Monday, 21 March 2016

Battle of the Weeds

Last week I spent half a day out with Mark who works at Zealandia.  He targets specific weeds and has the job of not only getting rid of them, but recording what he does and where.  That way, in the future places can be rechecked for regrowth and so that Zealandia has a really careful record of what has grown and where.

Today we were targeting pampas grass growing outside the fenceline perimeter.  I didn't think there would be too much science going on but boy was I wrong.  First I had a lesson all about observation. We always talk about careful observation at school, but this time I really needed to think about all the different things I needed to look out for.  Pampas grass looks A LOT like native toetoe but if you know what to look for, there are a number of key differences.  If I hadn't had a lesson beforehand, then it would have been very easy for me to rip out a number of lovely native toetoe and also a few native flaxs!

Things to look out for
*  The dead leaves on pampas grass go curly like wood shavings.  On a toetoe they are straight.
*  The flowers on pampas tend to stand straight up.  On a toetoe they bend over a bit.
*  The leaves on pampas have a midrib down the centre.  The toetoe has a number of veins visible.
*  The base of the leaves are not waxy on the pampas.  On a toetoe the base of the leaves are waxy white.

This would be an interesting science session to run with kids - to give them some leaves to actually identify using the key features to help them to observe really closely.
 Mark determined not to miss a single pampas grass!

To save carrying weeds around, we turned them upside down
and left them up in a nearby tree to dry out and die.

I had a really interesting day out and really enjoyed learning about the plants both inside and outside the sanctuary.  I'm sure my skills of observation also improved!

Clever Cookie

Today I've been able to see the start of a new investigation.
Using the robin fledglings, we're going to look at their cognitive development by putting them through a series of tests to see how clever they are!

What really struck me today was the science thinking that went on before we even went into the bush to start the tests.  It really made me think about how careful you need to be when planning any kind of science investigation.  The protocol (or at school we call it the method) was very detailed and carefully thought through.  The importance of fairness and working consistently and systematically was obvious.  It was great to have the opportunity to talk through setting up an experiment and the importance of getting it right.
Latu started by weighing the bird (she was just checking to see they were healthy).

Then she put out a little wooden box with six holes drilled into the box.  She laid one mealworm into four holes - she did all of this while the little robin was close by watching.  The lid to each hole was placed next to the hole.  Then we stepped back and timed.  The robin had three minutes to get at least 3 out of the 4 mealworms.  This is the first level of the tests which get progressively more difficult.  To pass a level, they have to do the level correctly three out of the five trials each day.

The next level, sees worms going into four different holes (always make sure you mix up the order otherwise the robin might just learn to always go to the same holes) and the lid partially covering the hole.  Once agin, the robin has three minutes to get at least three of the worms.  Then they get a total of five chances to do this and they must do it correctly at least three times to then move on.

There was a lot to think about and it was great to be there to see the first robin giving it a go.  It will be interesting to compare results.

 Another useful technique was to film what happened.  We don't often do this at school but it is such a useful tool to look back on if we missed something or were unsure about what happened.  I'll be encouraging students back at school to do this.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Tracking and Trapping

I was fortunate to go along with two of the Zealandia educators to Glenview School in Porirua.

The students had already spent some time in Zealandia getting to learn all about the birds around the valley and what had happened in order for them to flourish within the predator proof fence.

 The school's wonderful surroundings

The school's vege patch!

When we arrived, it was wonderful to see the kids come out to greet Anne and Kerry.  They were very proud of their school and were excited to show us around and point out their amazing vege garden and incredible school grounds.  They were a lovely bunch of kids.

Once the bell rang, Anne and Kerry were teaching the students all about tracking pests within their school grounds and why we should first monitor what pests they have.  The students then got to help construct the tracking tunnels and ink up the sheet of paper.

The next stage was to learn that rats and stoats love food like peanut butter so the students then placed some peanut butter in the tunnels to attracts the pests.

Then, using their new knowledge, in groups, the class worked out where they were going to put their tunnels.
We then gathered back together and Anne showed everyone a simple trap to use in their school grounds.  Once they had gathered some data about what types of pests they have, there were then going to put the traps around the school grounds.  We talked about where might be the best place, how often to check them and what to do if the trap caught a rat or stoat!

I'm looking forward to going back to see how the students are getting on.
Thank you Glenview School for having me to visit.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

A Week at the Royal Society

Last week we had three days all together spending some time unpacking some of the science capabilities and looking at the Nature of Science.
Our Wellesley science programme has been largely content driven and so it's been really great to have a look at the capabilities and focus on what we want our kids to be able to do to think and act like scientists.  What skills do our students need to be able to make critical and informed decisions about their world around them?

The first capability we focused on was Gather and Interpret Data.
What is the difference between observations and inferences?  With a range of practical tasks and lots of discussion we all had fun getting to grips with understanding the capability and how to use it  in our classes.

 A simple little experiment using Skittles - watch what happens to the colours when you put them into water?  What questions can you ask to help your students make observations?  What questions will lead to inferences?

One of my favourite activities; a rubberband catapult that is held back by plastic string.  Light a match, melt the string and the marble is fired forward (use the wooden cotton reels under the board).  What modifications can you make to get your marble to fire even further?  What did you observe happening as you made one change at a time?

The second capability is Use Evidence.
By working through a series of experiments all based around fizzing and foaming, we begun to explore this capability - how do we know that?  What can we see that tells us this?  By having a number of experiments we were able to use a range of information to help us to make inferences and think critically about what we were seeing.

We each had to take some photos of anything to do with science.  Then the next day we were asked to create a list of questions that get you to make observations.Then we made up a second set of questions which would allow students to make inferences.

On our last day we all went to Hampton Hill Primary School in Tawa to see the amazing Carol Brieseman.  She participated in this programme two years ago and has led some amazing changes in her schools science programme.

We also got to join in on a science session.  Carol was based at NIWA so she got to learn all about Argo Floats - things that are dropped into our oceans all around the world and then send back data about currents, temperature etc.  We got to make little cartesian divers with her class as an introductory activity to lead into looking at the ocean.  She had lots of great ideas to share with us so it was wonderful to have the opportunity to talk with someone who has gone through what we will be doing later in the year!