June 12

Camp Illawonga 2017

We were busy packing on the weekend. There was a lot to bring to school!

Mickey courtesy of Tumblr

Week six had finally arrived. The day we had been waiting for since we started in grade three.

We were going …. Camping!

Yay.

Most of Mrs Woolford’s year 3/4 class would be joining our excited campers. We left our families for three days and two nights. Would they survive without us? They would just have to be brave. But it was okay if some parents needed extra hugs good-bye.

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We had a long two hour journey to get to Camp Illawonga in Swan Reach, which would be our new home for the next few days. Thankfully the coach had comfortable seats and seatbelts.

Map from Illawonga home page

The road trip was fabulous, but travelling made us hungry, so we stopped to stretch our legs, have a bite to eat and of course have a little playtime. Angaston was the perfect place.

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Another short ride, well sort of …… and we were soon settled into our dormitories at camp. Our class was on lunch duty so it was straight to work. Yum … Tacos.

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Mark, the Camp Leader, gave us a lot of information and instructions about being safe for our stay and expectations around the camp site. Soon it was back on another bus for a short ride. We were crossing the Murray River on the punt to visit The Murray Aquaculture Centre. This was an interesting place where we learnt about almond farming and yabbies.

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That was fun because we also had a challenge  to see which team would catch the most yabbies. Yabby catching sounded simple enough, but there were some tricks to learn…… patience.

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The girls were Yabby catching heroes, how did they do it!

The sun was going down, and it was getting cooler, but there was still so much to do… more duty groups for tea.

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After our delicious meal, we went into the gym for some outrageously exciting fun. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring the still camera!… But trust us, we worked up an appetite for a yummy supper with twisting and jumping, turning and rolling, hanging and falling…… before it was time to hit the sack. We had a huge day planned so we needed our beauty sleep.

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Some of us slept soundly. Poor little Scarlett.

Up and at em, the next morning was quite eerie. A mysterious fog crept in, it threatened to hide the sun… but we found it.

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Lucky the Sun burnt off the fog by the time we were ready for our river cruise. We needed our floatation devices before we could walk down to the boat.

While we went on the cruise, the other groups went on a caving expedition and a Safari ride. We would all rotate activities throughout the camp. Once again, I left the still camera behind for the cruise… but I remembered it for the ride to the caves.

Those hard hats were fabulous protection, without them I think we would all be a little shorter!

After that adventure we had a short bushwalking to a HUGE river red gum. That tree was so big we just fit around it! We had enormous fun building Tepees with all the twigs and sticks lying around.

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Each time we visited the river, it meant a short but steep 400m walk down a gravel path… naturally we had to walk back up too. That was tiring, luckily Ellen makes us do fitness each week so it was a piece of cake.

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We needed to get back to camp quickly, as we had to get ready for an exciting adventure at Sunny Dale sheep farm.

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What a whip cracking great time we had. We really earned our tea that night. In fact some us sang after supper! Karaoke was so much fun, we have stars in the making. Stay tuned for the videos.

It was a perfect night for a camp fire.. but oh,we forgot to sing a Letter from Camp! Still the planets were smiling for us in the night sky. Then of course the marshmallows needed toasting… yum.

Time for bed, it was a big day indeed and it isn’t over, there’s more to come. To bed!

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Getting up wasn’t that easy, lots to pack and clean up before breakfast and be ready for our last activities. I missed the Safari ride, but I did managed to check out archery. We had some bullseyes. Bravo.

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All too soon we needed to pack the bus and say our goodbyes to Mark and the team. Camp was the best. Three cheers for Illawonga.

We reckon it was sad to leave, but we were glad to get back home to our loving families too. Thanks to our brave Dad, Shane Brow who gave up his time to help with the boys and group C.

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Dear Families,

Apart from a few sore tummies, there were no problems just loads of fun and learning. Thank you so much for allowing me to borrow your precious ones for those few days, we have some wonderful memories. Stay tuned for some great videos the kids will be working on. I might have a go too.

Warm regards, Ellen

April 1

Classifying living things

As scientists, our job is to record our observations. So before we began investigating our topic for this term, we brushed up on our scientific drawing skills. Ellen gave us an interesting specimen to look at closely and we had a go at drawing the object with as much detail as we could. We added labels another helpful notes.

