Discoveries

Have you heard about nature journalling? My daughter and I recently discovered this lovely practice of wandering out in nature and taking notes and making sketches of the things we see. For us, this was something that we could do in our backyard while in lockdown and it enabled us to spend time together just observing. Since our first adventure into the yard with a different mindset, and a more open view of our small world, it has become a daily ritual (well, maybe not every day, we don’t want that kind of pressure), and we get to spend extra time with just the two of us. ...

In our UNE Discovery Voyager activity Plants, Poop and Pollinators, we play a role-playing game where students become busy dung beetles, rolling away balls of manure and ‘burying’ them in their underground dung beetle nests. The dung beetles (students) must roll away as many balls of manure (rubber balls) as they can, using only their dung beetley legs (croquet mallets). Whichever dung beetle pair has the most dung balls in their nest at the end of the game are the winners. This is a great game that explores themes such as nutrient cycling, competition, reproduction and sneaky alternative strategies for resource acquisition....

For many people, 3D printing is a fantastic, almost science fiction type of futuristic technology hidden out of reach in engineering labs and TV prop studios. But what if it wasn’t? What if it was available to you, right now? 3D printing is becoming increasingly accessible to the everyday person, with some hobby printers retailing for as little as $300. High school tech workshops, public libraries and maker spaces also commonly host a 3D printer or two where students or the public can use them. So how do they work, and what are they capable of? ...

Many people would have seen a case moth case at some time or another, but fewer people may know what they actually are. So, before we look at the exact species I have (and how I found that out), let’s have a look at case moths in general. ...

Hey, eucalyptus tree, how did you get to be mottled and patchy? Our Voyager team member, Anita, has cooked up a recipe to make your lockdown (or any time!) neighbourhood walks a little more curious and creative. Are you up for the photographic curious-questioning challenge?...

With the ongoing COVID-19 situation, we are limiting our travel around northern NSW to ensure the safety of staff, teachers and students. But this does not mean that students need to miss out on a Voyager experience! With some ingenuity and the right props, we have been able to deliver live, virtual Voyager session to the next generation of scientists in north western NSW. The students and teachers at St John’s Catholic School in Baradine were happy to trial our first virtual Voyager sessions of Plants, Poop and Pollinators, and Creative Chemistry with us. We are happy to report, it was a great success!...

I was fascinated by some amazing video footage shown on the Australian Geographic Facebook page this week – a doughboy scallop swimming in the waters of Tasmania! A ‘doughboy scallop’- yes, you read that correctly. I was so intrigued. I’d never heard of one before. I’ve heard of a Tasmanian scallop (from the Pectinidae family) – my dad used to buy them from the local takeaway shop when I was a kid and it was Friday fish n’ chips night. He thought they were so tasty! ...

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! ...

This year I’ve been so excited to don a lab coat and help with Voyager’s newly rejigged Creative Chemistry activity. One of the opening questions we ask the primary students is, “What did you have for breakfast?” This leads to the lightbulb moment that EVERYTHING IS MADE OF CHEMICALS! How cool is that? ...

Andrea is one of our Discovery Voyager team members and recently travelled from Armidale to Africa with the School for Life Foundation. If you’re a keen follower of Discovery and our movements about the countryside, you would understand our passion for not only education itself, but a passion to provide and enhance childhood development through unrestricted curiosity and play-based learning for all students. In Australia, we are so fortunate to have the education system we do. From early primary through to a tertiary level, children are provided with opportunities learn, ultimately being armed with the skills to enter a desired trade or profession. I recently returned from Uganda, Africa, where there is an overwhelmingly stark contrast to this. Such a contrast that produces an enormous value for the privileges we have in the developed world. ...

As a facilitator of the Science of Soils activity I have seen many students get their hands dirty whilst investigating the properties of the various soils we provide. These soils have different textures, colours and other properties and are sourced from the New England region. Recently whilst travelling between schools around Warialda in the Discovery Voyager truck I began reflecting on these soils. ...

For some, school holidays are seen as break from learning. But, if you’re really lucky, it can be a chance to learn something even cooler than what you might ordinarily learn in school. This was the case around Armidale, Guyra, and Glenn Innes during the July school holidays, because even though school was out the UNE Discovery Voyager team was still on the road! On Wednesday 10th July, in the first week of the school holidays, the first stop was the Guyra Library and the first of many chemistry adventures. Public and out of school hours (OOSH) groups came along to learn all about molecules, chemical reactions, and acids and bases. And of course, it wouldn’t be chemistry without an explosion or two! ...

The UNE Discovery team were grateful to be a part of the Farm of the Future Pavilion at the Sydney Royal Easter Show for the second year. This was our first year contributing to the Royal Agricultural Society Education Program, helping tell stories of agriculture, science and our region, and providing professional development for teachers from around NSW. ...

