Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Congratulations Hawea Flat - Our newest Silver Enviroschool

Congratulations Hawea Flat! This year they put in an entry to receive the Silver Enviroschools award and guess what? They got it!!!! Well done everyone up there. These awards aren't given out to any old Enviroschool, lots of work goes into achieving this level of recognition.

I've heard a rumor that the bike track is complete and the children have started to ride it, I'm looking forward to having a quick roll around next week when I go up there. I'll take some pics and post them here so you can all see how cool it is. Even though the bike tracks have been completed there is still a few things to do so the hard work isn't over yet.

Once again, congratulations Hawea Flat, well done to you all!!!!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Step-by-Step Instruction On How To Make A Bottle Rocket Car

So what is a bottle rocket car? They are a fantastic toy you can make from items you’d normally throw away. The basic ingredients for the rocket part are a plastic bottle, wine cork, bike inner tube valve, water and compressed air.

In short, we drill a hole through the cork, just wide enough to fit the valve through. Put some water in the bottle and tip the bottle so the water covers the opening of the bottle. Connect your bike pump to the valve and pump. The air enters the bottle and starts to compress. The pressure eventually builds to a level that blows the cork out of the bottle. As the water rushes out the bottle flies off, this is a beautiful example of Newton’s third law of motion.

If you’ve never seen or heard of Newton’s third law of motion before you can read it below, ever wondered about the science behind ollying a skateboard, this is it:

“Whenever particle A exerts a force on another particle B, B simultaneously exerts a force on A with the same magnitude in the opposite direction. The strong form of the law further postulates that these two forces act along the same line. This law is often simplified into the sentence "To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."” – Sir Isaac Newton

If you don’t know who Sir Isaac Newton is, Google him, he was one very clever fellow.

When I first decided to make bottle rockets for kids club I was a little wary of launching rockets into the air with a bunch of five year olds……perhaps not the safest activity. So, how could I get around this? The solution was fairly simple, take the rocket design and develop it into a car. This way they can be shot off along the ground, nice and safe.

Are you ready? Time for the step by step instructions…….

What do you need?

The tools:

A drill

A sharp knife

An old bicycle inner tube valve

A bike pump, preferably with a long-ish hose

A glue gun – Very useful but not absolutely necessary

A vice – Again useful but not absolutely necessary

An adult to help with the tricky bits

A pair of wire snippers

The ingredients:

1 plastic drinks bottle, 600ml, 1l, 1.5l… long as the cork makes a good fit with the cap. The bigger the bottle the further it will go

1 wine cork

1 wire coat hanger

1 egg box

1 old bicycle inner tube

8 milk bottle tops

Most of the items you need to make the rocket car you should find hiding in the recycling bin. What we are going to do is reuse these items before we recycle them. Reusing is great, it means we can get new stuff for relatively effort and no new resources.

Please do not go chopping valves out of good inner tubes, that would be a real waste, instead go to your local bike shop with a big smile on your face and ask if they have any old tubes you can have. Willem from Thunderbikes in Wanaka very kindly supplied me with a heap of them. Thanks Willem!

The other item I went on the hunt for was wine corks. So put that big smile back on and pay a visit to your local restaurant and ask if they have any old wine corks you can have. They probably do. Jordy from Relishes kindly gave me a handful. Thanks Jordy!

Step 1

Cut the valve out of the inner tube with a sharp knife.

Step 2

Cut the cork in half using your sharp knife

Step 3

Get your drill, a drill bit the same size, if not a little smaller than the bike valve and drill a hole through the center of the cork. This is a good time to get an extra pair of hands, thanks Nev!

Step 4

Put the valve through the hole. Ensure the valve goes through smooth side and out of the rough side. This way, when we put the cork in the bottle the edge of the cork doesn’t destroy. If you don’t get it, trust me, it’s a good idea, stops your cork falling apart.

