Curiosity Series

Last week was National Bird Week 2021, from Monday 18 October and Sunday 24 October. The celebration of National Bird Week has its origins back in the early 1900s when 28 October was first designated by the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union, as the first ‘Bird Day’. BirdLife Australia organises and promotes Bird Week with the goal of inspiring Australians to take action and get involved in bird conservation efforts....

We all know that 2020 and 2021 have not been normal years. Even though there have been normal times, the shadow of the pandemic has never been far away. Keeping people safe has meant limiting physical contact and close proximity to others. When your whole job description was to go out to schools and give students science to play with, it’s a dramatic change when you have to go online....

If you’ve been watching the news or live locally, you would know that Armidale was recently hit by a very dangerous tornado.  The massive storm that spawned the tornado occurred just after 10pm on Thursday 14 October. We were relieved to learn that no one was injured, but the damage to homes and property was extensive.  Our thoughts are with anyone who was affected by the storm and we hope you recover well.  UNE was also in the direct path of the tornado, and a number of older buildings on campus were destroyed and many large campus trees were knocked over – some show evidence of being twisted from their base, picked up, and thrown across carparks or onto buildings....

Have you ventured into any national parks lately and come face-to-face with a beautiful waratah, aka Telopea? This stunning flower is out in full force in our local Washpool-Gibralter National Park not far from Glen Innes, NSW....

As a drama teacher, I witnessed first-hand the benefits of experiential learning. Students learned by doing. Even at senior level, we would often dive into dramatic play before the students were made aware of the learning objective. Their felt experience informed their intellectual understanding and stayed with them as physical memory to draw upon in the future....

Have you ever wondered what is crawling or creeping around your garden at night? Well here is a simple way to find out, and sample some of the biodiversity at your patch!...

While we’ve not been able to travel about the region or further afield for several months now, you may have seen one of our non-human team members out and about. Suzi, the UNE Discovery Voyager truck, has taken on a very important role during lockdown and beyond. Her adventures have taken her with UNE Life and the UNE Medical Centre to help set up COVID-19 vaccination clinics in Armidale, Inverell, Moree, Tamworth and Glen Innes....

You might remember earlier this year we announced that we’d been successful in securing a Federal Government grant through Inspiring Australia, and in partnership with Armidale City Public School, Armidale Regional Council and Settlement Services International (phew! That was a mouthful!)....

It’s that time of year, the Spring Swooping Season brought to us by our Aussie magpies. While most of us either love or hate the black and white feathery ones, they are smart and rather protective of their eggs and babies during nesting and hatching time. Professor Gisela Kaplan is an Emeritus Professor in Animal Behaviour in UNE’s School of Science and Technology. She is the author of over 250 research articles and 22 books, and has conducted ground-breaking research into vocal learning, communication and cognition of birds and other vertebrates. Prof. Kaplan's main research interests are in complex cognition and communication both in birds and primates. ...

Soil pH affects our soil health in several different ways. In just the same way that you don’t want to get strong acid or alkalines on your skin, neither do soil microbes and plant roots. Highly acidic and highly alkaline environments can be very hostile to microorganisms. ...

There is a curious little plant growing in my lawn. Whenever I brush against it, small capsules fly everywhere, either hitting me (gently) in the face or pinging off into the nearby grass. I suspect that when I touch the plant, it is explosively dispersing its seeds....

Last month, the UNE Discovery team were pleased to have Sarah Adeney, opera soprano, and Chris Clark, Director, both from the New England Conservatorium of Music (NECOM) visit the Boilerhouse. NECOM hosted an Opera Australia event during that week and we were thrilled that Sarah could come and test out the acoustics in the Boilerhouse stack (the very tall chimney of the Boilerhouse that you can see for miles). Can we just say . . . . WOW!!!! The small crowd we had in attendance were blown away by Sarah’s beautiful voice and the amazing sound that was achieved while Sarah was singing in the stack....

Basalt is a rock that comes in many forms, but how does this volcanic rock move through the crust? Join George as he wraps up his trip to Port Macquarie by checking out these cracks in the rocks that are filled with frozen basalt. ...

Play along with Andrea as she shows us how simple it is to make satisfying slime at home - it's all in the science!...

Honeycomb weathering is a cool surface texture that forms on rocks near the beach. But why only at the beach? Join George as he brings us a bonus video from his trip to Port Macquarie and takes a look at how this weathering process works. ...

