Monday, February 8, 2010

Queenstown Primary Enviroschools 2009 Open Day

At the end of last term Queenstown Primary held a fabulous open day to showcase the work the whole school has done over the last year as part of their commitment to becoming an Enviroschool. Now it's just occurred to me that I've given two talks about the day but neglected to write a blog posting about it.

So, shall we cast our minds back to mid December 2009? It was a super hot day, gorgeous blue skies and Queenstown Primary was buzzing over the fact that our Mayor, Clive Geddes, was about to turn up to learn about what QPS has done about becoming more sustainable.

So many things really impressed me during this visit, I shall try my best not to go overboard on the descriptions, hopefully the pictures will tell a thousand words. The Kapa Haka group performing to the whole school was the first really impressive thing I saw. You guys were awesome!


The tour I was on started with the Middle syndicate. Yes, you heard that right, a tour, we had guides from the one of the senior classes and they certainly knew their stuff. I know these middle syndicate classrooms pretty well now. I've done lots and lots of work with them this year, particularly concerned with worms and worm farms. The middle classes have been looking at their organic waste, monitoring it, designing systems to cope with the volume and type of organic waste they have to deal with each day.

During the investigations it was soon realised that whilst worms are pretty good, they are indeed a little fickle. Thankfully a few teachers in school have chickens at home, so a very simple two bin system has been set up. One bin goes home to the chickens and the other is processed for the worms in school.

One of the interesting facts we learnt about worms was that they do not have teeth. Therefore it is very helpful to them is the food they are fed is mushed up. Enter the mincer. Rather cleverly mounted on a large sheet of wood the mincer takes all the worm food and minces it up into a very tasty pulp for them to enjoy. You can see from this pic that it's a great fun job to do at lunch time.
We have one of the QLDC sponsored worm farms on site in the middle playground. But are these students happy with a regular square box for their worms to live in? Of course not......

The Enviroschools kit has so many tools to help our students design solutions for a sustainable outcome. I've done a little work with the middle syndicate using these tools. The design and project planners from the action section of the new kit are just brilliant. In no time at all the students have started asking themselves questions about what they need to know in order to make good choices about the design they want. As you can see they've looked into a few different types.

One of the most ingenious designs they've constructed is the worm tube. We saw a YouTube video about it ages ago and some of the students have adapted it to fit their needs at QPS. Essentially you take a length of old drainage pipe, drill a few holes in the bottom, bury it in your garden to cover the holes. Put in some worms and then some food. The worms eat the food in the pipe, then burrow their way into the garden to lay their vermicast within the soil and roots of the plants growing above. Ingenious. These students have invented a way, using an old ice cream lid, to put in a tray to allow the worms to sit above the garden when it is time to move the tube.

The other middle syndicate classes have been looking at beautifying their school. One project has been to create a mural for the wall outside one of their classrooms. They have looked into the story of Lake Wakatipu and between them, created a mural made of various panels designed by different students to illustrate the story. There was a fairly large unveiling of this panel a few weeks previous to the open day, where the kapa haka group did a fantastic performance and the students involved in the creation of the mural explained what it all meant to each of them. All of this was on show inside one of the classrooms.

One of the senior syndicates has looked at water, where it comes from, how we consume it, how we can conserve it and also how it is seen and dealt with in other parts of the world. One of their classrooms was decked out with heaps of information that they'd found out. There were various experiments going on demonstrating what normal everyday household chemicals could do to our water supply.


There was also heaps of information available about the visit we paid to Mt Grand, the water purification plant in Dunedin, on last years Otago Regional Enviroschools Hui.

We then moved onto the junior syndicate. Boy oh boy, have these guys been busy. They have fully embraced the concept of 'Zero Waste'. They started off with a waste audit to get information about the types of waste they generated. Now that they knew what they had, they caould do something about it.

It was generally food packaging that was the problem. Which foods did it come with and could they still get the same food but without the packaging? Well it seems like you can.

After some rather mammoth counting exercises these students identified how many large packets of chips they needed to buy each week so they could put them in reusable containers to bring to school each day. Still having the same amount of chips as you get in a small packet, but without the waste.

Can you make muesli bars at home and bring them in in baking paper? Of course you can. They took a visit to the recycling station out at Frankton, where the students just loved seeing what happened to their recycling once it left school. It's so good to be able to see where it goes and confirm that making sure everything is nice and clean does make a difference.

 I even heard Mrs Walker asking Mr Weston if it would be possible to remove their rubbish bins from the junior playground as they didn't use them any more. Isn't that amazing? Well done everyone!

As we moved through the junior department we found some paper making going on. It's one thing sending your paper to be recycled, but a whole other, way more fun thing to make some paper yourself at school. You can make some pretty cool cards from the paper you made too.
Finally we found some students from a senior syndicate who had been looking that their school and coming up with some inventive ways of changing it. where could they put playgrounds? Where  would be good for a vege garden? What is reasonable to change and what should we leave? One of the best ways to get your idea across is by using a well constructed model. The ones we saw were amazing, apparently though I'm too big for the zip slide.

So there we have it, QPS's Enviroschools work for 2009 in a nutshell. I'd just like to thank all the students, teachers and other staff there for making working with them so much fun last year. In particular though I'd like t ogive some special thanks to Mrs Walker and Mrs Gray, who have done some outstanding work at school to make all of this happen. Well done everyone!

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