Our last class for this term was completely outdoors. Both groups joined together to walk around Curl Curl Lagoon, listen to the history of the area, and look out for various items on the way round. I had designed a booklet for the children to fill in on the way around and I also asked the children to think about uses of water, and to look out for birds, plants and water tanks. There were some altercations in the group, the usual attraction of sticks and branches to use as weapons, and it was hard to keep the group together but I think we all benefited from the time outside.
We had some different responses to our group from pedestrians also using the pathway. One woman was very interested to hear what we were doing and sounded surprised (but not in a negative way) that the children were homeschoolers. In contrast, a man went past muttering that he was glad they were not his children. (I personally think their behaviour was completely age-appropriate. It reminds me of the research done in the UK showing that ‘hanging around’ is considered anti-social behaviour but only if it is carried out by teenagers or young adults.)
I enjoyed researching the history of Curl Curl Lagoon. In the 1930s and 1940s people used to swim and fish in the lagoon and the water was even clean enough to drink, but nowadays the water is too polluted and none of these activities are allowed. The area around Greendale Creek (which runs into the lagoon) was used for market gardening in the 1950s, but shortly afterwards, it became a rubbish dump. Virtually all of the original native vegetation disappeared. The current sports fields and netball courts are built on top of this rubbish and leaching of pollutants into the soil can affect the water quality. The industrial area off Wimborne Road also has an effect on the water.
As you walk around the creek and lagoon there are always pieces of rubbish lying around. I usually take home a handful to recycle or dispose of. I know there are hundreds of people who come to this area to take part in sports, use the community centre or the playground, and it is probably only a few who leave behind rubbish instead of disposing of it properly, but I wish that there were more respect for our natural environment. Littering, to me, is far more anti-social behaviour than children ‘hanging around’.
The Curl Curl Lagoon Friends have instigated a rehabilitation project for the lagoon and creek area, Stage 1 of which was a gross pollutant trap in the creek near Harbord Road. 300 tons of litter and sediment are cleaned from this trap every year. Stage 2 was the restoration of the creek between Harbord Road and the footbridges, creating a multi-use pathway beside the creek and landscaping including planting many native species. Stage 3 targeted the rest of the creek up to the lagoon, including installing a weir between the creek and the lagoon to maintain the water levels in the creek. There are also two areas where the vegetation is being actively managed to return it to those for a native wetland.
My own family has made use of the recreation areas and the pathway round the lagoon and we have been excited to see eels in the water, although nothing as large as they used to catch in the 1930s. Warringah Council monitor the water quality in the lagoon, and it is gradually improving but is still very poor. You can download the 2015 report card for the four Warringah lagoons here if interested.
One of the parents asked me why we saw so many water birds if the water was polluted, and I checked on the internet to find that water birds tend to be more reflective of the vegetation than the water quality. Also, many water birds live for a long time (although it is hard to find these lifespans documented) so it may take a while for the pollution to show up as a change in local avian population. Syllabus Links The NSW syllabus asks students to look at changes to the physical environment and to classify them as human or natural. In Stage 1 we also look at the water cycle and in Stage 2 we have to look at human effect on a local environment. This excursion also linked into HSIE (Human Society and Its Environment) outcomes over Stage 1, Stage 2 and Stage 3. (Contact me for the exact links if you wish.)
Imagine you are a settler: Children might want to find a map of an uninhabited area and work out where they would locate essential services if they wanted to settle in that area. They could read about early explorers and settlers to find out what they brought with them, what they had to do without and what they built first. This could even overlap with space science, if they think about the Mars One settlers and what they will have to do when they arrive, firstly simply to survive and maybe even to ‘terraform’ Mars.
Researching changes to your own local environment is a great project, helping children to develop their research skills and to understand the interactions between humans and the physical landscape. The information may not be on the internet! You could try going on a walk led by aboriginals, visiting the local history section of your library and looking for a local history group or perhaps a regeneration group like our local Curl Curl Lagoon Friends.