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Championing a nature-literate New Zealand

Championing a nature-literate New Zealand
Ruud Kleinpaste is expected to be one of the highlights at this year’s Ashburton A&P Show. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Ruud Kleinpaste, affectionately known as “The Bug Man”, is on a mission to educate the next generation of nature lovers.

“It was my generation that ruined the planet.

“I’m well beyond retirement, but I decided while I can, I will do something to try and change that.”

It's a message he'll be hoping to get across to a generation of young Mid Cantabrians when he visits the Ashburton A&P Show this week.

Kleinpaste, who immigrated to New Zealand from Holland in 1978, found fame globally through programs on the Discovery Channels Animal Planet and locally appearing on What Now and Maggie’s Garden Show in the 1990s.

His passion has always been inspiring people to appreciate the natural world on their doorstep.

These days, Kleinpaste has taken that passion from the small screen to the classroom, teaching what he describes as “nature literacy.”

“I am trying to create nature-literate New Zealanders, who become nature-literate voters.

“My journey is to create New Zealanders and kids that understand what the operation manual of planet Earth looks like.”

Kleinpaste believes the best way to do that is through the education system and has been working with the Peter Blake Trust to hold professional development seminars to create nature-literate teachers.

“We get teachers together in a five-star hotel in Auckland and take them to off-shore islands, reserves and sustainable companies, so they learn from all directions what this planet needs.”

Teachers can then return to their school and look at ways to create a classroom outdoors.

Kleinpaste encourages teachers and children to create forests in their school grounds that can house native species of insects and birds.

He recommends using smartphone apps to help children identify animals and plants.

“We’re talking bugs, spiders, flowers, mushrooms—even skulls and bones.

“Kids love that.”

It’s not all about education; Kleinpaste prefers to think of it as “telling stories”, and he believes farmers have a role to play.

“Farmers can contribute to educating their kids and grandkids, and that could come about in the most amazing ways.

By Claire Inkson