Our EcoXplore tour of North Head was wonderful! Katie who runs the tours is passionate about environmental education and getting children outside. Plus the tour covered many of the topics we had been talking about in our series of classes about The Living World. This was not a regular Nurture Learning class but one I had advertised more widely to members of SHEN (Sydney Home Education Network) so we had other families travelling from fairly far away to join us.
Before the tour started, Katie acknowledged the traditional owners of the land, their knowledge and customs, and we talked about how to behave in the bush.
After a toilet break we went to the first site, the oval, created from when the North Head was used as a military training facility, but which has recently had shrubs added so it is not all open lawn. Katie explained about endangered communities at the North Head, particularly our Long-nosed Bandicoots, and what puts them at risk. This explained the reason for the shrubs on the oval. Volunteers for the North Head Sanctuary Foundation are providing an area for bandicoots to make their burrows. Currently the bandicoots live in a different area to the area in which they dig for food, which means many of them are hit by cars as they travel across the road between the two areas. The children played a wonderful game being bandicoots and foxes, with clever choices of distances so that one group were far more likely to be picked off by predators. It was lovely to see the children learning about ecology by running around.
Apologies for the really bad picture, and lack of any other photos of the morning. My phone battery died on the way round the North Head. For better photos of the day please visit the YuuMii blog.
During the discussion Katie covered many of the terms and concepts that we talk about in KS2 science such as life cycle and habitat. I also learned that Long-nosed Bandicoots have have the shortest gestation of any land mammal – only 12 days! They are marsupials, however, so the baby carries on more of its development while in its mother’s pouch.
Katie also talked to us about the Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub (ESBS) which has been almost wiped out by development of the Sydney area, and so the North Head is one of the few areas left where you can experience this particular mix of plant species.
We walked towards a building formerly used by the military, looking out for various features on the way (with one child in particular spotting bandicoot burrows all over the place) and did another an activity about the five different uses of the land at North Head, throughout history. We had lunch and then walked back to Bandicoot Heaven (where EcoXplore is based). On the way back, Katie pointed out the golden wattle bushes and demonstrated how the leaves can be lathered up to make a kind of soap.
Our family didn’t have time to do the last activity which was testing water samples, but before we left they were all given a surprise goody bag with sunflower seeds (among other stuff) and the first thing my kids wanted to do once they got home was plant them.
The tour was a wonderful way of revisiting the material I have been covering in classes. Katie also provided an information pack for teachers including a quiz to take pre- and post-visit to see if the children had learned anything about the North Head and the creatures that live there. I certainly learned a few things myself.
I know that Katie really enjoyed having the homeschooling families on her tour, and I have already had requests to book the next one (probably mid March next year).