Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Harakeke (NZ flax) a quick end of year study

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Almost every New Zealand school has a Flax bush in the school grounds. A flax study is an ideal study topic to finish the year.

First see what students know about the flax bush and record their prior ideas. If they know little then they will be able to see how much they have learnt at the end of the study. They may know something about the Maori uses of flax, where they grow and, perhaps, that tuis visit their flowers in search of pollen.

Visit the flax to help the students gain some impressions. On such a first visit students could write down ideas to draft into a three line poem – one thought about the leaves (and the wind); one thought about the flowers stalks; and possibly one thought about the flowers, or last season seedpods, or if they are lucky a tui.

The teacher could collect a few samples of flowers to bring back to class.

Back in class students could complete an observational drawing of a flower and, while they are doing this, they could be asked to think about why plants have flowers and any questions about flax that come to mind. They might not think that the flax has ‘real’ flower. While drawing different parts of a flower could be identified and the transition to young pods observed. They could also research the relationship between the tui and the flax. The use of a digital camera would be useful at this point.

The thought poems could be tidied up (they should be encouraged to pick their words carefully) and poems could be displayed with the drawings. Or poems could be superimposed on black and white digital photos of a flax bush.

Students, after looking at some leaves (noting the parallel veins and ribs), could colour in with crayon and cut our leaves to combine to make into a mural .Others could draw some stalks on which bunches of flowers and pods could be attached.

Students could research up questions about flax they and be asked to research Maori uses of harakeke. They may be able to discover some Maori saying based on the flax. They may even be able to attempt some flax weaving if they had some help. They could also research early European uses of flax.

The school will have plenty of resources based on the flax.

If there are some last season flax stalks around pods could be investigated to see how many seeds in one pod and then they could estimate how many seeds on a full grown flax bush. Old stalks make idea media to carve into canoes with outriggers.

More than enough for a focussed integrated unit of work. If there are no flax bushes around search for an agapanthus plant – they are also an interesting plant to explore this time of year.

When completed a display could be created on the classroom wall.


Anonymous said...

What a great idea - flax is a NZ icon.

Anonymous said...

Good ideas! Of course there are many other lesser known native plants that New Zealand children would do well to know about.

A recent survey shows that the total species range of exotics that have become naturalized in the wild is now greater than the number of original native species.

Our only hope in preserving our unique biodiversity of flora depends on overcoming an almost overwhelming level of ignorance and apathy.

Keep up the great blogs!

Anonymous said...

It is good to see some one focussing on interpreting the environment rather than always learning from the web.

Anonymous said...

All kiwi kids should know about the flax. It is part of their culture. Do you think students are as aware of their natural environment as they once were?

Bruce said...

Short answer about are students aware of their environment as they used to be - no!

The virtual world has replaced the real.

Protection of our bio-diversity is a future concern and to sustain it we need to help the young appreciate it.

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