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Let’s Build a Zoo!

I can’t quite believe I have now been travelling around Australia in a little van for nearly a whole year! We have travelled the length of the East Coast and have made some unforgettable memories! But as you can see, I haven’t exactly been neck deep in environmental education. Teaching it that is, as I can safely say I have learnt a great deal on my journey from zoos, trips and lots of fascinating people.

This is why I decided to dedicate the last 4 months of our first year in Australia to continue in teaching and trying to be a part of the animal education industry. After lots of enquiring, emailing applying and not much luck, I got my first job in Australia! I was now a kids club attendant at Sea World Resort, Gold Coast. No it wasn’t actually teaching environmental education, but it was a foot in the door in a huge tourism company with 2 different animal parks (Sea World and Paradise Country), so I was a really happy bunny!

As the job was casual, I searched for a day job with a guaranteed income. I replied to an add looking for a home school teacher 3 days a week (perfect!) and this is where I met the wonderful Milly and her family. Milly is 11 and wasn’t getting on too well in school, so mum wanted someone to go back over year 5 with her, focusing the work on her specific interests and needs. Much to my delight, Milly loves animals, so this is where the topic ‘Let’s Build a Zoo!’ was born! I worked really hard in planning a topic where Zoos and animal education were involved in as many usual school subjects as possible, linking closely to the year 5 Australian Curriculum. (http://www.acara.edu.au/verve/_resources/Content_for_Year_5_-_Learning_area_content_descriptions.pdf)
I was really proud of the outcome, Milly did some fantastic work and we both really enjoyed the topic. Therefore I thought I would share it with you all on here in case anyone would like to use this topic, or any of the individual lessons in their teaching!

Literacy
In literacy we firstly looked at the non-fiction topic of information texts. Milly’s overall task was to create a sign for an animal enclosure in her zoo.
To become familiar with information texts we looked at many animal fact books, aimed at different audiences, to look at common features. We then looked in more detail at how to use these features in the text. E.g. Captions, titles, sub headings, bullet points etc. To help Milly picture what an animal enclosure sign in particular might need to include, we took a trip to Sea World to have a look! Milly took pictures of the enclosure signs she liked and pointed out all the text features we had been studying.
Back in the classroom Milly chose her animal to create a sign about, stingrays, and then carried out lots of research, both in books and online. After creating a plan together she independently created her information sign. This was the finished result, I know I’d like to see that hanging up in a zoo!!
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The second literacy text was persuasive writing. Again we looked at all the features of a persuasive writing text, and learnt them in detail. Together we planned and practiced writing a persuasive writing piece. Her independent work for this text study was to write a piece either for or against zoos, she chose to write for zoos (phew!). Together we researched many arguments as to why a zoo is good and important. Milly was then able to independently plan and write an effective piece of persuasive writing.

Maths
There were so many year 5 study areas that we were able to cover in a zoo topic! First of all we looked at graphs, this would link to our scientific study (see science).
Secondly we studied area and perimeter. By doing this we were able to map out the size of our zoo, the size of the different animal enclosures, and then how to best fit those enclosures into our zoo.
Lastly, and Milly’s personal favourite study, was money. We looked at the financial costs of running a zoo. We worked out how many enclosures, staff and facilities our zoo could have with a given budget. We decided on pricings for entry, gifts and food based on our visit to Sea World and finally how many people would need to visit the zoo a day to be able to make a profit.

Science
When I first arrived, Milly had just gotten a new kitten, so I spotted a brilliant investigation opportunity. We planned a scientific investigation to measure the  kittens growth and then measured his weight and length for the next 8 weeks (the kitten was often not best pleased with our project!). We then plotted our results on a graph and concluded what we had discovered. We then also discussed how this could inform us when raising cubs of big cats in our zoo.
During this time we also looked at animal adaptations. As well as discussing different adaptations we also carried out experiments to help Milly physically see the benefit of the adaptation. My favourite being; 1.putting your hand in oil in an ice bucket to demonstrate the effectiveness of blubber. 2. making giraffe spit out of corn starch and water, to demonstrate how they are able to eat leaves off of spiky trees! We also touched on evolution and natural selection, but this is an incredibly hard topic for adults to grasp, let alone 11 year olds!

