Wingspan’s Debbie Stewart with an adult falcon – shows the amazing wings and tail feathers necessary for the birds’ agility in flight and their ability to reach high speeds, hunt for food, and feed their young – photo credit: Wingspan

rearea, the threatened and protected bird on our $20 banknote, is set to get new support from the nation’s children as nesting season begins.

In Term 4, kicking off in Conservation Week 16 – 20 October, more than 10,000 school children will become Wingspan Warriors. They will learn, care and lead new efforts within their classrooms, families and communities to support New Zealand’s fastest flyer: Kārearea (New Zealand Falcon.)

The initiative comes with the help of a new lesson plan developed for primary schools by KLEENEX® Tissues and Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre. Teachers around the country are being invited to download the new lesson plan, at no cost to schools, at Click on Teaching Kit2 – Healthy Forests, and choose Lesson Plan.

New lesson plan – photo credit: Kleenex

Debbie Stewart, Founder and Executive Director of Wingspan since its inception 25 years ago, says that the highest population density of Kārearea occurs in commercial pine plantations – in particular the Kaingaroa Forest. She says conservation support from Kaingaroa Timberlands and from KLEENEX® Tissues, led by Kimberly-Clark New Zealand², is hugely appreciated. She says it stems from their commitment to Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC®) certification and also “to doing what’s right”.

FSC is a broadly-scoped, internationally-recognised hallmark of responsible forest management.

A letter outlining the year-long education partnership between KLEENEX® Tissues and Wingspan National Bird of Prey Centre, also available for parents and teachers to freely download on the website, reads:

At Wingspan we have learnt that the presence of New Zealand Falcons in a forest shows that the environment is balanced, and is healthy. It is very important that we have healthy forests, not only for Kārearea but for humans too. Big green trees with woody trunks release oxygen into the environment. So not only do healthy forests help Kārearea to survive they also, on a mass scale, allow people to keep breathing. Kei te ora nga karearea, kei te ora tatou katoa. (If the falcons are alive we are alive.)”

Debbie Stewart agrees with the view that, in terms of conservation icons who engage people to care, Kārearea are New Zealand’s Panda Bear. “They are also recognised as our apex predator and are critical to the health of our forest eco-systems.”

Stewart says it’s known that only 25% of Kārearea chicks currently survive past one year.
Schools around the country are getting on board early. Fittingly Kaingaroa Forest School was the first to begin their Healthy Forests teaching and learning using the new lesson plan during a visit to the Wingspan Centre last week.

Karearea chicks – photo credit: Wingspan

Other examples of early action in schools around the country include:

  1. Makara Model School in Wellington, led by Principal Gail Dewar, have planned tree planting on their top field, a trapping programme which sees mice, rats and possums fed to resident longfin eels, a beach clean up, and teaching and learning about Kārearea in Conservation Week using the new lesson plan. Makara’s three classrooms are called: Kiwi, Piwakawaka and Kārearea.
  2. St Johns Hill Primary School in Whanganui plan to build new understanding about the vulnerability of Kārearea chicks into their Term 4 science teaching and learning as part of a school-wide focus. Led by Principal Kevin Booth, the school also helps DOC gather baseline data around predator activity in a nearby forest and plants native seedlings in a reserve in their school grounds “enabling the understory to regenerate.”
  3. Rosebank Primary School in Balclutha, led by Deputy Principal Sarah Reid, will learn about Kārearea at their school camp at Berwick Forest in November. While visiting the campsite in preparation, teachers “spotted a native falcon on the fence post,” says Sarah. “We’ll teach the lesson before we go to camp and children will then be able to identify a falcon if they see one.”
  4. Carterton Primary School Year 6 and year 7 students, led by teacher Melanie Macgregor, will be taking part in classroom activities using the Healthy Forests lesson plan in Term 4. “It fits so well into our Unit topic – ‘Be the Difference,’” says Melanie.
  5. Newly briefed Wingspan Warriors from Mokoia Intermediate School, Ngakuru Primary School and Malfroy School in Rotorua will be invited to the Wingspan Centre, also in Rotorua, the week beginning 13 November 2017 to witness the season’s first fledgling Kārearea chicks being nurtured to good health at Wingspan and to bring their learnings from the new lesson to life.

Debbie Stewart says Kārearea are “often persecuted and deliberately shot at or harmed despite full protection as a threatened species.” To identify the New Zealand Falcon, full details are at:

“With more education support like this, greater awareness and sightings, an engaged community, continuing support from the forestry industry, and upgraded incubation equipment from KLEENEX® Tissues allowing us to expand our breeding and rescue programmes, we’re confident the chicks’ tricky pathway from hatching in the wild, to learning to fly, through to adulthood, is set to improve,” she says.


For further details (footnotes, full list of schools engaged in Healthy Forests & some  background of Kārearea) please email


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