The Forest Bridge Trust’s CatchIT Schools programme has been announced as the winner of the 2018 Auckland Council Mayoral Awards, schools category.

The programme is a collaboration between The Forest Bridge Trust and Auckland University, bringing STEM subjects to life (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths).

The specific aim of the programme is to create a pathway for schoolchildren that transforms them from hands-on trappers to environmental decision-makers. A programme that supports children to experiment, strategise, and make data-informed decisions to increase their trapping success.

The programme starts in the classroom where children learn about what makes up a healthy ecosystem and the threats to our native wildlife – and actions they can take to protect our precious environment.  These classroom sessions are effective and engaging for children and draw in the parents. Students then apply their learnings in a practical way by carrying out in-the-field pest control on their own properties. Tracking tunnels and trapping equipment are supplied free of charge.

Back at school, the catch data is uploaded and analysed using the Auckland University developed “CatchIT” online data system. This is where the children learn all about how to analyse their catches and make decisions based on the statistics results – and create their own experiments, eg testing how best to place traps, and what to bait with.

Parents are also offered larger traps for mustelids and possums when they attend an after school workshop.  This enables them to safely use the traps alongside their children. Further leverage is gained from the wider community, by offering more in depth pest control workshops once the schools programme is up and running.

CatchIT Educator, Liz Maire says “This is a true partnership between the Trust and the University of Auckland. Professor Rachel Fewster, with her team, designed tools for students at their level.  This allowed them to become scientists and statisticians with ease. “

Other contributors included Shanthie Walker who the Trust engaged to review the programme.  “Shanthie re-moulded the programme and took it to a whole new level”, says Liz.

Since January 2017, the CatchIT schools programme has been delivered to 8 schools. A total of 1450 traps have been distributed to families active in the pest control programme through their school.  60% of families involved in the CatchIT Schools programme continue to use a DOC 200 and a timms trap on their properties and record catches.

“We know that we have ‘lit the fire’ with this project. Nearly 1,000 children have been through the programme and are now successful trappers in their own backyards.  They have proved they care enough to keep going, to protect what they have learned to value.” Says Liz.