Art
Again this study was inspired by our trip to Sea World. Milly was fascinated by the little penguins, so we decided to design an enclosure! Milly researched, in great detail, what little penguins need to survive, and what other little penguin enclosures look like. I then helped her with a design and she got making. I could not have been more pleased with the outcome! We even got the approval of some little penguin zookeepers!!
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Geography
After a reminder on what a continent is and where places are on a world map, we researched using books, the internet, and documentaries, animals from Europe and North America (these are the two continents recommended for study in the curriculum). Milly then made a lovely fact file about the animals she had learnt about.

Milly then noticed that a threat common to a lot of these animals was direct or indirect poisoning. Therefore, using her information and persuasive text knowledge, made a poster to inform people about the dangers of animal poisoning.
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I really have loved my time teaching Milly, and I am proud of how successful this topic has been. She has really enjoyed it and has come on in leaps and bounds. Obviously this was just a snapshot of the work, so if you would like any more detail or copies of planning please feel free to ask! As always please feel free to share to anyone you think may find this useful.

Our following topic was dinosaurs (also super fun!) so to finish, here is a picture of us on my last day, sporting some pretty scary masks!!
Speak soon, lots of love 🙂 x
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Environmental Education, Aussie Style!

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So our exciting Australian adventure has been ongoing for 2 1/2 months now and we have just started our second year visa work on a farm an hour west of Gympie, QLD. I am nannying for a 4 & 2 year old which is turning out to be a challenging and testing experience that I will admit I was certainly not prepared for. But that’s not what this blog is about so I won’t bore you with my issues of adjusting to Aussie farm life. What I will tell you about is the fantastic opportunity I had last week whilst the children I am looking after were away.

The children had gone away for a week and I was really struggling to find worthwhile activities to fill my time, especially as this week was not paid or counting towards my second year visa. I tried the school to offer volunteering but due to not having a working with children (blue) card I was unable to go in for the week. Luckily on my drive into town one day I noticed a sign for an environmental education school around 40Km away (a short drive in Australian terms!). So I rang up the school, explained who I was and my situation and they were happy to take me on for a day to experience their school!

After conquering the bumpy dirt road in our old school 1984 caravan I arrived at a little school set deep in thick forest. I was greeted by the lovely Sue Gibson who instantly made me feel welcome to the school. I could tell that this was safe, familiar and comforting territory for me…something I had been seriously craving! Sue explained to me that they had a full day of activities running all about traditional Aboriginal Australia, with a large group of year 5s from Bundaberg.
First I was taken down to where a group of children were shelter building, a lovely familiar activity for me to start with. The children were busy with their wonderful looking wooden tipis, so I took the opportunity to chat to the environmental ed teacher and the teacher from the Bundaberg school. Both were great to chat to and it was nice to hear about their experiences and opinions of environmental and general Australian education. I then got stuck in with the children! All were more than happy to explain to me how their shelters were built and I sat with a group discussing the best and safest way for a fire pit to be made. Once the groups were finished the environmental education teacher invited the children to ask each other questions about their shelters and to explain their techniques. Again it was comforting to see familiar teaching methods that one would instinctively use in a similar way back home. Finally the teacher tested the shelters for durability (giving them a good kick) and waterproofing, giving each team a score out of 10. A healthy bit of competition.

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This was followed by morning tea where the teachers were kind enough to let me try some of the fantastic bush tucker (all the better as i’d forgotten my lunch!). This included wonderful new tastes such as wottle seed damper bread, sunset lime marmalade, bunya nut, macadamia nut & lemon myrtle tea.
Next was weaponry! Here the children were able use spears to catch bush turkeys, kangaroos and wallabies…don’t worry these little critters were made out of cardboard! What I thought was really great about this was the teacher explaining to the children about how the aboriginals would have hunted because they needed to, else they would have nothing to eat. This then lead to a discussion about where our meat comes from and how this is just a modern day version of hunting for food. After the children had all had a go at throwing a boomerang it was my go, and I’m ashamed to say that all of the children did better than me!

