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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. 🙂