Sunday, 5 October 2014

Sci-day Friday. End of term 4 Science day

As part of the self-review on Science that I am undertaking as part of the post fellowship requirements, we wanted to find out what our parents and community think about science education and the science education their children receive at our school.

On the last day of every term we always hold an open day for our community to share what we have been learning about that term. For term 3 we decided to have a science day.
Children and adults would rotate around 8 science activities over the day.
At the conclusion of our day, we would then send home the survey I had put together to find out their thoughts about science and science education.

The 8 rotations were either self led or led by a year 8 student who was an 'expert' at that activity. We thought this was a great opportunity to show off our great students and what they were capable of doing.

Some of the rotations the students had done as part of our 'sci-fit' programme, but there were some extra special ones that they had not seen before.

At our school we only have 35 students. All the students were present that day as well as the same amount of adults! For a small school I was blown away by the interest shown in what we are doing.
It was so awesome to see parents and older siblings working with our students and having a tonne of fun at the same time.

Air Canon

Bloomin Flowers

Cork poppers 

Sound machines .... yip all the kids got to take them home :)  

viscosity racing- which mysterious liquid traveled the fastest

paper twirlers 

Colour wheels - must remember to wash the calico first next time! 

Gravity droppers.... which one is going to hit the ground first? 

chemical obseravations were a hit! 

everyone was really interested in this activity! 

cork poppers! 

The focus for the day from my point of view was explaining what the Nature of Science is all about. On the back of each instruction sheet was an explanation about the activity they were doing and how this was 'science education.' I either linked the activity to a context strand or a NOS objective.
As I went around each activity I was asking the adults about what was on the back of the sheet, I discussed how I would go about using an activity like these ones in the class setting or for teaching about particular ideas.

It was great to hear our students 'talking the talk' and using their scientific language throughout the day and showing their parents the skills that they have been accumulating.
It was awesome to see our 5 year olds trying to use stop watches and measuring tapes, and telling their parents that they had to repeat their test a few times before making a conclusion. It was wonderful to hear our Year 8 students explaning their activities to parents. It was really satisfying to see all the other students participating to the best of their ability and most importantly having fun.

By placing the emphasis on the nature of science, it made all the activities accessible to everyone that was there on the day. Whilst the parents may have been thinking about theories and scientific knowledge, their children were thinking about anything from correctly using equipment, taking turns, asking questions or the like. Even the pre-schoolers that came on the day were getting to experience the activities as well, which of course is building their knowledge and their own 'library of experiences.'

I am totally confident that the community surveys I sent home will come back full of great comments and insights into what our community thinks about science educations and how much they value what we are doing at our school.
Knowing that our community is supportive of what we are doing really gives me the confidence that I can not only dream about making our science programme amazing for our students but I can actually start to make it a reality!

Sci-fit. Term 3's fitness programme

At our school we have always done a 15-20 minute 'fitness' session each day. This could be jump jam, games, relays etc... It's a great chance to get the kids moving during the day and a great chance to have a bit of fun.

Term 3 is our cross country term and also usually the wettest term of the year. So this term it was decided that 3 times a week we would run 'sci-fit.' That's short for science fitness.
3 times a week in the normal fitness slot of the day I would run a short science experience for the whole school to take part in.

A science experience is a session where the students experience an activity that is based on some sort of science concept. These sessions are about the students taking part and getting some knowledge to talk about. They are not going to be taught the 'science' behind that task, but it may lead on to learning more about why something happened.

The nature of science (NOS) was my  focus this term for all the sessions. I hoped to be able to observe how the students were able to work together, solve problems, follow instructions, come up with questions, try different things out, exhibit persistence and most importantly have FUN!

Our school is broken up into 4 houses, and it was in these houses that the students worked. Each house was then split into 2 groups meaning that all groups only had 3-4 students in them. The perfect number to observe things happening and the perfect number to ensure that ALL students had the chance to participate.

The students did things such as ramp racers where they had to work out the best angle on their ramp for their car to go the furthest then followed up the next session with trying out a range of different cars to see which one would go the furthest. The 3rd session we raced off against each other to see who had the best ramp and vehicle.

The students made oobleck, they used their senses to decide what substances were what in a series of containers, they used lemon juice and baking soda to make corks pop out of bottles, they worked out what sort of paper would twirl best on top of a pin stuck in a pencil etc....

One of the ways I judge whether my students are enjoying what they are doing is by how much feedback I get from our parents. Judging by the amount I questions I got from parents over the weeks, I can tell that the students really enjoyed the experiences.

watching 'dancing' raisins.