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Our Topic for investigation this term has been

Feather, Fur or Leaves

We began by checking out a scientists journal entry. Were things living or not?  Was it an insect? Was it an animal or plant? How could we tell? Did we agree with the observations and recordings? Why? Why not? Questions, questions…?scientists should always questions. That also makes them think of answers, so we should be able to give an explanation of why we think what we do too.

We shared and recorded our ideas of these journal entries in different groups according to our understanding.

 We thought our explanations were quite thoughtful, given the limited information.

 

We got excited by the different specimens that we compared, so we set up our own nature table.

Phoebe’s Grandmother bought her a Venus fly trap to observe, Phoebe kindly added it to our collection.

 

Taxonomy anyone?

So what do you call it when a scientist sorts out stuff? We sorted lots of living things into two groups plants and animals. There seemed to be a lot of animals, they couldn’t all belong to one group, could they?

We were given some animals cards and in groups we stared looking at similar features. We made a list of features we could use to separate animals into groups.

We shared our thinking with the class.

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It is hard to be a complete expert and remember everything, so having tools to help makes our life easier. We were introduced to a branching key. That unlocked the door to any problems we had.

By answering yes no questions, we could slowly refine our search until we had the exact group. For example.. Start at the first question…

This animal, Does it have bones in its body. No Does it have a hard body. Yes Does it have antennae. Yes Does it have more than two antennae? No Does it have six legs? No -its a Myriapod

We had a go using more animal cards. It was quite challenging. How do you know the answers, sometimes we went down the wrong path?

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Time to collect some real animals and put the table into action. We set up an investigation. Searching for animals groups in the leaf litter at Grange School. To get us on track, we predicted what we thought we might see. To be fully prepared, we read our procedure carefully, making sure we had everything we needed. For a successful investigation we all needed to know our jobs, so it was time to negotiate.

 

But wait, field work can be hazardous. So we armed ourselves with eye protection and wore gloves in case of any bites. We were ready to go out and collect a couple of scoops of leaf litter to see what animals we would find.

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Back in the laboratory, or the classroom as we usually refer to it, we looked closely at our leaf litter and checked out what specimens we could identify. Then we needed to work out which animal group it belonged to.

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We found a variety of things living under the leaf litter such as:- millipedes, ants, spiders, worms, bugs, moths, caterpillars. Each team recorded their own….eg.

Using the branching key we discovered that there were only four animal groups. We made a table to record this information and the total animals found in each group..

Making a Claim – stating a case

Tables are useful tools to help sort out information. From this we have evidence and can make a claim.

We claim that there are many different animal groups found in the leaf litter at Grange Primary School. We also claim that it is highly likely that you would find myriapods such as millipedes and slaters, as well as insects such as ants and beetles. We know this because in our total samples there were more myriapods and insects, compared to the small amounts of annelids and arachnids found.

We also thought that there were variables (things that might change our results) such as rain, time of day and time of year might effect which animal groups we would find.

 

What did you think of our unit?

Questions for you to answer and let me know how you felt about science this term.

What did you like most about this unit?

What didn’t you like?

What questions do you still have?

How could you solve some of the team issues you experienced in the research?

Which scientists do you believe would need to investigate in the field or use tools such as a branching key or table?

 

 

 

 

December 1

Were we Lost in Space?

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In term three and four our science topic had to do with What creates day and night, so it made sense to also investigate other cosmic ideas. We had enormous fun investigating these science ideas. We had a go at recording what we thought happened in space, before learning new information.

To begin with, we had to get our heads around the different ways things move in space. You would think that we would know if we were spinning and moving on Earth, as we live here, but oh no!  Our eyes can play tricks on us and our brains often get tricked too. This great Crash Course Kids clip on how the Earth moves, did help us clarify a few misconceptions.

 

Trying to understand the differences between and remember, rotation, revolution, orbit did make our heads spin.

So next it was our turn to investigate these celestial bodies for ourselves and really see things in action.

Space is REALLY, REALLY BIG and Things in space are really big and it’s hard to get our heads to understand that. We used these relative sizes pictures to understand that size is indeed relative. That means compared to each other. Ellen is bigger than us, we are small, but compared to a baby we are giants! The Moon is big, but Earth is bigger and when we looked at the Sun, it was the biggest… or was it? Check these out.

Still, hard to get our brains to think of anything that BIG! But distance in space can affect the size of what we see too.

