up and runs around all our traps…he has moved them according to habitat and studying each pest’s behaviour…he is so sooo into it, it’s awesome! (We have gone through a lot of peanut butter!!)”

“It was a meaningful and purposeful project for a child who loathes homework. He learnt basic data gathering, pest control for environmental benefits and using traps safely. Sense of pride and achievement of being able to make a difference.”

“Our son really enjoyed it – seeing the results of his catch (it became addictive!) And I’ve always wanted someone to take charge of pest control around our house – so it has benefited all of us with more citrus on our trees!”

Watch the 10-minute video display about the CatchIT programme. 

Read the CatchIT full-page case study on page 22 of the government’s strategy document 

Thanks to the MBIE Unlocking Curious Minds scheme for the seed funding for this programme.