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After lunch the children were shown a range of aboriginal artifacts and were able to discuss and present in partners what the different artifacts were, who used them and what they were used for. The most interesting for me was a stone which was used as an axe that was found nearby the school, even though the stone it was made from does not originate anywhere near this area. This is incredible as it shows that either the aboriginal people would have had to travel thousands of kilometers to reach where the rock was left, or that they would swap and trade objects with other tribes. Fascinating!

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Then the last exciting part of my day (the children still had a couple further activities) was a walk through the forest identifying trees. Not did this activity clearly make use of the children’s observational skills but also got them to realise how different all of the trees really are! Although not directly linked to the traditional theme, I believe this was my favourite activity of the day. This was also when I saw my first snake! We were walking along and one of the children spotted something in the grass coming towards us, unfortunately it was long, slithery and black with a red belly! At first I was excited but then suddenly aware that I had 6 children with me! We just moved slowly forward and luckily the beautiful creature just crossed the path right in front of us! Truly exciting.

I am so appreciative of the Barambah Environmental Education Centre and Bundaberg school for letting me share a day with them. It reminded me of the job I really loved and restored some of the motivation to try and stay in the environmental education industry. I learnt a lot and enjoyed talking to all the children and staff. To top it all off there were a few wallabies and kangaroos out to say hello on my way home! A truly lovely day.

Unfortunately the next day I was quickly brought back down to earth when the children came home and I was reminded of what I am actually supposed to be doing here. But the 3 months here gives me time to apply for my teaching registration in Australia so that once we are finished and have done some more traveling I can begin applying for teaching positions. I have come up with some lovely animal and nature related activities to do with the children, so if they are interested in these at some point, I will upload pictures and let you know how they go!

G’day for now 🙂 x

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Friends for Sharks

Yesterday I learnt lots of amazing things about sharks! For instance did you know that there are 465 species of shark and have up to 40000 teeth in their lifetime?! I learnt that Great Whites grow up to 6m long, weigh up to 2 tonnes, live up to 70 years and can reach speeds of 20mph! Why did I learn these lovely little facts about sharks? I attended an open lecture by a marine conservation cause called ‘Friends for Sharks’. This cause was dreamt up and is run by shark experts and enthusiasts Kathryn Hodgson and Nick Curzon. Both have spent large amounts of time studying and working with sharks and decided that they would like to travel spreading word about these fascinating and misjudged creatures. In their talks they not only give you lots of interesting facts about sharks, Great Whites in particular, but they also spread the word about the plight of sharks and how you can help! They explained how sharks are threatened in several ways, for example: incorrect and sensationalist media, shark fin soup and poaching. All in all sharks are threatened by us! Kathryn and Nick told us some horrendous and quite upsetting statistics about the effect we are having on sharks. Shockingly 11400 sharks are killed per hour! Only 3000 great whites are left in the world, at the most, and they could go extinct in our life time! What can we do to help stop this? EDUCATION. And that’s exactly what Kathryn and Nick are doing with Freinds for Sharks, in an exciting, interesting, and passionate way! They are currently taking their talk on a world tour, the flights for which they are paying for out of their own pockets! So have a look on their website and see if their world tour is coming anywhere near you! If you work somewhere that could benefit from their talks I highly recommend you get in touch as this talk will benefit people of all ages, with a little or a lot of marine knowledge. Or if you are unable to visit a talk but want to help them along please make a donation to them! This will go towards educational resources, essential tour costs (but not flights as previously mentioned) and to support their chosen charities; Project Aware and the Shark Trust. You can get all this info and more at their website: http://www.friendsforsharks.com On top of all this I was also quite personally touched by this talk, persuaded not to ever give up on my dream! Kathryn has been on a long and what seems like a difficult road to get her to the point of starting Friends for Sharks. Things like people telling her to get a ‘normal’ job and struggling through injury. Yet here she is, spreading the word about her passion in life and helping to save these magnificent creatures. She’s even written a book about her journey, which I will definitely be reading! You can find it here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/No-Damage-adventure-courage-survival-ebook/dp/B00R2ZF14Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1423149350&sr=8-1&keywords=kathryn+hodgson She promised me there would be a paper back soon 😉 I wish Friends for Sharks all the luck in the world for their tour! A truly inspiring venture. 🙂

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Posters to Help Protect Primates.