Paper twirlers 

ramp racers

trying the team approach to paper twirlers 

The oobleck experience was as hands on as it could be! 
Used this as an opportunity to read Dr Suess's book, Bartholomew and the oobleck.  

Cork poppers- working as a team 

stacking straws - water density experiences. Started the first experience just getting the students to use a straw as a pipette, the second sessions was stacking 2 colours and the third session they had to stack 3 colours. Was lots of fun! 

Getting these experiences organised took a lot of time and resources but it was really worth it. The children loved our sci-fit sessions and usually the first question I got when I would walk in the classroom "Is it sci-fit today?" 

This approach of science 'experience' is something that lots of teachers would automatically write off as it's really about the students 'playing.' 
Play in science is such an undervalued part of science teaching. I remember in my early years as a teacher getting really grumpy with my students when we 'did' science. I would set up these great activities and I would have high hopes of the learning that would take place.(I would of course set a ridiculous time-frame to get it all achieved in.) 
I would then get annoyed that the students wouldn't listen to me, and all they wanted to do was PLAY!!! 
I really wish I had just let them have 10 -15 minutes of the session to play, to work out how something was done and to let them start developing their own questions based on what they were finding out. 
I wish I had listened to their conversations! To listen to the language they were using, I wish I had encouraged them to pull something apart or try the things that were swirling in their minds. 
All these things of course, are what I allow my students to now do. 
By giving them this play time, they are now so much more focused when I start to teach them the more formal stuff. 
Learning cannot just be left to discovery, explicit teaching must still happen but time to play and explore is a vital part of the process! 

Roll on term 4!  

Saturday, 23 August 2014

A road trip with Ryan and ... 2 kiwi eggs

On Sunday at 5:50 in the morning, Ryan and I left home and headed to the other end of town to meet Jenny. Jenny was looking after a very small chilly bin that had something very precious inside.

Inside the chilly bin were 2 kiwi eggs.
All packaged up ready to go.
Sitting flat on the seat, padded on the sides with padding
and securey fastened with the seat belt.

Our job was to transport the eggs to Rotorua's Kiwi Encounter. This is a purpose built facility that looks after around 250 kiwi eggs a year. At 'K.E,' as it's known, they incubate the eggs and then look after the chicks until they are big enough to go back to where they came from or to be released at another location (remember how I have mentioned how important it is to spread the genetics around in earlier posts.)

Kiwi Encounter is one of a handful of facilities around the country that work as part of the Operation Nest Egg programme which is sponsored by the BNZ bank.
If you are interested in learning more about O.N.E  or Kiwi Encounter, follow these links

Anyway, back to our story.
As I have mentioned in earlier posts, some of the kiwi at Rotokare wear transmitters so that we can monitor their progress. The battery in their transmitter needs to be changed every 12 months.
So the dilemma began- the transmitter needed to be changed but the kiwi was sitting on not only 1 egg but 2!
Once a kiwi has a transmitter change it is unlikely to return to that burrow. Something we don't want to happen when they are sitting on eggs BUT we can't risk the battery going flat and not being able to find the kiwi again.

This was a perfect example of scientists working with scientists and doing a bit of problem solving. Simon made a call to the experts over at Kiwi Encounter and they suggested that the eggs be 'lifted' when the kiwi was out of the burrow feeding.
Then the plan was put together between the team at Rotokare and the Taranaki Kiwi Trust for how the mission would unfold.

A team would go into the bush late at night, wait for the kiwi to leave his burrow (we know it's a male, as it's the males that incubate the eggs.) The team would then take the eggs and very very carefully package them up ready for their long trip to Rotorua.
I won't write about the process they go through when they lift the eggs as hopefully I can be part of a lift sometime in the near future (and I will write a blog)

So, the eggs- one aged about 35 days and the other about 65 days. Kiwi eggs take about 80 days in the wild to hatch and between 75-78 days in an artificial breeding facility such as K.E

The eggs had been lifted off the nest at 1:30 that morning. Jenny had got back to her place about 4:30. We arrived just before 6.
After a quick loading up of the car, we were off. In side the chilly bin the eggs were beign kept warm with hot water bottles and thick woolen socks! The chilly bin was not opened from the moment the eggs were put in it until they were taken out in Rotorua.

I have to admit to being as nervous as the day I bought Ryan home from hospital after being born. Such precious cargo was being entrusted into my care!

The drive to Rotorua took a long time! I have never noticed how bumpy the roads are and how windy the corners are in some places. Having left Hawera at 6, we didn't get to Rotorua until just before 12.

