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Tiwest Night Stalk: the Tiwest Night Stalk is a national program that was developed originally as a National Science Week activity. It is held between 1 September and 16 October each year.

Introduction

Many Australian native species are under threat and facing an uncertain future from loss of habitat, changing land use, agricultural practices, feral pest species and the effects of climate change. Maintaining biodiversity is essential, as loss of species can affect other species and weaken the web of life--the interrelation of animals, plants and natural processes. So what can you do to help? You can get a group of students together and take part in this year's Tiwest Night Stalk.

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What is the Tiwest Night Stalk?

The Tiwest Night Stalk is an annual nationwide spotlight survey, an important community-based program that is very much education oriented. The primary aim of Tiwest Night Stalk is to raise awareness of our native animals and our fragile ecosystems. In addition, the survey results provide information on the distribution and abundance of Australian fauna revealing a snapshot of species' diversity in rural and metropolitan Australia. Held between 1 September and 16 October each year, the program is coordinated and managed by Perth Zoo and has been running since 1999. The 2008 Tiwest Night Stalk will focus on all Australian native and feral animals, including birds, amphibians and mammals.

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Participants include community conservation groups, schools, the general public, corporations, government departments, Scouts and Guides. Surveys are conducted in local park areas, nature reserves and bushland and the survey results forwarded to Perth Zoo. The Zoo collates the information and makes it available to conservation and wildlife agencies and the general public through the Perth Zoo website. Details on how to organise a local survey, spotters' logs and information sheets are available online at the Perth Zoo website, to enable participants to collect meaningful data.

By fostering the collection of ecological data, Tiwest Night Stalk represents a unique opportunity for rural and metropolitan schools to be actively involved in hands-on conservation research whilst simultaneously educating students. The program aligns with the National Environmental Education Statement for Australian Schools and the Environmental Education Action Plan 2000 by supporting the long-term goals of environmental education for sustainability and increasing students' skills, as well as their understanding and appreciation of the environment.

The program is directly linked to the outcomes proposed in the school curriculum in the areas of Science, Society and Environment, Maths and Values. Tiwest Night Stalk increases students' understanding of their relationship to the natural world, the interdependence of life and the impact humans have on the environment. It also provides students with an opportunity to apply their knowledge of chance and data handling processes, as well as their measurement and estimation skills. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it aims to engender an appreciation of the need for conservation and preservation initiatives for native species.

Tiwest Night Stalk encourages students and teachers to immerse themselves in their local ecosystems, increasing their understanding of important issues such as biodiversity, sustainability and threats to native species. Charlie Ballard, a teacher at Calista Primary School in Western Australia, has been involved with Tiwest Night Stalk every year since its inception. As a result of this involvement, Calista PS developed a Possum and Bird Box Project in 2004 to help displaced native species. Students were then able to monitor the use of these boxes in subsequent Night Stalks. This school's involvement represents the ongoing benefits of participation in the Tiwest Night Stalk program.

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Newly-acquired knowledge tends to result in behavioural changes that incorporate the needs of the native species found in local and residential areas. Examples of such conservation action include the placement of nesting boxes for possums and cockatoos, or the planting of native flora species. Tiwest Night Stalk seeks to increase the awareness and scientific literacy of its participants, who initially may not have backyard habitats that support wildlife, or have very little knowledge of the biodiversity of their local area. It also seeks to increase participant awareness of the fragility of ecosystems and provide positive long-term social, educational and scientific outcomes.

In February 2006, Tiwest Night Stalk was a finalist for an Australasian Regional Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria (ARAZPA) Education Award and was named runner-up in the Education Program category. This prestigious annual award acknowledges outstanding achievement in education programs developed in ARAZPA institutions. To be nominated for this award a program has to demonstrably promote awareness of conservation issues, show innovation, and measure success through participant responses garnered through evaluative processes.

The program's value as an educational tool has been supported in the positive feedback from schools, the general public, and conservation groups:

"The children and adults had a ball! Every creature heard or seen was listed--so the "animals sighted' section impressed the students! We have also discussed the animals not seen and the implications of this."

Elaine Lewis, Chrysalis Montessori School, WA

"Great opportunity to involve local community in conservation efforts. We will continue to support the program. It is an excellent educational tool."

Robbie Campbell, DEC, WA

Tiwest Night Stalk is a fun, interactive means of involving your students in practical application of science principles and knowledge.

For more information, including Tiwest Night Stalk information packs, spotter's logs and an interactive Night Stalk game, visit www.perthzoo.wa.gov.au/staticnightstalk/ index.html.

Teacher Support Packs can be found at www.perthzoo.wa.gov. au/en/Schools/SpeciaI-Programs/Night-Stalk/.

Rowena O'Byrne-Bowland has a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Cultural Studies from Curtin University of Technology, Bentley, WA. She double-majored in Cultural Studies and Professional Writing, and is currently completing her Honours thesis in Anthropology. Rowena undertook a Professional Writing practicum at Perth Zoo in the Education Section for the final semester of her degree. Since then she has been working as a Publications and Information Assistant. Rowena's published work includes contributing to the production and writing of the Zoo's NewsPaws magazine, writing Zoo-related newsletters, articles, website material and fact sheets, and being published in the SCIOS journal.
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Title Annotation:hands on
Author:O'Byrne-Bowland, Rowena
Publication:Teaching Science
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Sep 1, 2008
Words:982
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