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the good-parent mallard

Up the Waikanae river today, I saw a mallard swimming with 2 chicks close in behind. They’re really common around here – in the ponds, on the lagoons, & up the river.

Why do mallards do so well here? They were hard enough to establish! It took a huge amount of time and effort. First try was in 1867 with British ducks. Further tries were in the 1930s & 1940s when many more birds (including American stock) were released.

There are three main reasons. She lays many eggs in the nest (my friend saw a bird with 24 chicks the other week!). She can lay several times a year. And they are good parents.

Both parents watch over their nestlings carefully. She leads the ducklings to water soon after they hatch, carefully watching over them, as they swim along.

Meanwhile, Cloak of Protection is at the Hutt City hui, next week 6 Nov. I’m really looking forward to playing the game with students from many schools in the region. You will see a lot more enviroschools loaded next week, and can watch their journey from here. Slowly the cloak spreads!

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next version of the game

Here are some images from Morgan’s original design for the card deck. You can clearly see the intention behind his illustrations.

Morgan loves skeletons. As a child he turned the wash-house into a museum & stocked it with bones, bugs & beetles etc. Now he lives with skeletons inside his house!

While he was planning the deck, we drove around the country-side with plastic bags in the boot. If we saw any dead birds on the side of the road – we’d pick them up. Then Morgan would bury them in his backyard for a year – works a treat!

SO you could say that he understands the birds from the inside out. And this understanding shows in his illustrations. I’ve been saying this to people at the Expressions exhibition, and they agree. He knows his subjects!

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how the game was created

I’ve had some really interesting conversations about details in the booklet How the Game was Created. This booklet was put together by Chriss at Expressions Gallery, to go alongside the exhibition of Morgan’s illustrations.

Here are some early illustrations done by my friend Ruth Blair. I drew the outlines, and she put the colour in, using a technique that she was using for short films at the time.

I took these cards to Raumati South school and played it lunchtimes with years 5&6. Kids followed me begging to play – they loved the trading aspect of the game. But some cards they loved SO much, they wouldn’t trade them for anything!!

People still respond really positively to these images – they’re very powerful. But it still took four more years before the game was finished.

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new box for retail stores

Here is a view of the new box, which is for retail stores. The aim is to have them in selected stores this summer.

Getting a better box was a steep learning curve for me! I spent hours with Gordon & Ann, of Kapiti Boardgamers, looking at the boxes of their very-very many games and discussing what makes a good box. We reckon the cover of this box is now a great reflection of what’s inside.

We’ve had the game in various retail stores this store. The sales results have been surprising. Not bird sanctuaries, nor zoos, nor Department of Conservation stores. But galleries, design stores, children’s bookshops. . .

SO if you have any suggestions about a great store in New Zealand, where you think the game should be, then please let me know. Use the contact us page & send me their details. I’ll follow them up & let you know the result!

We’re already in 10 stores, and only want to be in about 60 more. Shouldn’t be too hard – not with your help. Thanks for this – thanks a lot.

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at Expressions Gallery, Upper Hutt

In the 9 months we’ve had the game on the market, we’ve had extra-ordinary support from galleries in the greater Wellington region.

The Mahara Gallery, Waikanae, launched us + had an exhibition of Morgan’s outstanding illustrations for the game. Now the same exhibition is on at Expressions Gallery in Upper Hutt.

They’ve made up an amazing booklet ‘how the game was created‘, which shows the steps I took (over nine years). And we’re playing the game! This Wednesday 3, Thursday 4, and next Thursday 11 October.

If you’re any where near Expressions, please pop in and join us in playing the game OR come see Morgan’s exhibition – running until Sunday 11 Nov.

A BIG thankyou, from both Morgan & myself, to the Mahara & to the Expressions Gallery. Your support has been essential.

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at the launch

Here we are in Te Whanganui a Tara, celebrating the Enviroschools Community. It is the launch of the partnership between Enviroschools Wellington & Cloak of Protection.
Four students + a teacher, came from Kapanui School to help teach the game. Here I am explaining some of the rules, while one person works with each group of 4. It all went very smoothly. What a great day! A big thankyou to my fabulous helpers – students Callum, Marie, Bailey and Leah, and teachers Wendy & Nicola.

