Curriculum Days No 1

Last week we spent 3 days in Wellington at RSNZ looking at curriculum development, more specifically looking at science capability one, ‘gather and interpret data’ (

On the flight down I couldn’t resist taking this photo of the Brooklands lagoon (I was in an Airbus A320 so it was ok to use my phone to take a picture!), where I was the week before getting all muddy. The mouth of the Waimakariri is visible next to the lagoon, and you can see it was quite a misty morning in lower parts of the area.


While in Wellington we looked at lots of activities we could do with classes to observe and infer different things.


One of the activities was looking at what happens with skittles in water and making good observations with it.

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We then got so excited we had to try it with M&Ms which was even better.


With purple skittles it was particularly good, as you could see the different colours coming out, like pen ink in chromatography.

Another activity was making playdoh circuits. Salt playdoh is able to conduct electricity so you can make cool circuits with it. If you make sugar playdoh though, it would be an insulator so could be a good way of looking at both circuits, and conductors and insulators.

This activity was shown to us by an ambassador from Future in Tech. They will come out to schools and take about careers, and will do activities.

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They were very simple circuits with two AA batteries, playdoh, and LEDs. No need for resistors etc. They also work really well! Much easier than setting up electricity equipment that hardly ever works properly!

We also did an activity looking at different density liquids where we had to figure out which liquid would float on which to make a traffic light in the straw.

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It took a while, but we got there in the end.

While we were looking at making observations and inference, we also looked at Cartesian divers, observing toast cooked in two ways (toaster and microwave- there is a surprising amount to observe there!), and floating paper cut different ways.

On Thursday night we were sent out on a mission to take photos of “Science”, so that we could use them the next day. We didn’t know what they were for so we all took lots of photos.

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Those are some of mine.

In the end we were asked to choose a photo (I chose the plant one) and write some questions about it that help make close observation of the photo, then some that help make inferences. This was interesting as it was very quickly proven that it is very hard to stop making inferences automatically and just make some observations. We all tend to observe very quickly and leap straight to inference.

I think next time I might give this photo a go…



Brooklands Lagoon

For the last three days I have been spending my time out in Brooklands lagoon helping some Frontiers Abroad students to do a survey of the lagoon.

Brooklands lagoon is a tidal estuary at the Waimakariri river mouth. The river end of the lagoon is next to what was the suburb of Brooklands. This was badly damaged by liquifaction in the Christchurch earthquakes and was “red zoned”.

DSC_0953The area shows where peoples houses and gardens used to be.

DSC_0945The lagoon covers 270ha, is 4.5km long, and 0.8 km wide at its widest point. It is a mix of saltmarsh and tidal mudflats, and home to numerous birds.

The purpose of the survey is to see if there is evidence for subsidence in the estuary. To do this we used 5 transects to survey along to see the plants and sediments, and took measurements of the elevations and a core sample in one.

We did quadrats along each transect to see what plants were there.

IMG_2387This photo was taken near the Spencer park end and shows mostly jointed sedge. Four quadrats were done at each point along the transect to get a more thorough idea of what was there. However the really only cover a very tiny percentage of the whole area!

At each spot we also took a sediment sample to be tested for grain size. IMG_2395Each one is labeled with the transect number, which side it is on, and the point it was taken from. I got very good at the labeling and collecting for this! The trick to collecting the sample was to not dig too deep as we only wanted the surface sediment size.


Each bag had to be labelled on the outside and have a label inside. This is because sediment can be pretty rough on vivid and we didn’t want to lose the labels!

IMG_2396These were my tools! The bucket got pretty heavy when it was full of sediment samples.

Along one of the transects we also did a survey of the elevation, took samples for looking at the forams, and did a core.


I took a sneaky selfie of me standing in the lagoon holding the survey equipment.


The first thing we did on this part was send Nicky out to measure a straight line 100m out. We then surveyed the elevation and the plants every 10m. We also took samples of the sediment to see what forams are living there. This will be compared to the core to see how things have changed, as forams are specific to the conditions.

DSC_0930It was quite wet and muddy heading out along the tape measure!

DSC_0932This white tube was used to get the samples for the forams rather than the trowel. The key was to only take the top 2cm to get the currently living ones. There is a dowel inside the tube that pushes up as it is pushed into the ground and it has measurements on it to show how deep it is.

Then when we were just past the end of the plants we took a core. First we used a probe to see what was under the ground and see if it was a suitable place. You could hear the difference in sound as the probe pushed past mud or sand.


This picture shows Emma, one of the students trying to push the corer into the mud.

DSC_0939It was challenging getting the samples out of the corer at times. And very important to remember which was the top! It was like getting the worst stuck cake out of a tin.

DSC_0941Some of our samples. We made it a total of 3m in the end.

Below are some other photos of my time out there.

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My feet got progressively muddier throughout the days. I was really glad of my tramping boots keeping my feet dry though!


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The lumpy bits seen in this photo are actually the remnants of old sand volcanoes from the Christchurch Earthquake. They are only visible where the channel is.

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The Basement

Today I got to have an introductory look around the basement of the Geology/Biology building.


The basement is full of samples of various types of rock for teaching and peoples research. It also has lots of bone samples, including moa bones but we couldn’t find them today. That is a mission for next time!


Just some of the bones!



Some lovely rocks. Next time I am going to look for the rocks with fossils. Watch this space for an update on that.

The basement also has the core samples taken for various things. These are one of the things I will be looking at in the estuary to see what sorts of foraminifera are present which should tell us about the water levels at different times and how the estuary has changed with earthquakes.




Watch this space for more updates from the basement!

Words, words, words

So far I have spent lots of time reading journal articles and scientific papers to up my knowledge of the geology of the Christchurch estuary environments and the fauna that live there. One of the great side effects of this is that I have been learning some lovely new words, and I thought I would share some of them. I have actually had to make a glossary to keep track of them.

These are my three favourites from today.

Palustrine– of, or relating to, a marsh

Limnic– of, or relating to, fresh water

Lacustrine– of, or relating to, a lake

By the time I get back to school, I will be so used to using them that no one will understand me!

Week One!

I have been at the University of Canterbury Geology department for a week now and I am starting to settle in. So far I have had a lot of time for reading and finding out so background on my project, as most people here are preparing for the academic year.

I have been learning about ‘forams’ (Foraminifera). They are a type of micro fauna that are found in the estuaries around Christchurch (Avon-Heathcote, and Brooklands), and they basically look like tiny snails. There are thousands of different varieties around the world but only about 30 or so in the estuaries around here. They are very sensitive to their environment and different ones will be found depending on things like the depth of the water. Their shells end up in the sediments and are an indicator of the environment at the time, so they tell a lot of the history of the estuary through natural events that will change the environment, like earthquakes.

Next week I will be heading out to Brooklands, and joining some students who are looking at the estuary and looking for records of past earthquakes using these forams.