Step 4

Drill holes through the centre of your milk bottle caps

Step 5

Using the glue gun, glue the caps together

Step 6

Put holes in the side of the egg carton where you want your axels to go through

Step 7

Using the snippers cut a length of coat hanger long enough to pass through both wheels, the egg box and be able to be bent up at the ends to hold the wheels on

Step 8

Put the axel through the box, add the wheels and bend up the axel at either end. Now you should have the basis for your car

Step 8

Glue a wedge of some kind to the top of the box and then glue the bottle on top of the box, ensuring the bottle top is low down and sticking over the back of the box

Step 9

Put some water into the bottle

Step 10

Attach the bike pump to the end of the valve and push the cork into the end of the bottle

Step 11

Find an area you can launch the car on, remember get everyone to stand well away from the cars forward motion and have no one directly behind the car

Step 12

Start pumping and wait for the motion

Have fun out there, see you all on Saturday in Hampden.....

Endangered Species in Glenorchy Primary

Endangered species in Glenorchy? Who'd have thought it.....well the senior classrooms inquiry this term is all about endangered species. It had been a while since I've been up there so I figured I'd pay them a visit for the afternoon and combine it with the yearly summary meeting after school.

'Who am I? and where do I live?' on page 175 of the kit is the perfect activity for this. Thankfully Miss Reed had a wonderful collection of photos of endangered species to use for this activity. One by one each of the children comes to the front of the class and is given a photo of the animal. They aren't allowed to show anyone else the photo, well Miss Reed and I took a sneaky peek.

The rest of the class have to ask questions with yes no answers and try to figure out what the endangered species is. This then spawns really good active discussion about the habitat of these animals which we can link to activities that us wonderful humans partake in to destroy these valuable habitats and species.

Looking around school, the gardens and tunnel house are look superb and the chicken coop is almost done!!! If I hadn't been a fool and locked myself out of the office that morning I'd have lots of awesome pictures to show you all here. Oh well, you'll have to check back here soon to see pics of all the great work that is going on in Glenorchy. Well done!

Taking Action - Room 23 Queenstown Primary

Last week I took a sneaky peek at the vision maps created by Room 23 and I couldn't wait to get in the class room and see what the children had been discussing. Their inquiry is 'How to beautify our school'. They have these maps outside their classroom and invite anyone to add their suggestions to them.

I'd been asked if I could come and facilitate a session to help the children plan some action projects. Awesome, time for me to dig into the fabulous tools in Section 3 of the kit. One of my favourites.

We started with a brief discussion of all the things they would like to see in school, much of this was to do with animals, somehow I think that having a sea lion at school may be a bit much, however there is no reason why they can't take some action to help better the quality of life of sea lions within NZ.

With all the different ideas written down we made a decision making matrix and figured out which were the most popular projects, rabbits & worm farms seemed pretty popular.

Time to split into groups and get out the Action Planners, page 406 of the kit. I love this page, it is so powerful. We write down our vision at the top, eg. 'We want to use worms to take care of some of our organic waste'. We then start to investigate what we need to do in order to reach this vision. This page has different sections with guiding questions to help the children out. What we end up with is a list of tasks and ideas that we can take action upon. So simple, so powerful and so much fun. Well done Enviroschools for developing such a powerful tool.

The session was over in a flash, the classroom was a buzz of excited productive conversation. They've still got a fair bit of work to do to achieve these visions but they are on the right track. Well done Room 23!

Living Landscapes - Queenstown Primary

With the success of Spud-In-A-Bucket only recently behind us it was time for me to don my Enviroschools hat and go back to Queenstown Primary for a session from the Living Landscapes section of the Enviroschools kit. After some discussion with the teachers we decided to have a session on 'Healthy soils, healthy plants, healthy people' page 188 of the kit.

What this activity does is introduce the children to different soil types, is it sandy? is it moist? does it hold water well? I've a couple of experiments to do to show the difference between the way compost holds water versus sandy rocky dirt.