In the last few weeks of Monkeying Around we looked at the primate pet trade. Now this is arguably the hardest topic I wanted to teach in the 8 weeks of the club and would have to go about it carefully so as to inspire the children rather than upset them.

I looked online and found some great teaching resources from Wild Futures in Cornwall. This gave me some really good info and statistics which I was then able to turn into a PowerPoint full of interesting info suitable for my Year 6s. They learnt all about the current laws for keeping a primate and what this tends to actually mean in reality: What they are fed, the cages they are kept in, the injuries that can cause and what can happen to them when they don’t ‘behave’ and the illegal pet trade taking monkeys from the wild. The children then watched the video about Joey, a rescued capuchin monkey at Wild Futures and were very much moved by his story.

(Wild futures: http://www.wildfutures.org/)

We had a big discussion about whether primates should be kept as pets. The children came to a conclusion that most people cannot keep primates as pets as they do not understand their needs. The children think that UK laws need to be tightened to stop just anyone owning a primate as a pet and to stop primates being trafficked from the wild. They also decided that they would like to help educate as to what it’s really like to have a monkey as a pet…

So they made some posters to do just that!

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The posters have information about the reality of keeping a monkey, discuss how they feel about it and talk about Joey the Capuchin as an example.

I was sad that this was the last thing I would be teaching the children but was also really proud about how enthusiastic the children had become on the subject of primate conservation!

One of girls had done a whole piece of descriptive writing about a macaque during the classes big write. Two more girls surprised me with books they had made in their own time, full of facts about different animals, including notes telling me how much they’ve enjoyed the club!

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Tad emotional but job well done I feel!

On another note. This will probably be my last post for a long time as I am back to university for my last 6 months of study and to ensure all concentration is on my essays and passing, I will be slowing the voluntary/ part time work right down. However my other half and I have an exciting move planned in June…to Australia! I am very much hoping to carry on this environmental education journey out there. So if anyone has any contacts out there in this field of work, please do send me a message!

Thanks 🙂

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Save the Macaque!

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I may have mentioned previously, yanno maybe once or twice, that my favourite animal in the world is a Sulawesi Crested Black Macaque.

So for the last couple of weeks, conservation club have been learning all about these majestic little critters. 😀

The year 6s researched the monkeys looking at their behaviour, habitat and diet, leading to them also falling very much in love with the mohawked characters! The children also looked at why they are so critically endangered and what people in Sulawesi are doing to help. So this clearly included the fantastic charity, who I am in upmost support of, Selamatkan Yaki. ( http://selamatkanyaki.com/ )

The children learnt about how education is so important for the children in Sulawesi and that Selamatkan Yaki teach them all about their local monkeys! They were so inspired by the work that of course, they wanted to help! So we decided that we could make an education video, to help teach others about the Sulawesi Crested Black Macaque.

After some more research and working very hard on an effective script, this is what they came up with…

(Please bare in mind the children only had 2 half hour sessions to make this video)

The children have been very brave in making this video, so any feedback for them would be very much appreciated. Thank you 🙂

Save the Macaque!

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Woodland Wonderers

As we get older we forget the joys of just being able to experience an environment, big or small, and just explore. The answer to most questions can be presented far too easily with a lazy click of a mouse. Therefore it is essential that even in this modern, technology and concrete filled world that we let children immerse and discover.

In light of this I decided to use a lesson on ‘materials and their properties’, with my 30 year 1s, as a perfect opportunity to let the children explore their environment and ‘work scientifically’.
This lesson relied heavily on 2 resources: 1. egg boxes 2. whatever mother nature provides in the local field/wood/park. After an introduction on materials and their properties; how do our clothes feel? Etc., children were given an egg box in chosen mixed ability pairs. In each section of this egg box was a label of a different material property, using language they will have used in the intro.  E.g. Soft, hard, rough, smooth and spikey!
I then took the children to the school’s small tree covered area, asked them to find things to go in the different sections and just let them go and explore!

