Ideas for pre-visit activities emphasis on Sustainable Livings in a Built Environment - ErinEarth as a working example.
Students will need to be exposed to and to be able to use language that is particular to the many concepts encountered in this programme. The following activities are designed to immerse them in this language and to introduce the basic concepts. However, a starting point might be the historical development of ErinEarth. See www.erinearth.org.au
The Gazebo's stained glass windows - Philosophy and History of ErinEarth
When the students visit ErinEarth they will be shown three stained glass windows. Each of these depict aspects of the philosophy and history of Erin Earth (Refer to the ErinEarth web site for details of each window.) There is also a ‘Place Story’ on the ErinEarth website (hyperlink) that covers the history of ErinEarth. After the students have viewed these suggest that they compose a list of questions to ask the volunteer about the site’s development and the beliefs and practices that motivated the design and use of plants in the gardens.
- The solar passive house as a built environment
- Engage with text describing the house. (www.eninearth.org.au). This will provide the students with some background before their visit.
Ask students “What do you think a solar passive house is?" Identify words in the text students don’t understand eg, axis, pelmet, double brick, insulation and orientation.
- Students compile a glossary using the ErinEarth site text as a starting point. This glossary can be added to as the project develops..
Begin a Word Wall. (hyperlink: cf. Primary Connections Stage 3 Appendix 3).
- Define the concept of energy. Ask questions about energy types.
Students can make a list of different energy sources. eg. Sun, water, wind, coal, wood, gas etc
- Raise the concepts of ‘renewable’ and ‘non-renewable’ energy and then students can prepare a concept map using their list to show ‘renewable’ or ‘non-renewable’ energy sources. Ask “What do you see as the current problems in the way communities use energy?”
Encourage students to first identify what the problem is (relate this to issues of renewable and non-renewable energy sources with particular reference to coal burning electricity and water). The concept of coal burning energy will probably be new to the students so time will need to be spent on this concept. It might be a good idea to follow this discussion up by inviting one of the many companies in the Wagga Wagga area to come to speak to the students on the variety of options we now have available.
- Arising from these basic concepts it might be beneficial to start a list of questions and ideas that they can explore during their visit to ErinEarth. This can be done as a class of in groups. If the list is developed as a group process then a plenary session can compared and the relevant questions presented in the form of a Retrieval Chart as a guide for their on-site observations.
How does ErinEarth combat the problem of using electricity which is coal fired? (polar passive building, solar electricity and natural gas heating. The dream at ErinEarth is to install photovoltaic solar panels.) (cf. Primary Connections Stage 3 Appendix 5 ‘How to write questions for investigations) Many of the local companies doing this work in Wagga Wagga have marvellous diagrams and other resources that the students might find useful.
- Explore ways in which the school, your home and the local council make attempts to save or minimise the use of water. Students might chart this information and add to it after their visit to ErinEarth.
- The waterwise garden that conserves water and biodiversity. Engage children with the ErinEarth website text describing the garden. The text describes the measures that have been taken to create a waterwise garden and how this conserves and re-establishes biodiversity. (www.erinearth.com.au)
Ask students, “What type of plants do you expect to find in this garden?”
Investigate the meaning of ‘biodiversity’ and ‘sustainability’.
Investigate the notion of composting. (hyperlink)
Being waterwise: Grey Water
- Define and discuss the nature of ‘grey water’ using pamphlets from installers of systems. Design a flow chart to illustrate understandings.
- Using a map of Wagga identify the public parks and discover how these are watered during the hot summer months. This might result in the development of questions for their ErinEarth visit.
- Students might develop a chart that explores the notion water and the particular problems we have in Wagga. Three headings might be used: Problems, Causes and Solutions. Again this is a chart that can be filled in over time as the students develop their knowledge about water. For example:
|Scarcity of water
Too much water used
Use grey water
Install rainwater tanks
Develop a waterwise garden
Misuse of water
Removal of vegetation
Plant deep rooted vegetation
Reduce lawn area
- Discuss the students’ understanding of the concept of biodiversity.
In groups, class explores ‘Protecting Diversity 24 hours a day’ chart. (“Biodiversity Nature’s Variety, Our Heritage, Our Future.” Environment Australia) Brochures can be ordered online (a limit of 50 per order) at (www.environment.gov.au/about/publication/order-form)
- Using this chart as a guideline, both before and after the visit groups could develop their own chart of “Things we do now and Things we could do’. This will be an essential part of the final phase of the visit that focuses on Sustainability and Ecological Responsibility.
- Make Class Chart of entries common to group charts.
Ask class. ”What areas do you notice where action is not evident?”
Sustainability and Ecological Responsibility
- Have initial discussion about the meaning of sustainability and ecological responsibility.
- Using the ‘Sustainability and Our Local Government Area’ (Wagga Wagga City Council) pages 12 – 15 introduce the concept of ‘walking lightly on the earth’ and the notion of ‘footprints’.
- Help students to develop, in groups, their own “Smaller Footprints’ and ‘Larger Footprints’ Chart. The notion of footprints needs to be related directly to the concept of ecological responsibility
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