Once we have a bit of an idea about what different soil types look like it's time to go and explore. We split into different groups and off we went, ice cream tubs in hand to collect different soil samples.

With the samples in each group each drew a map of where they got their soil from. These results will be added to the main vision map once it is developed next year, this is great practice for mapping skills.

All we have to do now is identify the different soil types using the chart on page 190. And the results? No surprise here, the soil from the existing gardens was the best, closely followed by the area above the courts. Otherwise we will have some work to do in enriching the soil in other areas if we are going to have rich healthy plants growing.

Great work everyone, what a fantastic activity and so good to spend a lesson outside, this is what it's all about, getting amongst it.

Spud-In-A-Bucket: Queenstown Primary

Spud-In-A-Bucket is a project run by Tāhuri Whenua, the National Māori Vegetable Growers Collective. It's aim is to
  • Stimulate critical questioning on resource use and lifestyle
  • Expose children to a sense of responsibility and ownership
  • Encourage parental interaction with children about their learning
  • Foster positive relationships between schools and their communities
  • Promote the relevance of tikanga Maori in modern horticulture
One of my colleagues, Ben Elms, or Dr. Compost as many of you Lakes Districts residents will know him, volunteered his time to help Hawea Flat and Queenstown Primary along with this project. Wastebusters Kindly volunteered some of my time to help him out.

So how does it work? Schools apply to be part of the program, so if you're interested in being involved next year go to the Tāhuri Whenua website and find the application form. Buckets and compost are supplied by local sponsors, a big hand goes out to Dave Hannon from Delta for very kindly donating the compost, thanks guys!

We were supplied with a few bag fulls of Maori potatoes to use as seeds, we had a few varieties, one of them was purple, yes I know, who's ever seen a purple potato before? All we needed now was the children, and we had quite a few of them.

The children fill the buckets about a third full with compost, place the potato in the middle and then add more compost until it is about three quarters full. Fairly simple really. All they have to do now is remember to water them and make sure they get access to sunlight. The other trick with potatoes is to realise that we may need to add more compost as they grow. Keep your eyes peeled here for some updates on how they are coming along.

You can check out Room 17's blog for their take on the project.

If you'd like to see some more photos from this take a look at Room 17's Blog.

I knew that Queenstown Primary had been looking at growing things but I'd no idea how much work they had done, I visited a few classrooms and there were growing experiments everywhere, as well as the beginnings of some fabulous vision maps. Well done everyone! I'm looking forward to coming back in a week or so to do some Enviroschools work with you all.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Big Thank You!

Look how lucky I am! I have been sent so many thank you cards from Queenstown Primary and St. Joseph's in Queenstown for my EERST visits to them a couple of weeks ago. It's things like this that make my job even more rewarding.

I'm loving the reuse in making these. What great creative imaginations we have out there. Having read them all a few times, shown them around the office and to anyone else passing it's fairly obvious that the message is getting across. Well done everyone! Keep up the fantastic work.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Water and Compost at St. Josephs

I was asked if I could come and deliver two of the Zero Waste packages, Water and Compost. Times are busy at St. Joseph's at the moment so I had to adjust the usual way of delivering the modules so we could fit it in.

The seniors have been looking at water recently and they wanted to find out a little more about it before Susie McKeague, the Land Resource Manager from Otago Regional Council comes to visit them. She will be doing some fantastic stream experiments with them. She is also planning two sessions at streams in Wanaka and Queenstown in January. I'll post details here nearer to the time.

It was the first time I'd delivered the water module and it rocked! I love science and this module is all about science and experiments. It is a fairly in depth module and we cover lots of topics about water.

The water cycle, do you know how water moves around our planet? Evaporation, condensation, transpiration, you know what all these fancy words mean? Ask the seniors at St. Jo's, they can now tell you all about it and would probably draw you a cool little diagram to help explain.

Do you know where your waste water goes? Once we'd got the giggles about poos and wees over with we followed the journey of our waste water and considered what happened to it. We soon figured out where all the storm water goes and after looking at various pollutants in water it didn't take long before everyone wanted to wash their cars on the lawn and not let all the soap go down the drain straight into the lake.