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spreading the cloak

This Wednesday, 26 Sept, sees the launch a partnership between Enviroschools Wellington and the Cloak of Protection game. Spreading the Cloak: a joint teaching, learning and selling network.

This offers a way to:
– extend the reach of the game to a willing audience
– provide a fundraising opportunity for Wellington Region Schools who are part of the enviroschools network
– strengthen their communities through children teaching children, children teaching adults, and schools interacting with other schools
– generate ideas and feedback for other versions of the game to be developed (eg Te Reo Maori version, plants version etc)

This partnership gives enviroschools a fundraising, awareness-raising, and student empowerment opportunity. And for Kakariki Games, enviroschools have emerged as the most aligned organisation in terms of its kaupapa and the integrity of the game.

Every school enrolled receives an initial game as a gift, has a page on our web-site, and will be invited to attend regional game play-offs (starting next year).

On the day Waikanae-based enviroschool Kapanui School will help launch the partnership, and you will see some new pages on our site.

The enviroschools page will take you to the schools currently enrolled. On their page you will be able to see information about each of them, reward points earned, and their feedback about the game.

Anyone purchasing a game (via the site) can choose which school to reward. This sales method will be exclusive to Enviroschools.

To find out about the schools, the reward system, and to read student posts about how the day went, have a look later this Wednesday.

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toroa & the wild west wind

Once Maui, the wind-controller, had every wind, except for one.  So he shut the others in a cave, to keep them from blowing, and went searching.  His plan was to imprison them all together, and to block up the entrance with stones.

But he never, ever, caught the wild west wind.

Yet it is on this wind, never tamed, that toroa glide. Soaring above the raging seas of the sub-Antarctic ocean,  making only slight movements at elbow and wrist.

One of the largest flying birds, one of the greatest wingspans, one of the longest lived.

The royal albatross. Returning to us from now on.

Landing on the rocks of Tairoa Heads (off Dunedin), they come here to their only mainland breeding colony, and to some small islands in the deep south.

All things draw the same breathe. I align myself with the bird – open my chest and shoulders, right down to my wing-tips – and draw in life.

In return for their visit to the mainland, something is asked of us.  Since 1937 – when Richdale camped beside the nesting birds – we have guarded their nests both day & night.

It’s our responsibility.  We have to, if they are to visit us on the mainland. Unwittingly, we introduced invasive alien species – ones that would wipe their colony.

It’s a long job.  It takes longer for that one white egg to hatch than any other seabird-egg in the world, and then the chick won’t soar for another eight months.

The first time it flies, it steps off the edge and soars.  The only thing those webbed feet will touch, for the next three years, is sea.

Toroa will be back in the air, back on the west wind, back up in the place of their belonging.

Story from: Reed Book of Maori Mythology

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karearea on the wing

Suddenly, it’s spring!  The wind stirs and birds everywhere are on the wing!  Around the trees; along the beach; up the river.

There was even karearea, our falcon.  Traveling on quick wingbeats, in fast direct flight, swiftly winging its way toward nearby Kapiti Island.

As I stood and watched, amazed to see it, it slowed in flight, and turned for a moment.  Showing me its outstretched wings.

Then it was off again.  Karearea: the high flier.  Fearless.  Swift.  Accurate & deadly.

Our falcons are so fierce, so unafraid, they will even attack kahu, the harrier (itself a hunter and twice their size), by turning over in flight and striking it underneath.

Yet their parenting styles couldn’t be more different!  The fierce falcon is gentle: the bigger harrier is not.

Harrier parents let nature take its course.  As their chicks grow, the older ones elbow the younger ones away from the food.  So the smaller chicks gradually disappear (or get eaten!).

But every falcon chick gets its share.  When they’re small, they’re feed bill-to-bill by their mother.  She tears up the prey brought by their father, and offers pieces to each chick in turn.

Holding out a small piece of liver or breast, her head held so that the chick can easily see the titbit, she waits until the chick has quite finished, before offering the next piece.

In my family fierceness & gentleness were considered opposites.  I needed to toughen up or I wouldn’t survive!

Yet both qualities are within this bird.  Like the spring egg, they contain these opposites.  Ready to be born.

for when the opposites are reconciled
this brings about the creation & reproduction of life

(nest observations from M.F. Soper)