Wednesday, 6 July 2016

"Stepping stones Project" Science Week June 2016

Thanks to the generous support of the Aune Conservation Association, Learn to Sea was able to offer another nature, outdoor learning experience for the children of Aveton Gifford Primary School.

This year the whole school were able to take part in a full week of activities which aimed to explore the local area surrounding the school and leading down to the Avon Estuary and on to South Efford Marsh.

The following year groups explored the following areas:

Reception: "Our School" - the pond and forest area on their own school grounds.

Year 1/2: "Our Village Stream" - the stream and outdoors area adjacent to the village hall

Year 3/4: "Our Estuary" - venturing down to the upper tidal road of the Avon Estuary

Year 5/6: "Our Marsh" - heading to Devon Wildlife Trust managed South Efford Marsh

Our School

Discovering Pollen
This catered for the youngest children of the school. We went to the outside area of the school grounds where the young children were encouraged to use their eyes to find the finest detail in their local environment. As a result of this they found aphids on stems of flowers, ants under rocks, the detail of a dandelion and even that tapping a hedgerow would encourage wisps of pollen to be released in to the air.

The children went on to see how colourful their local outdoor space was thanks to the plants and flowers. They made a rainbow of the colourful plants and flowers to reinforce just how colourful their wild patch is.

Dragonfly Nymph 
Finally, we had a good pond dip in the school pond. It seems this pond is extremely healthy! We found an impressive dragonfly nymph with budding wings, a newtlet and a whole selection of invertebrates which proved just how rich and diverse the life in the pond was!

Rainbow Nature
Our Pond
The follow on classroom session included, in small groups, acting out the life cycle of either the dragonfly or the newt. It's one to be seen! They then coloured in illustrations of the cycle to add to the display boards.

Pond Dippers 

Our Village Stream

European Eel
Stream Kickers! 
The focus of this session was in the stream. Here the children split in to 4 separate groups who all had pond dipping kit (provided by the ACA in 2014). We had a fantastic time exploring the stream which lies not a stone's throw from the school. We found that the stream was, again, extremely healthy with not only the expected mayfly larvae and hundreds of caddis fly larvae but also a very special visitor - a European Eel! What a find! It was great to be able to tell the children that this little Eel had travelled all the way from the East coast of America all the way to our little stream here in Aveton Gifford.

Following on from this we did an exercise on the village green using our senses to explore our surroundings and thinking of words to help describe our senses. At the end the children offered a single word to describe what they found.

Follow on classroom session included chatting about the European Eel - discovering cool facts about them like where they migrate from and why they are endangered. They then went on to draw illustrations of the life cycle of the eel including the lovely term of "leptocephalus". Other children put a poem together using the words that they had pulled together from their multi-sensory exploration.

Powerful kicking of the stones,
Finding a beautiful stunning eel,
A cool, sliding pond skater,
Looking in the tray I felt excited.

A joyful field with burning sun,
The flowing water in the stream,
Sailing down to the deep, blue sea.
The eel happily swims along!

I smelled the pretty flowers while I was running through,
I saw the gentle wind blowing through the leaves,
We saw pollen for the lovely bees.
I heard birds happily singing.

We all love living by the stream.

Kick Sampling

Our Estuary

Using Notebooks to Remember their Experience
With this group of children we walked from the school, past the village stream (mentioning what we'd discovered) on to the tidal road.

Here we found a great spot to sit on a wall that looked over the estuary and with the children's note books at hand explore our surroundings. The children looked at what they could see around them both near and far. They then went on to think of things that people liked doing around the estuary. Some of this they could see - people walking dogs, sail boats, cycling, swimming and even farming in the adjacent fields. We then looked at what we all loved to do at the estuary and why it was important to us. We ended up with a substantial list of reasons why the estuary was very important to us.

What a load of rubbish! 
This then led us on to why we need to protect the environment. As it also happened to be World Ocean Day we talked about how whatever we put in the estuary here could end up in the sea and end up harming wildlife not only in the estuary but also in the sea. So we decided to do something about this as we all wanted to continue doing what we loved doing on our estuary. We did a mini beach clean and collected a variety of pieces of plastic, crisp packets and other litter.

In the follow up classroom session the children wrote impassioned pleas about why we mustn't drop litter and why they love their estuary. There were also some children who chose to create a drawing of their estuary inspired by they note-taking and sketching from their field trip.

Our Marsh

The older children headed to South Efford Marsh for their session. Here we sat by the stream and the children were asked to pick one of the many buttercups surrounding them. With little instruction I asked the children to draw the buttercup. This they did and they drew some very pretty drawings. I then did an exercise to show how amazing our eyes are at seeing both near and far. We then looked again at the buttercup and I asked the children to describe to me in word what they saw from the petals to the leaves. They then peeled a petal away so that they could see all the details of the buttercup.

After this they were asked to draw the buttercup again but this time with as much detail as possible and included labelling the parts of the flower such as sepals, anthers and filaments.  We talked about how different flowers use different ways to spread their pollen or to be fertilised.

The children also carried out a multi-sensory exploration of the marsh whilst sat in one spot. This is really an exercise to better engage the children with their surroundings in a quiet and still way. It helps create a comprehensive understanding of what makes the South Efford Marsh ecosystem.

The follow on sessions from all these classes helped create a display board both in the school and separately to help tell people about just how wonderful their local environment surrounding their school really is.

South Efford Marsh

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