Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The begining of real education - exploring the environment

What are these plants?
 Earlier this month I was press ganged into being a parent helper to assist with a group  local intermediate classes who were  to walk  a local river track, the Te Henui, from their school to the sea. Their number one focus was to think about the Maori aspect of the environment but also plants of interesting the way. There is a magnificent pa site on the walk.

My role was to provide some 'expert knowledge' to the students in their tasks of identifying native plants on the way.The Te Henui track goes along an interesting patch of virgin native bush as well as extensive introduced plantings.

I was very impressed with the attitudes and interest shown by the students and could see that  future studies featuring bush exploring could be very fruitful. The school is also lucky enough to border the extensive bush in nearby Brooklands and Pukekura Parks. It is obvious that, although  the students were keen to learn about native plants their knowledge was a little thin - hence my involvement.

Too good not to explore.

When the classes reached the are where the pa was the students were involved in a little drama enactment about the pa and how the river Te Henui got its name.This is the kind of experience all students should have to develop a real sense of place.

Bridges - a future science tech study?

The walk continued to the sea passing through plantings of introduced trees . One tree that attracted attention of some of the students was a quince tree noticeable for its fruit. A topic for future research?

I was impressed with the students who were capturing data with their digital cameras or phones. I could see great potential for making use of such photos in future environmental studies. On this trip students were  also collecting photos for a photographic competition which had them thinking about aesthetic considerations.

The power of modern technology was demonstrated to me following my pointing out a Judas tree which I thought was named because this was the tree Judas was supposed to have hung himself on. One student quickly googled Judas tree and confirmed the story.  Things have sure changed since I was a  teacher!

After lunch , shared with the ducks, the students completed their excursion with a choice of activities. They could either make models in the sand or go  to make use  of the skateboarding park ( those who chose this option had had their equipment transported down).

I  watched with great interest the group making sand models. They all chose to depict their impressions of a Maori pa . They applied themselves with gusto and ingenuity and the creativity that arose was impressive.

All in all good day out -and a true learning experience for us all - students, teachers and parent helpers alike.

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