As summer progresses, I have found many dead cicadas around our property. Most of these will become food for other animals, and contribute to nutrient cycling. I have managed to salvage a few and, with my niece, we have carefully pinned and preserved some beautiful specimens for our insect collections. ...

On 21 December 2020 (22nd for us in Australia), Jupiter and Saturn will appear the closest together in the night sky in 400 years. The two planets will be so close that they will appear to form a "double planet" and some sky-gazers have been calling it the “Christmas Star”. ...

This week is undie excavation week, and in the wise words of challenge collaborator Dr. Oliver Knox, it’s time to liberate our pants! 207 citizen science groups joined us on the three month Soil Your Undies Challenge journey, undertaking a rather peculiar way of exploring soil health as they buried a pair of cotton underpants, discovering soil health through a series of educational checkpoints before reaching the time they have all been waiting for – undie excavation/exhumation/liberation and revealing the final results. ...

Serpentinite is a rock type formed when sea floor basalt is carried down into a subduction zone and cooked and altered by water. But then it starts to get really strange!...

Play along with Phil as he gets curious about why objects look different when we look at them through a glass of water. This is a fun and easy experiment about refraction to do at home or at school (actually, anywhere, any time you're having a drink of water - science in the café!)...

Chert is a type of sedimentary rock that forms in flat layers on the sea floor deep in the ocean. So what is it doing up on the beach and how come the layers are contorted and vertical?...

You might have played along with the Voyager team at your school and made your own Elephant's Toothpaste, or seen some of the monster versions on video. Here Kieran explains the science in more detail - while making some elephant's toothpaste of course!...

Any play opportunity is a good one! And outdoor playgrounds provide structures that incite imaginative, active and collaborative play. With the summer school holidays coming up, and recent opening of Armidale’s newest playground in Curtis Park, we thought it would be an opportune time to have a look at the playgrounds in our region. We think there are some pretty special play areas around, all with their quirks and challenges. So next time you’re travelling in northern NSW with your kids (or not!), we encourage you to hop out of the car, stretch your legs and go play! ...

Geological Maps are special maps that show where different rocks are found. They are one of the most valuable tools a geologist can have. Watch on with George as he explains how you can make your own!...

The Soil Your Undies challenge is well underway and our participants have now received their Checkpoint 2 – Exploring Soil Texture email and instructions. Even if you’re not part of the challenge, you might find the concept of soil texture rather interesting. ...

Play along with Kieran as he shows us how to make a spinning colour wheel. What will happen to the colours when the wheel is spun? Will they merge into brown, white or black or simply disappear?...

In this chromatography experiment, instead of seeing what colours we can make by mixing a number of colours, we use ordinary textas, water and paper towel, to see what colours have been combined to make a colour!...

Join George as he takes a look at the erosion going on at the Great Escarpment at Dorrigo and ponders the rocks that are no longer there!...

Watch on as Andrea attempts to make her neurons form a different cycling brain map as she practices riding UNE Discovery's very challenging backwards bike!...

Join George on his trip to Ebor Falls to see basalt columns. This spectacular feature forms from cooling lava, and it’s certainly very cool now!...

Q: How can we measure the speed of light at home? A: With a block of chocolate! Play along with Phil as he uses a microwave oven, a block of chocolate and some mathematics to measure the speed of light....

Join George as he looks at the bank of a river, showing how different layers of sediment can reveal how a river has changed over time and what this rock might look like in the future....

Here's a fun experiment you can do at home using marshmallows - yum! Follow on with Kieran as he demonstrates how you can use air pressure to make 'monster' mushrooms....

Hey, doesn't sand love absorbing water? So how can we make sand hydrophobic, that is, water-hating. Follow on with Andrea as she demonstrates this cool experiment you can do at home!...

This Onion Skin Weathering is so beautiful, it will bring a tear to your eye. Weathering is a collection of processes which break rock down into sediment and soil. Follow George as he explores this special type of weathering which resembles onion skins....

You're presented with a boiled egg and a bottle with a very narrow neck. The challenge is to get the egg in the bottle without pressing it in with your hands. How are you going to do it?...

Granite Tors are large rounded boulders of granite or a related plutonic igneous rock such as granodiorite or gabbro. Follow on with George in this video as he explores how they form. ...

How do water striders walk on water? Why does it hurt so much when you do a big belly flop? And why is Kieran not soaking wet after turning this up of water upside down?! ...

Follow on with George as he explores this plutonic igneous rock, granodiorite, that is around 250 million years old, and the chemical composition of magma that gives the rock amazing colours!...

