Tuesday, November 22, 2016

An environmental study for New Zealand teachers

A chance to do some real inquiry: Harakeke study and other ideas


Flowers on phormium cookianum - mountain flax  .
An environmentally alert teacher always keep an eye open for interesting things to introduce to his, or her, students. November/December is an ideal time for environmental or ecological studies. My visits to schools this term indicates such awareness is a lost art.
Dramatic flower stalks

By term four students should be fully equip ed with all the skills and strategies in place to undertake inquiry topics on their own or with minimum assistance. The ability to do this would indicate that students are able to 'seek, use and create their own knowledge' as asked by the New Zealand Curriculum.

Driving around last month I couldn't help but note the untapped resources available for teachers to involve their class in exploring.
Flowers emerging on Phormium tenax

This is a great time to study harakeke or flax, one of New Zealand iconic plants. Students could visit to admire the shapes,patterns and movements and to observe the recent flower stalks and developing seed pods. Digital photos could record various aspects to later draw or write thought poems about. From such activities questions will arise for students to research. If you can find some last years pods count how many seed on an average flax bush - this will involve estimation.

Other interesting areas to explore are roadsides, lawns or wilderness grassy areas, to find out what plants thrive in such special conditions. There is no need to worry about naming plants - this will evolve with time.In the first instance take digital photos of plants and record how common they are on a scale the class can develop themselves. Individual plants an be studied, drawn , described and named where possible ( there will be experts in the community you could call on). If there are daisies on the lawn throw some PE rings and count out how many there are - or run a line across the lawn and count the daisies ( or any other plant) touched.This is a simple line transect - real maths in action.

Most schools have interesting plants ( annuals or shrubs) flowering at this time of the year.Take digital photos of some, do observational drawing of them, study them and display what has been found out. Vegetables and fruits make interesting studies - study them and research where they originated.

What birds inhabit the school grounds - once again take photos and descriptions and research back in class.
Flowers and young seed pods

Some schools might be near the seashore with the possibilities of ecological studies of rocky shore or sand dunes but at this time of year time might not be available for such interesting studies. Same with the bushHowever many schools have native plant gardens, what plants have been used. Take digital photos, draw and research.

Leaving natural science studies students could just develop artistic and aesthetic awarenessThe digital camera is ideal. Send students out in small group to photograph, say six, interesting patterns, tree trunks, maths patterns, very small things, strange small plants..anything. Print and display. Add thought poems.

Classrooms should be full of such things.It is time for blue penguins, disaster studies, and save the rain forest studies to move over and let the real world in.
Flax feature in  Taranaki artist Caz Novaks painting




1 comment:

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