So getting back to the three objets we were studying Sun, Earth and Moon we checked out their sizes. We used a basketball for the Sun, tennis ball for the Moon in this activity. Using our eyes to measure and working in teams we took turns to see how far the Sun would have to be moved away, so that the Moon and the Sun appeared the same size to the observer.

Now I told them that even though we know the Sun is enormous, it is also far away and that it appeared the same size as a full Moon in the sky. Just as their basketball looked the same as the tennis ball from their activity… they weren’t convinced.

It was time to prove it to them. Luckily I had my eclipse glasses and making sure they operated within the safety rules, they each checked out just how small the Sun actually looked in the sky.. it really is no bigger than a full Moon.  Cool!  Amazing, they even saw the Sunspots.

So it is true, the Sun and the Moon appear to be the same size! Incidentally that’s why we get Solar eclipses. These are fascinating events indeed. If ever you can, be in the path of totality.

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What do Shadows tell us?

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Well a lot really and it turned out we already knew a lot about shadows.

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Ah, so now it was time to investigate light and shadows. It was tricky to get our room dark enough, but we experimented with torches and making shadows. Some of us were exceptionally talented at shadow puppetry.

From our observations, we reconfirmed many of our scientific ideas about how light works and what created a shadow. Light does travel in a straight line and anything getting in the way of the ray of light blocked it, creating a shadow. This gave us lots of information to get us thinking of what we could investigate.

Getting back to the sun and the shadows we saw around the school, we decided to set out an investigation on how these shadows in the school changed over the day.

In our teams we planned to go out every hour on the hour and measure the length of a gnomon. ( shadow stick, much like a sundial) Each team found a sunny spot. Lined the gnomon/poster to the North with a compass and set about recording the time and length of the shadows cast by the gnomon throughout the day.

Eventually with shared team work, our boards looked a little like this.

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Once we had all our recorded observations, we could look at the information closely and see if we noticed any thing interesting. This is called analysing data.

In our teams once a gain we set about analysing the information . We discussed our ideas and made our claims based on the data.

To make our observations clearer, we organised them into a table and from that, we could create a graph.

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This graphic record made it easier for us read and come up with some claims and conclusions it was the proof and evidence we needed.

We claimed that:-

Shadows changed length over the day long to short then long again.

That when the Sun is low in the sky, the shadows are longer and when it is high in the sky, the shadow are shorter.

The Sun moved from East to West over the sky because the shadows moved West East.

Our Conclusions

We know that the Sun is in the Centre of the Solar System. It rotates but doesn’t move. So that meant the Sun didn’t move, it was Earth’s rotation that made it look like the Sun was moving.

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So as the Sun continues to shine light and we know the Earth spins once every 24 hours. We get day when we face towards the Sun and we are in night when we are in the shadow of Earth.

But we also know that we are orbiting the Sun and as we go on our year long journey around the Sun, we take our Moon with us. That combination of rotations and orbits does get our heads dizzy thinking about it.

earth-sun-orbit-animation

 

Understanding how all this works is tricky, but we enjoyed learning about our near celestial neighbours and working scientifically.

We also had the opportunity to give an oral presentation on a topic to do with space. We had a great variety of themes planets, rockets, space travel, famous astronauts etc. These were well researched and shared confidently for the most part.

Space Art

For a creative challenge, we could make an alien from plasticine and perhaps their pet, if they had one.

What do you think of our modelling skills?

Somethings to think about.

What did you think of this science unit?

What didn’t you like investigating?

What would you like to do more of?

What are you still puzzled about and would like to learn more about?

Would you like to work in space?

September 28

Lost in Space

maan

Grange has another fundraising activity that was fun to do. Kids Arts Works turns children’s art into various objects such as calendars, diaries, cards, mouse mats or sketch pads.

 

We supply the art, they make the products and for every one sold our school gets a percentage. As we have been learning about objects in space for science, we thought we would use that topic for our theme. Check out their adventurous astronauts…. who got…..

We thought families would like to see before you buy.

I thought they did a great job. What do you think?