For the compost module I had the gardening club and a couple of very interested and enthusiastic parents as helpers. We had a ball and the wide ish age range didn't pose any problems. We had lots of examples of wonderful cooperative learning going on with the older children helping out the younger ones where needed.

For those that were interested in making sure their worm farm was a rip roaring success I held a quick session on how they can go about doing this. I had a few spare wormies left over so we emptied out the old worm farm, finding some gorgeous vermicast in the bottom and started over. Fingers crossed the message will get out about what we can and can't feed them and they'll go from strength to strength. Look out St. Jo's I'm gonna come and check up on them when I'm over!

Reuse, Compost and Enviroschools Action Projects in Makarora

It had been a little while since I'd been to see Makarora Primary School and there were lots of things I wanted to do with them, so in the spirit of keeping traveling down I booked two whole days with them to deliver the Zero Waste Education Reuse and Compost modules in the mornings and the afternoons were spent on Enviroschools action project planning.

I've delivered the Reuse module a few times now so that was pretty laid back, no surprises there. However, it was the first time I've delivered the compost module, so in my usual fashion was a little nervous about delivering it for the first time. All was fine. The children were awesome and as I expected from children at a rural school it wasn't the first time they'd heard about compost.

We made some awesome piggy banks and desk tidies and the mini composts in the milk bottles were awesome. I can't wait to hear if the worms get to work and break down all the compostable material we put in there.

With the mornings taken care of we spent the afternoons working on some ideas for future action projects. The school is really embracing being part of Enviroschools. Lynley is using the kit and EfS to help structure next years curriculum. A large part of this is to involve the community of Makarora in the work that goes on at school.

We all sat down and discussed the different ideas that the children would like to see happen at school. This ranged from bike tracks to eadible gardens. After we had identified each of the projects that we'd like to start we considered the costs, ease of implementation, who could help us and who else it would benefit. The children now have a fair bit of work to do in passing this information onto their community and getting feedback on what they would like to be done.

It was so good to them all getting so enthused by the idea of being able to take action themselves to help enhance their school environment, not only for themselves but for their community. Keep a look out on here for news of projects developing. They will also be starting a blog soon to showcase what they are up to, there will be a link on here of course.

Enviroschools Sharing Activites Workshop

Teachers from three QLDC Enviroschools ventured to Dunedin on the 21st October to attend the 'Sharing Activities' workshop. I just couldn't believe how good this day was. It's third workshop I've been to in the Skeggs gallery and this one was packed. As we walked in, the room was full to the brim with people, buzzing conversation and heaps of stalls around the edge of the room.

The idea was to help showcase the activities that can be found within the Enviroschools kit, this was certainly acheived. Teachers were asked to bring examples of activities they've run in schools to share the pros and cons with other schools. I lead a couple of workshops on the 'Where does it all come from? How does it change? (Precious Energy)' activity, page 342 of the kit, as well of having a quick flick through the Precious Energy Section of the kit.

This activity creates the opportunity for the children to piece together pictures depicting the journey of energy from its source to the required form. I really like this as it can so easily depict the different stages that we need to go through to extract usable energy from different available energy sources. This can in turn be used to demonstrate the efficiency / inefficiency of using different energy sources.

In the afternoon I helped facilitate workshop on action planners from section 3 of the kit. I just love these tools, I think they really guide the children through designing and planning an action project. They are so simple and as you fill in the boxes a list of things to do just appears. It is one of the best ways of simplifying what would seem an impossible task into lots of easily achievable actions.

The early start was a little shock to the system but the buzz of conversation in the car about the day on the way home made it all worthwhile. Everybody got lots of ideas about what to do next when back at school. A really big thank you goes out to all the teachers who came and kindly shared their ideas and experiences and also to everyone who helped organise the day. We had a ball and can't wait for the next one......