Resources to celebrate Conservation Week / Te Wiki Tiaki Ao Tūroa

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Conservation Week, a national event that encourages people to become actively involved in being kaitiaki/guardians of ecosystems and the taonga that reside within them. Conservation Week / Te Wiki Tiaki Ao Tūroa runs from 14 to 22 September 2019.

This blog post has some great online resources and books to help you celebrate Conservation Week with your students.

A wreath of green, teal, red, and dark blue graphic representations of NZ flora and fauna, featuring a green kawakawa leaf
Image credit: Department of Conservation.

History of Conservation Week / Te Wiki Tiaki Ao Tūroa

Tena te ringa tango parahia!
Well-done the hand that roots up weeds!

Conservation Week started back in 1969, initiated by the scouting organisation with the goal of promoting environmental education through practical activities. Tamariki from schools and kura have been key participants of Conservation Week over the past 50 years when seeds of inspiration have been planted by empowering participants to take an active role in giving back something to the environment.

You can read about the history of Conservation Week and see some of the fantastic ephemera that has been produced in an excellent blog post by the Department of Conservation.

My first Conservation Week

I have been involved in conservation all my life. One opportunity in my early high school years solidified this path, when I got to conduct tree planting on Tiritiri Matangi Island (YouTube video, 2:35) as part of Conservation Week.

I remember the bumpy boat ride out to Tiritiri Matangi and the first sight to greet me, which were two very large kingfish slowly cruising through crystal clear water around the pier. In the hours that followed, we planted native seedlings until our arms and legs cried out. I collapsed into the long grass and listened to birdsong that was already starting to return to the island.

I returned to Tiritiri Matangi and other islands in the Hauraki Gulf multiple times to plant trees throughout my youth. But after the last planting trip to Tiritiri Matangi, I wouldn’t return for nearly a quarter of a century. When I did return, it was amazing to see how much the trees had grown and how the groves that I had planted were teeming with hihi, tīeke, and even the elusive kōkako. 

School was not easy for me, but this opportunity to engage with the environment inspired and informed the future directions I would take.

Conservation Week – fertile learning opportunities

Conservation Week provides a fantastic opportunity to develop key competencies of the curriculum and engage with learners both inside and outside the classroom.

Curiosity cards and fertile questions

Use our curiosity cards and fertile questions on the huia and kauri dieback to inspire inquiry and generate rich information, helping the students to develop knowledge, ideas, and opinions as they undertake their inquiry.

  • How and why do we value some animals more than others?
  • Why is human desire more important than nature?
  • He aha i whakahirahira ake ai te whai torōwhe i te oranga tonutanga o tētahi momo?
  • What is your question?

Watch these videos for more information and ideas about using fertile questions:

Topic Explorer

This resource helps you find quality, curated resources on a range of topics to support and inspire inquiry. Topic sets relevant for studies of, and around, Conservation Week include:

Many Answers

Many Answers entries guide students to resources about popular topics, including:


Get your students to create a DigitalNZ story about a conservation project or environmental issue that you are going to engage with. Here is an example looking at kauri dieback, demonstrating how you can use primary sources and additional information from different places in a DigitalNZ story.

A quick search of DigitalNZ for 'conservation week' results in a range of resources about Conservation Week activities. Here's one showing how the Thames library created a display to celebrate Conservation Week back in 2010:

Conservation Week display at the Thames Library with posters on a display board behind 2 semi-circles of nikau palm fronds in baskets and large hardback books interspersed with upside-down terracotta pots
Reflecting national events in our library displays. This one put together by librarian Nena Courtney. Thames-Coromandel Libraries. CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 NZ.

TKI (Te Kete Ipurangi)

The Conservation Week page on TKI has an extensive list of teaching resources and inspiration including:

Lending service

Contact your school loan coordinator and borrow from our extensive fiction and non-fiction resources to support students' learning. Look at this great blog post on our books about conservation and the environment.

If you're stuck for ideas, here is a further list from our fantastic librarians.

Books for primary/intermediate schools

'Koro's Medicine' by Melanie Drewery, 2017.

'Up the River: Explore & Discover New Zealand's Rivers, Lakes & Wetlands' by Gillian Candler, 2017.

'On the Brink: New Zealand's Most Endangered Species' by Maria Gill, 2019.

'Animals of Aotearoa: Explore & Discover New Zealand's Wildlife' by Gillian Candler, 2018.

'Why Is That Lake So Blue? A Children’s Guide to New Zealand’s Natural World' by Simon Pollard, 2018.

Books for secondary schools

'Treasures of Tāne: Plants of Ngāi Tahu' by Rob Tipa, 2018 — includes tikanga/Māori perspective.

'Birdstories: A History of the Birds of New Zealand' by Geoff Norman, 2018.

'Joseph Banks' Florilegium: Botanical Treasures from Cook's First Voyage' by David Mabberley and Mel Gooding, 2017.

'The Meaning of Trees' by Robert Vennell, 2019.

'Te Rongoā Māori: Māori Medicine' by P.M.E. Williams, 1996.

'Which Native Tree? New Zealand Native Trees: A Simple Guide to Their Identification, Ecology and Uses' by Andrew Crowe, 2009.

Get stuck in

But most importantly — get stuck in! Conservation Week is all about getting out there and doing something.

So go plant a tree, pick up some plastic, or get involved in one of the many events that are happening around the country. Make the most of the energy and engagement that is currently running through the veins of our tamariki where they are demanding that we take active steps to look after the environment that they are going to be living in.

Tou rourou, toku rourou, ka ora te iwi.
With your contribution, and my contribution, we will thrive.

By Rene Burton

Rene is the National Manager Online with Services to Schools.

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