In this day and age it seems to be quite rare to find people who are employed to do what they are passionate about and also to be paid to do it.  For me, I feel blessed to be one of those fortunate few who enjoys going to work.  Every day I can’t wait to get to work and while there I become so engrossed with what I am doing that the days just fly by.  When Friday draws to a close there is some disappointment about the end of the week, unless there is the prospect of doing at least a few extra hours over the weekend.  This seems to me to be the reverse pattern of the normal lifestyle of the majority of the workforce....

Being a chicken lover, a visit to the poultry pavilion was on my “to do” list for the Easter Show. So on one of my free afternoons, I grabbed some lemon pancakes for lunch, and started wandering through the Poultry pavilion. I came to a pen holding a large male turkey (called a gobbler). He was puffing himself up and strutting to impress the ladies. As I watched his face, the flap of skin that hangs down over his beak started to retract and it was pulled right up over to the top of his head. What??!! Did I just see that??...

The UNE Discovery team recently joined in the fun at Minerama, the annual 3-day Fossicking, Gem and Jewellery Festival in Glen Innes, the centre of Australia’s Celtic highlands. It is the largest annual gem and jewellery show in NSW. Held at the Glen Innes Showground for the first time, the event attracted around 3000 people. ...

Let’s play a word association game. Ready…..What is the first word or emotion that comes to you when I say “insect”? What did you think of? Did you feel a sense of wonder, fascination or curiosity? Or did you feel a bit icky, or maybe even scared or repulsed?...

On March the 8th every year we celebrate International Women’s Day. In modern times the day is generally a celebration of women and the strength, diversity and vital perspective they bring to all aspects of our lives. It is also a day to reflect on slow progress on many issues. But not as slow as back in 1917 in Petrograd when International Women’s Day was born. ...

In the Discovery program, play-based learning is one of the tenets that we hope to bring to all schools and throughout all our activities, but by no means does it stop when we hop in that truck and make our way back to base at the University of New England. Now my idea of ‘fun’ and ‘play’ might be a little skewed from what others enjoy, but no less I am happy to use science and maths as my tool to answer some of the puzzling questions that I find myself dwelling on daily. My most recent daydream began on a return trip with Discovery when in the back of the car I found myself hypothesising, “If I were to roll all the members of a single species of animal into ball, which ball would be the biggest?”. (See, I told you this wasn’t going to be something you imagined reading about every day.)...

Driving back into Armidale after an exhilarating week on the road, we were warmly welcomed by the magnificent flourish of autumn leaves donning our cherished tree lined avenues. The riot of once rich, lush green leaves had been transformed into the softer whispers of yellows, oranges and burning reds. Highlighted by the setting sun, the leaves seemed to bring unusual warmth to the brisk New England air, and with it an excitement that it may finally be acceptable to light our beloved wood fires. ...

If ever you drive down the sleepy main street of Glen Innes, a number of grand old heritage buildings are likely to catch your eye. Many of these came about off the back of a mining boom that happened in the late 1800’s when tin was discovered in the area. As a result of dramatic increase in the number of people digging around in the ground, sapphire was also found in the area, leading to a couple of gem mining booms in the 1920’s and 1970’s. While not so much large scale commercial mining happens nowadays in the area, Minerama is a tip of the hat to these fossicking heydays. ...

One of the joys of being a part of the Discovery Voyager team is seeing children engage with the world around them with a sense of wonderment. When we slow down and stay with an experience, nature offers up surprises. At one school we thought we were just looking down the microscope at the parts of a flower, incredible and amazing of themselves. Surprise! Cries of “Wow! Come and look at this!” A teensy bug, invisible to the naked eye, was staring up at us through the lens. It’s hard to take your eye away from the microscopic world....

In December I had the chance to sail the tall ship 'SV Tenacious' across the Tasman Sea. 'Tenacious' is a remarkable and unique wooden sailing ship built to accommodate people with disabilities - including wheelchair users and the visually or hearing impaired - sailing alongside able-bodied crew. It’s a remarkable program that offers otherwise inaccessible experiences. Whilst on board and I was also able to think about the driving forces that allow this amazing mode of transportation to take place. So what’s really going on?...

As part of our Discovery Voyager PURPOSE OF POLLINATORS activities we make forays in school grounds with students to see what pollinating insects we can find. Recently we observed the pollination of spring flowers in Tamworth – it was a warm day and lots of insects were busy buzzing around the ornamental plants in the grounds....

As part of the UNE Discovery Voyager school program we have a wonderful opportunity to visit and observe the natural world in many different locations throughout northern NSW. Collection and observation of soil samples at these schools during the SCIENCE OF SOILS sessions has enabled us to investigate the physical properties, pH, microbiology and biodegradation processes of many different soils and sites....

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