Follow on with Kieran as he explores how the structure of balloons at a molecular scale allow us to play with this pretty cool science party trick!...

Follow on with George as he explores this plutonic igneous rock, granodiorite, that is around 250 million years old, and the chemical composition of magma that gives the rock amazing colours!...

Have you ever looked up at those big fluffy clouds in the sky and been curious to understand how they form?...

Follow on with Anita as she uses her understanding of reactions involving carbon dioxide to create a bubbling lava lamp from things you can find around home or school....

Follow on with Kieran as he explores how the density of a certain gas lends itself to putting out fires, and how we can create this gas from thing you can find in the kitchen cupboard!...

Follow on with Kieran to create a delicious rocky road slice and discover how all the ingredients can come together to resemble the not-so-tasty real conglomerate rock. ...

Follow on with Anita as she makes some sherbet and explores how the chemical properties of each ingredient allow for a fantastic fizzing reaction!...

Follow on with Phil as he creates a clucking musical instrument from things you can find at home, and explores the physics of sound that lends itself to the crazy noises!...

Follow on with Andréa as she explores DNA and how we can extract the long strands from strawberries using bits and pieces you can find in the kitchen!...

Follow on with Anita as she creates a cabbage indicator masterpiece, and explores the science that lends itself to dyeing cotton....

Follow on with Phil as he explores how we make sound using our vocal chords, and the importance of those vibrations!...

Follow on with Jean as she explores how easy and fun it is to get outside, collect some bits and pieces and create some nature play creatures that are sure to leave you wanting to create more!...

You too can try this at home! It doesn't have to be a pet - it might be a soccer ball along the ground or even you!...

Follow on with Phil as he explores how the properties of dishwashing liquid allow us to smash through surface tensions and create a bread clip speedboat....

Ever wondered how different animals drink? It's not as simple as you may think! Here's a cool experiment you cxan try at home to explore how our Thorny Devil lizards drink....

This is the moment you’ve been waiting for! Our Term 2 LEGO Construction Challenge is a go, launched exclusively by our partner Modern Teaching Aids!...

We've got something very exciting to announce next week. Here's a hint: it involves your young ones, a creative build, some brightly coloured bricks and some really cool prizes. Check out the videos for more! ...

We love combustion reactions, and if you've seen us on the road you'll recognise this exciting one that is the grand finale of our Creative Chemistry activity!!...

Want to create your very own crystals from the comfort of your kitchen or classroom? Check this out!...

Who doesn't love oobleck!! Join Andréa as she explores the properties of oobleck and reveals just how easy it is to create your own Non-Newtonian fluid at home...

Follow on with Jean as she explores our magnificent insect collections and discover how you can create your own using bits and pieces around the house or classroom! ...

The idea that the oldest sundial dates back to around 5500 years ago blows my mind. This got me thinking, how cool would it be if we could make one of our own!...

Did you know that Greta Thunberg has a beetle named after her? It’s true! Explore more and create your own species here!...

Want to grow your own carbon snakes at home? Check this out! Join Kirsti as she explores how burning sugar and BiCarb Soda can combine to produce an unearthly carbon snake!...

Have you ever thought, 'Gee, it'd be great if eggs could bounce!'? No? Well we have! Check out how you can make your eggs at home bounce, and win that egg and spoon race!...

It’s what animal am I Wednesday and this week’s guest is a very special part of our Natural History Museum collection. Let’s see what he has to say:...

Do different shaped leaves have different jobs? We decided to ask Dr. Boyd Wright, a plant ecologist here at UNE, to answer our curious questions. ...

Have you noticed winged ants around just before it rains? We have! Dr Kirsti Abbott explains a little about nuptial flights in her backyard.....

It’s what animal am I Wednesday and this week’s guest is a very special part of our Natural History Museum collection. Let’s see what she has to say:...

Hello Kids! Tiny the Lesser Long-eared Bat here. Since I’ve been hanging out with Dr Jean at the Natural History Museum, I’ve been looking at nature really closely and carefully. Dr Jean says that I have been practising being CURIOUS....

PARENTS AND TEACHERS - here's a great way to get outside and play with your young scientists!...

Each Wednesday we will be posting a picture of animal furs, spines, scales or skins from our Natural History Museum collection, and we want to challenge you to guess what the animal might be. Some might be very easy, but others might make you think a little harder - ask a friend, parent or teacher to help you!...

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