Arriving at Rainbow springs

Ready to take the eggs into K.E

When we arrived at K.E, we were met by Claire who is one of the amazing team of kiwi experts that work there. She took us through the process of preparing the eggs for incubation.

Ryan and I were extrememly lucky to see what they do with the eggs!
The kids and I had visited K.E a few years ago and paid for the tour of the facility but being on the other side of the glass this time and having 2 specialists talking with us was amazing.
People on the pulic tours are not allowed to take photos so I felt priviledged to have been allowed.

The eggs are checked over, 'candled' which is where they put illluminate the egg and are able to see the developmental stage of the foetus. They wash the egg, weigh the eggs and probably a few other things that I didn't pick up on.

While Claire worked in the quarantine room doing another round of checks and putting the eggs into the incubator, Ryan and I had the opportunity to have a 'out the back' tour of the rest of the facility. It was totally awesome having a one on one tour with someone so knowledgeable about all things Kiwi. As always I had a million questions!
I'm not sure what the lady's name was that showed us around, but she was interested to hear about how we have been managing our meal worms at Rotokare. That was a real 'feel good' moment for me.
She explained that she works as a casual on call member of the team. Most of the team have some sort of science degree as well as a captive wildlife management certificate from UNITEC in Auckland. I have learnt through my fellowship that this certificate is pretty much a nessecity in NZ for people working with captive animals.


Before even looking at the eggs, paperwork is checked

Carefully unwrapping the eggs

Initial weight of the eggs

Preparing the water for washing the eggs.

On the other side of the glass window were a group of people! I felt really weird being on show.
After an hour at K.E, our job was done.
Thanks Simon and the Rotokare Trust for entrusted me with the job. I can't wait to do it again!

Year 8 volunteer morning

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to go with our 5 year 8 students out to Lake Rotokare for their morning's work.
These sessions started at the beginning of the year with the vision that they would teach the students the value of volunteer work, the opportunity to see some of the work that goes on at the lake and some exposure to see how conservation / ecology 'scientists' work.

This term's first adventure saw us doing some maintenance work on the Barrier Free track. This track is accessible for those in wheelchairs and pushchairs. It's really important that it is kept clear and as tidy as possible.

The students cleaned out and replenished the nectar feeder, trimmed trees back, cleared out culverts and other tasks that needed doing. We were lucky to work alongside Chauncy and were also joined by Chauncy's son Phoenix.

My biggest highlight of the day was hearing and seeing a Tieke up close. It didn't seem to mind us all being there watching it as it flittered around eating supplejack berries. The students were captivated by it's call and watched it with great interest! They went back to school absolutely buzzing about their up close experience with it.

I know they are looking forward to their next work day later in the term as much as I am!

All ready to get out and do some work

Cleaning the nectar feeder

Topping it up

Cleaning out a culvert

Pruning back some overhanging branches

Observing the Tieke
The tieke  observing us

Teamwork will always get the job done!

Never too young to help out. Really impressed with how caring and patient my students were

Not happy with just clearing this culvert, they had to clear the way all the way down into the marshy area.

Back at school

There was no 'easing' back into school and school life! The first few weeks were amongest the toughest teaching I have ever done in my teaching career.
What made it easier was our 'sci-fit' sessions that I have been running 3 times a week for all the students at our school.
Our daily fitness sessions have been turned into science experiences for 3 15 minute sessions on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The students are loving it! These short, fun, highly hands on experiences that are encouraging Nature of Science process skills such observations, curiosity, communication and prediction are really hooking the kids into learning more about science. Some weeks we have repeated the same experience on the 3 days because they want to change a variable or they want to observe again.
This programme has been a great way for me to work with all the students in the school again and start sharing my passion with them.

Forgot to take my camera the day we worked with slime, we were fascinated the next
day to see how the slime we saved has started to merge together to make
new colours.

Paper twirlers in week 2 fascinated the students. We trialled 4 different types of paper

Working collaboratively to see if 4 hands work better than 2
Observing the behaviour of raisins

One of the students wondered what would happen to the dancing raisin if you added cooking oil to the lemonade. This started a really good discussion on water pollution!

Ramp racers were rather competitive but really worthwhile in the discussions that took place. The first day each group looked for the 'best' angle for the ramp, the second day they looked for the 'best' performing car to use out of 5 cars. The third day we combined the best performing ramp and car and competed against the other house groups. Loads of fun and loads of learning.
I'm pretty sure the kids now look forward to 'sci-fit' as much as I do!