New education website helps Kiwi kids access the outdoors responsibly

The New Zealand Walking Access Commission has developed an online learning environment called Both Sides of the Fence ( to help teachers engage and educate students about accessing the outdoors responsibly and the value of outdoor access.

Launched at Northland School in Wellington today, Both Sides of the Fence is a free, enquiry-based, digital resource for primary and intermediate school students aged 8-13 years, and their teachers.

It features engaging animated video scenarios featuring characters such as Kush the dog and Barry the farmer to teach students responsible access behaviour.

“The scenarios are presented from multiple perspectives which help to re-connect urban and rural New Zealand by improving mutual understanding of the value of access and the realities of rural life,” New Zealand Walking Access Commission Chief Executive Mark Neeson said.

“The enquiry-based approach helps students come to their own conclusions by considering different viewpoints around access.

This differs from resources that tell students how to behave in the outdoors without a background story or context.

“Both Sides of the Fence encourages people to follow the kiwi way. It helps students understand why they should behave in the ways suggested by the Commission's New Zealand Outdoor Access Code and why different groups have differing values around access,” Mr Neeson said.

The New Zealand Outdoor Access Code was developed by the Commission to set out the rights and responsibilities of recreational users and landholders. The code spells out the need for people to behave properly and take responsibility for their actions in the outdoors. It also asks landholders to continue the New Zealand tradition of giving access to people wanting to cross their land, so long as those people are respectful.

Both Sides of the Fence was developed by education resource provider Learning Media (the producers of the School Journal) and digital experts CWA. It aligns with the school curriculum and contains lesson plans for teachers with information about how to make the most of the resources in the classroom.

Resources for students include a 'Web Book', a series of animated 'Explore' access-related scenarios, and an 'In my Region' image gallery where students can upload photos of outdoor areas of interest to them.

The 'Explore' scenarios look at topics including unformed legal roads, dogs in a rural setting, biosecurity risks, fires, and the cultural implications of access across Maori land.

The Commission is considering adding additional scenarios to Both Sides of the Fence in the future and is inviting other organisations with an interest in the outdoors to harness the site to present their own access-related scenarios.