August 28

Vanuatu

Hi everyone,

I have missed being in touch with you and thought I’d let you know what I was up to these past few weeks. As you know I went to a couple of islands in Vanuatu with my husband Peter. Here is a map showing you exactly how far I travelled. It took almost four hours to fly there from Sydney. Have you ever been on a plane? Where did you go?Vanuatu Islands map

 

As you can see Vanuatu is about the same latitude as Cairns, so if you have ever been there the climate is very similar. This part of the world has a tropical climate so there are lots of rainforests and the terrain is mountainous. I stayed on the largest island Espiritu Santo for ten days. The local people refer to it as Santo. Then we caught a plane to go South to a smaller island Tanna for the remainder of our holiday.

 

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In Santo Peter and I stayed in a resort by the ocean in a small Bungalow and I was able to look out of the rain forests to watch the ocean.

Of course the first thing we did was to snorkel the warm waters, where we found some interesting creatures. Have you ever been snorkelling?

There are some amazing rivers that are fed by underground springs. We were able to travel by traditional canoe down one. Peter even got to paddle, then we were able to swim in a blue water hole. An absolutely incredible experience. How do you feel about sitting on little boats or canoes? Do you think you could paddle one?

Of course there was more snorkelling and more friends to meet in the waters.

On Santo there are villagers that want to share how their traditional way of life works so they invite visitors in to show us their ways. They build all their huts and make various tools from their favourite tree .. the coconut tree. For them it a sacred tree because it provide so much. They get to drink the water/milk, coconut flesh to eat, cophra for cooking, husk and fibre for weaving, wood for building, the shells can be used for utensils or decorations. It is truly a useful tree nothing is wasted.

The villagers met us with a welcome dance and then showed us to separate huts, one for how the women and girls were taught and the other how the men and boys learnt what to do. Only men are allowed to make fire, they showed us their way in the women’s hut. They also make a special drink called Kava which was interesting to taste, it made my tongue and lips go numb!  But on other islands in Vanuatu, Kava should only be drunk by men.

I loved the dances by the people of the village. At one time all the women went into water and made music with their hands by slapping the water. it really sounded as if they had drums, amazing. While they are not an aggressive tribe, they pretended to threaten us in their dance routine… mm was I scared?

Yes we did more snorkelling, but we also went to visit the higher villages and do a trek to The Millennium Caves, so called because they were opened to public visitors in 2000. For this trip we began our walk at a small village where we were introduced to a tribal elder who would escort us to the cave. As we walked through his village we saw a small school, the teacher kindly allowed us to photo them learning their A,B, C’s. I noticed how carefully they were repeating their teacher. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Remember our research on Papua New Guinea? This country is very similar in lots of ways. How does this school compare to ours?

As we trekked through this village we came upon another close by where we met another guide. So Peter and I had a guide each to check we would safely get through this adventure. One obstacle to get over was a bamboo bridge. That was fun. Then it was through the jungle. we were given information about the different plants and their uses and warned not to touch certain ones!

Our trek took us deep into the jungle and through lots of hilly and steep terrain. Thankfully the villagers had built ladders to climb down or had ropes to hang on to. The sun was shining that day and it became quite hot. However this is an area with high rainfall so this track can get very muddy indeed. Before we could enter the cave, our guides painted our faces with symbols to represent the water, rocks and animals of the cave system.

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What an honour to be allowed to go in, I was getting excited because I knew there would be bats in there! Once we got way down to the cave’s entrance we could sense a new adventure just beginning. This cave is 300 m long 30 m wide and 50 m high. We had to walk through water and the base is mainly rocks and pebbles.. very slippery! Lucky we had torches and our life jackets! How do you feel about going into strange wet, dark places filled with flying things?

Inside the cave it was quite cool, I could hear a lot of flapping sounds, I think we startled the small fruit bats and swallows that call the cave their home. Every now and then small bits would fall on me…bat poo! It was quite strange walking through the chilly water in the dark and trying to keep from slipping. After walking for some fifteen minutes, weaving through the twists and turns of the cave, we came out to a small river that ended with huge boulders. We would need to climb up over these.

It took about half an hour to get over the large boulders and then we had the best experience, floating down the river through the canyon. That part was awesome.

There we in fact several rivers to float and swim through as the water level was low. There are times of course when visitors would not be allowed to do this when the river levels are very high. we were fortunate of the drier season. On the way back to Tony’s village he showed us the village garden. They grow all their needs and then bring excess to market. We had a fabulous time and were thankful of our guides help for the dangerous bits. We completed the trek in about four and a half hours, apparently we did well because we heard the next group took twice as long,but then it was a group of twenty and it had rained the day before so everything was very muddy, but we did feel proud! Do you grow any vegetables or fruit to eat? What grows in your garden? Have you gone trekking? Where did you go?

