SFS adopts in its teaching a model that Confucius expressed with the words: “Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand.” This is why we ensure that students at SFS can feel nature, gain close-up cultural experience and get their hands dirty.

Students at SFS Australia got all this within just 10 days of their excursion through New Zealand. Their excursion started with meeting and observing Sparky, a one-legged Kiwi at the Bird Recovery Centre in Whangarei. Having lost a leg, Sparky is now a champion for all the flightless birds of New Zealand that face many threats from urbanization and introduced species. Students began to understand why New Zealand’s fauna is so unique and needs good management to survive for future generations.

Next was a visit to one of New Zealand’s indigenous Maori tribes. Students went through a complex greeting ceremony that entails calling the guests into the traditional Maori house, the Marae, acknowledging the ancestors, prayers, singing songs and touching noses. Introductory ceremonies continued into the night during which students heard about the lives of the Maoris in the past and at present, their connection to nature and their ways to preserve their languages and culture.

Finally, students got their hands dirty when helping restoring native habitats for kiwis and other New Zealand’s birds by planting trees, weeding and trimming trails through restored forests to allow people to learn about New Zealand’s native vegetation and simply to enjoy nature. Listening to release projects prepared them for the visit to Tiri Tiri Matangi, an island off the coast of Auckland. This island had been almost completely deforested by early settlers, but was reforested through governmental and community efforts over the last decades. Once all non-native species had been removed from the island, many native bird and reptile species had been released. Students wandered along the walking tracks of this island and felt how New Zealand must have looked like, smelt like and sounded like 1000 years ago. Learning and experiencing with all senses creates long-lasting memories in our students, shapes their interests and will ultimately prepare them for their future careers.

→ Rainforests of New Zealand and Australia