The best time for students to visit ErinEarth is sometime during October or November.
Because this visit may be the students’ first visit to a garden of this kind, the focus of the visit is on giving the students a ‘garden’ experience’. Emphasis is placed on using the senses to explore and discover the diverse nature of living things in the natural environment.
If teachers want children to use worksheets then two have been prepared – Using Our Senses(1) Looking at Animals (2). However, our experience with students on site has found that these sheets are rather cumbersome. They may more usefully be used by the teacher as a record of animals seen by the students and a guide to the features of a plant.
The volunteer on duty will welcome the students to the site and then before handing the students their caretaker badges talk to them about being a good caretaker during their visit by observing three guidelines
The teacher or volunteer will make a small collection of living and non-living things from around the garden. (Water plant, potted plant, flower, seeds, insects, tadpoles, rock, piece of wood, plastic, wire etc.) This can be done whilst the students take their walk with the children around the garden. The living things collected should include both microorganisms (if present), plants and animals. This collection will be used for discussion on living and non-living things after the students have completed their orientation walk.
The children should be familiar with the map of the ErinEarth site before they arrive (Available on ErinEarth website).
Orientation walk: Divide class into groups. Show students the enlarged map and indicate that each group will take a different route around the garden looking at the built structures, the different areas and their uses and to make general observations about life in the garden.
Students explore the site in small groups led by parent /teacher supervisor.
Students return to the outdoor classroom.
Discussion will depend on the focus used for the orientation walk/visit. For example:
Living and non-living things. Using the collection made earlier. The teacher/volunteer might check the students’ understandings about living and non-living things as well as present them with more detailed information about other living items collected.
Natural and built environments.
Report on activities observed around the garden.
Divide class into two groups that will change activity after 30 mins. Each group will take turns in being:
Plant investigators and
PLANT INVESTIGATORS: Using our senses to explore plants
This activity will focus on an investigation of plants using the senses. In small groups students will visit a number of different areas in the garden to explore different kinds of plants. Using the brown paper bags, make a small collection of plants in each of the following categories. We have provided a map that shows where these plants can be found (hyperlink)
Taste: Salt, pollen/nectar and vegetables/herbs
Saltbushes are very good plants for Australia because they do not need much water. These are not good for people to eat but cows enjoy the saltbush.
In the Australian bush there are many good plants that people can safely eat and some that are like medicine to make you better. The aboriginal people have known about them for thousands of years.
We eat different parts of different plants: leaves, stem, roots and fruit.
Explain to the students that many of the native plants have a distinctive smell of their own, like the Eucalyptus and Wattle leaves and herbs in the vegetable patch. Walk with group around the garden to find plants that smell. As the students proceed the adult can talk about:
herbs that have distinctive smells;
find out what students already know about herbs and plants and their uses.
Students can find a variety of plant shapes and textures.
The walk from the entrance, behind the dam would take the students on an appropriate path to discover a variety of different leaf textures.
See and Hearing:
Seeing and hearing are senses that students will be using through the preceding activity and can be enhanced by having things pointed out to them along the way. Eg. Seedpods popping, leaves rustling and the shape and colour of plants.
Magnifying glasses: The worksheet (ES1 Worksheet No. 2) could be used by the teacher to tally children’s observations.
Hoops: These should be placed by the teacher on any of the areas suggested earlier (optional).
Using observation, take groups to different areas in the garden that might be animal rich. Eg the wetlands area, the grass areas, old tree trunks, under rocks, in trees.
Another opportunity to look for animals could involve the use of hoops on the grass areas. Using magnifying glasses, the students could look for small animals in the grass. The hoops will help to focus the students’ attention on a small area.
The students or the teacher may record their sightings on the worksheet.
When the students have completed both activities they could return to the classroom area for follow-up discussion.
Each child could share their discoveries with a partner/group:
Each child will be asked to go alone to a place in the garden that they thought was really special. They will spend a quiet time there just enjoying that special place.