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The children were completely engaged! So much so that when one or two of them slipped down the bank you did not hear the crying that you would expect, instead they just got up, dusted the mud off, and carried on. The variety of things that the children found amazed me. Smooth chestnuts, their spikey shells, soft flowers, hard wood, grass, stones, moss and much more.

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Once back in the classroom this variety of materials and the children’s enthusiasm made for a fascinating discussion. We were able to ask why? Why is the wood hard? Why does the flower need to be soft? Why is the chestnut’s shell spikey?

I can honestly say I think this is one of my favourite lessons I have ever taught. The next day I taught it to the other year 1 class who seemed to enjoy it just as much.

Working in a non classroom environment allows you to see your children in a completely different light and could just be the moment where the one child who cant stand a pencil and paper, absolutely blossoms.

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Busy as a Bee!

The last few weeks have been chock-a-block! Full of bug eating, big bangs and bottom wiggling!

I have been incredibly busy with work over the past few weeks but during that time I have been involved in some very exciting educational activities. Firstly, back in July, was the South West Big Bang Fair, held at Exeter University. This event is all about getting children into science! Children from lots of different secondary schools had brought along their science projects to be judged, and some of the ideas were just genius; from particle physics to sustainable building. The rest of the hall was full of scientific organisations with activities aiming to get children into science.
This is where we came in; myself, a presenter from living coasts and 4 Zoo interns went along to show children the wide range of fascinating Zoo careers they could become involved in. Our activities were mainly vet related and included ‘Guess the animal X-ray’, learning how to resuscitate a dog, and practicing cheetah darting skills. We also had lots of animal artefacts to look at and a really interesting sustainable fishing game. We were really pleased with how popular our activities were. By the end of the day we had spoken to around 400 students and all our career booklets had gone! Hopefully we inspired some future keepers, vets, teachers and researchers!

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Next up was the Exeter Summer Dine event. This was a marketing event and involved local attractions and restaurants visiting Exeter town centre to advertise their business, but of course our stall had an environmental twist!
This twist was our bug eating challenge. On the menu for brave shoppers that day were meal worms, crickets and locus! The reason behind this grim sounding challenge is a serious environmental message. As Earth’s population continues to grow, agricultural land continues to expand, destroying habitats as it does so and soon enough we are going to run out of room. Therefore we need to find a sustainable food source that can feed this massive population without causing more damage to our environment. Insects like these really seem to fit that bill; plus they have no calories and are full of protein! 80% of the worlds population already eat insects on a regular basis, only us Europeans are grossed out by the concept. Therefore my aim was to help people get over the fear of eating an insect. My personal favourite is the locus. 😛
Overall the day went very well. Lots of people were really interested and brave, especially young children. However on this occasion I was absolutely shocked at the rudeness of some members of the general public; no thank you is a perfectly suitable answer. The bug eating challenge will always be one of my favourite activities, every reaction is different!

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Finally, over the last few weeks I have been teaching!!! 😀
One of the Zoos education officers sadly left us recently meaning that until the position was filled, formal Zoo teaching sessions would need to be covered. I was so flattered when I was asked to do some of them!
Even though I have taught lessons all day on placement, my first session for the zoo was particularly nerve racking. I think this is because this was my chance; my chance to show I can teach! I read through the session plan over and over and before I new it the children were there ready. The lesson went really well and I loved every single minute of it and was buzzing for the rest of the day!
I have now taught lessons to children from year 1-6 about tropical rainforests, animals around the world, baby animals and will be teaching about African animals next week. My favourite part of any session so far is when talking about peacocks. I get the boys to all stand up holding peacock feathers and to do their best peacock bottom wiggle dance to the girls! The girls are never very impressed but it always gets them giggling. 🙂
These few sessions have been such a fantastic opportunity for me. Firstly they confirmed that this really is what I want to do and I will continue working hard to get there. Secondly I have been given positive for my lessons so far by the class teachers; which means my hard work has not been for nothing, I can do this!

I will be sad when I teach my last session next week. But the last few weeks have definitely continued to motivate me to keep working hard, keep trying to improve what I do, and things might just fall into place!