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This week, Year 1 interviewed a ‘panel of experts’, including School Gardener, Mr Dos Santos, asking him lots of questions about bugs, bunnies and bees. It was all part of their latest unit of inquiry, ‘Sharing the Planet’.
For this unit of inquiry, Ms Christofa asked her class to think very carefully about the following central idea: ‘When interacting with natural habitats, people make choices that have an impact on living things.’
As a generation, our students are aware that we need to take practical steps to minimise our environmental impact and live more sustainably. However, this unit of inquiry has prompted Year 1 to think more deeply about the ecosystem and to reflect how they can contribute to living more sustainably.
To spark their thinking, Ms Christofa asked her students to consider how they would design their very own Year 1 Nature Playground. What would they include and why? Ms Christofa also asked them to think carefully about the following lines of inquiry: What are the features of living things and their environment? How do humans impact living things? And how can we care for living things?
With these questions in mind, Ms Christofa took her class on a guided nature walk around the School gardens.
Armed with maps, magnifying glasses and bucket loads of curiosity, the students explored the flower beds, gazed into the fish pond, visited the bee hive and looked very closely at the different kinds of insects and birds that visit Wenona.
Immersing themselves in nature, the students quickly realised that everything is connected, from birds, insects, fish, dirt and trees, to the food they eat, to themselves. Exploring the garden was an opportunity for them to understand that Wenona is in fact, an incredibly rich ecosystem and that even in North Sydney, they are surrounded by enormous environmental diversity. There are rainbow lorikeets feeding off the trees, bees circling around the flowers and brush turkeys tucking into the green beans, all participating in the same network of energy, co-dependence and survival.
The next step was to invite a ‘panel of experts’ to come along to Woodstock, so the students could question them about how to build their ideal nature playground. The experts were School Gardener, Mr Dos Santos, Junior School Teaching Assistant, Ms Edwards, who also runs the Junior School Gardening Club, and English Teacher, Ms Rogerson, who coordinates the Wenona Environment Group.
The students asked the panel lots of interesting questions. For example, what type of structure could house caterpillars? What type of plants attract rabbits? What type of natural material could be used to make a slide or a swing? Could we have seals in our fish pond? Which flowers attract ladybugs? And how can we attract birds to our garden, but not spiders?
The experts helped Year 1 to connect different species together, helping them to understand that every species is essential for an ecosystem to stay healthy, no matter how big or small. And no matter how hairy or scary!
Ms Rogerson explained that like it or not, we must learn to like spiders as they are an important part of our ecosystem and that the garden is their habitat. And that caterpillars love pumpkin leaves. And that purple flowers are very good for attracting bees.
Ms Edwards brought samples of sage, sunflower and chives to show the students. And she gave them each a brown paper bag with a picture of different flowers, so they could go on a nature scavenger hunt to collect seeds to grow in their garden.
And Mr Dos Santos told them how to make a very simple wooden feeding table to attract butterflies. And suggested they build a bug hotel, complete with plants on the roof to attract the birds and the bees.
Ms Christofa’s class are now going to design their own Year 1 Nature Playground using Minecraft, which will give them an opportunity to utilise their collaboration, communication, critical thinking and systems thinking skills. It will also give them the freedom to experiment, use creative self-expression and problem solving.
The students are also very keen to utilise one of Mr Dos Santos’s ideas and perhaps create their very own bird bath or bug hotel.
In helping our students to develop a love of nature, it encourages them to care for its survival. Seeing their interest and enthusiasm this week, Year 1 are definitely shaping up to be environmentally responsible citizens in the future!