DNAiTECH Student Workshop at Kokako Lodge

The Kokako Lodge at Hunua Falls was an awesome venue for our recent Tamaki College DNAiTECH student workshop. Our group consisted of 24 students plus teachers and helpers. Kokako Lodge is in a beautiful location, adjacent to the Hunua Falls, about 1 hour bus trip southeast from Auckland. We were welcomed by the friendly staff, we set up camp, the students chose their sleeping quarters and then we commenced our program.

What happens when you combine an overnight workshop with a crash course in molecular technologies, real world environmental investigation, hands-on smartphone integrated DNA testing, plus time for recreation and copious quantities of food? It was an intense 48 hours, but the result was an energized group of students, engaged with every element of the program, who were both learning a lot and clearly having a ball! We looked at the levels of E. coli in waterways, both in the Hunua region and from a waterway close to Tamaki College. And yes, as the Ministry for the Environment maps indicate, the Auckland region does not have pristine waterways. Even water flowing through the bush clad Hunua Falls region had detectable levels of E. coli, perhaps not so surprising as the same river flows through farmland upstream.

Our group training sessions were in dispersed with free time for volleyball, a bush walk for water collection, and in the evening torchlight antics late into the night. Tamaki College consists largely of Māori and Pasifica students, it was such a rich experience to work with these students, the karakia before meals, their eagerness to learn and their respectful and humble attitudes.

Such workshops work, the outcome is effective student engagement, and hopefully NCEA credits!