On our last day in Santo of course we did more snorkelling. This time we went to Million Dollar Point. During the second world war Vanuatu was used by America as strategic command base. When America no longer needed to be there, they wanted to sell their equipment to the French government, who, knowing America couldn’t take all that equipment back, said they wouldn’t buy it. They thought that the Americans would leave it behind. But the American army had other ideas, they built a jetty and sent all their excess tanks, tractors machines etc into the ocean, if they couldn’t take it no one would have it. That is why the area is known as Million Dollar Point as there was quite a lot of money tied up in that equipment.

We said good bye to Santo, we really enjoyed the country and loved the friendly and helpful people. We learnt a lot about their way of life and had a lot of fun in exploring their place. But the real adventure was yet to come. We boarded a little seven seater plane and headed for Tanna. This island is much smaller that Santo and in many ways a lot more isolated. There are no sealed roads on this island so getting around was very bumpy and took a long time. We stayed with a lovely couple called Tom and Margret who have some small bungalows they allow people to rent.

Our home on Tanna

Our home on Tanna

Last year Vanuatu was hit by a powerful cyclone, Tom said he lost all the roofs and a lot of other things, I was impressed by the work he had done to repair everything.

Naturally we went into the pristine waters to snorkel and met some very odd creatures indeed.

On this island I visited another village that prefers to keep to their traditional ways. Anni the wife of the village chief took us on a tour of her village and showed us the traditional way of making Laplap, a delicious dish made by grating banana, mixing with coconut meat and juice and placed in leaves and cooked over hot stones. She also told me how they read the jungle and use the seasons to know when to plant or collect certain foods. Like all villages they welcomed us with dance and song. The people in this village wear traditional dress so with respect for them I will just show you these images.

Near by is what Tanna believes is the world’s largest Banyan Tree. I read that it was as large a football field and I was very skeptical ( that means I didn’t quite believe it!). But I have to tell you it is true! It took me fifteen minutes to walk around.

That dark green patch is the tree!

That dark green patch is the tree!

Now it is hard to get a scale in this picture but if I stand next to one of the little sections you can see that the first branches are just starting to show.

Tiny section of the tree

Tiny section of the tree

But of course there was only one thing I really wanted to see on Tanna and that was Mount Yasur. The old man of the island the world’s most accessible active volcano. I was hopeful that we would have a clear night in that it had rained quite heavily the night before. Yay, no rain! Now volcanoes have certain levels we needed to be aware of

  • 0 – Low activity not much to see
  • 1 – Normal Activity no real danger
  • 2 – Moderate to high with intense activity visitors permitted but danger exists
  • 3 – Severe activity dangerous – no visitors
  • 4 – Major eruption extreme likely hood of danger to population

Of course I didn’t want us to be put in danger but level two would be nice!

 

The volcanic dust plains

The volcanic dust plains look closely and you might see some extreme skiing going on.

Being a volcanic region there is a lot of geothermal activity. Here a local woman is showing me how she uses the hot springs to wash her clothes and also to cook her food. she gives us some cooked banana to try.

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Julia shows me the pool she is cooking her food.

Before we are allowed to enter the cars to ride up the steep road to visit Mt. Yasur, we need the permission of the tribal chief, thank fully he said yes!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We depart around five o’clock that way we will be on the mountain as the sun goes down and the view is said to be spectacular. We found out it is level 2 with high activity yay!

4wds took us most of the way and we walked the last hundred or so metres. It was of course cold and very windy but how AWESOME IS THIS! to be on top of an exploding mountain a real live volcano, whoo hoo! Watch as the spectacular display develops as the darkness descends.

We watched this fantastic experience at a safe level about 600 m from the crater for about an hour and a half. Nothing will make me forget the whoosh and sound as the crater seemed to breathe and then belched rock, gas and heat continuously. It was truly mesmerising. But sadly all too soon it was time to descend the mountain. Ah, but I have movies! So I can relive Mt Yasur over and over again! Have you seen the Earth in its raw power? What did you see, where was it?

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These were just some of the highlights of our time on Vanuatu, there were a few other adventures and events that took my breath away but the sun has set on this holiday. We are now planning another.

I shall share more in class. While it is fun to travel it’s good to be home.