Playing with Audioboo

I am back in Room 12 at St John’s School. The students are learning to use technology to support their reading. This week we have tried to use Audioboo.

The Bananas Group are going to read the book called The Snake Olympics.

 The snake olympics

You can listen to their predictions about this book here:

After we made the ‘boo’ and saved it to this blog, I shared it with the class. We had a brilliant learning conversation about the prediction, the photo saved sideways (I left that unedited and I am really glad I did). The learning conversation with my class was brilliant. There were no put downs, in fact the 3 students who produced the ‘boo’ are now the  Audioboo experts and are going to teach the whole class next week.
I was was really impressed with the mature conversations and the way learning was shared in my class. Go Room 12

Beautiful Dawn Chorus

I have been dabbling with Twitter! I follow a few education people who have some great links that hep me to learn more about teaching and learning. I also follow Forest and Bird and NZ Batman. They have links to some amazing sites.

Today I found a site called #Predator Free NZ, it had a quote from my favourite Scientist, Sir Paul Callaghan. The quote is about eradicating all predators and restoring NZ native species that have become threatened by stoats, rats, possums etc. His wise words were:

“It’s crazy and ambitious, but I think it might be worth a shot”

I also found this amazing dawn chorus recording, which I am attempting to embed here:

Listening to the recording, reminded me of walking up on Tiritiri Island earlier this year. As my time on the Teacher Fellowship programme draws to a close, I think that I am getting all nostalgic. (I am also furiously writing a summary of my science experiences for my end of Fellowship report too!)

Wouldn’t it be fabulous to hear that sound every day in all parts of New Zealand?

Learning about Tui

I have been helping to make feeder boxes. These are boxes that will have food (sugar water) inside to attract Tui. The boxes can be used by scientists to catch, measure and band birds. Then the scientists can use the information to learn more about Tui and help to keep them safe and healthy.

The feeder boxes have been designed and a prototype built by my host at The Human-Wildlife Interaction Research Group.


Weihong constructing one of her Tui feeder boxes at Massey University

She needs a lot of these boxes to help to monitor and learn about Tui in various locations. I have helped to make the boxes and I asked my daughter’s Scout group to help too. The Scouts did a great job of building and painting the boxes.

scouts (11)

The Scouts worked together to construct the boxes

They also helped to paint all the boxes.

scouts (7)

Spray painting outdoors






Marsh family buid boxes (11)

Some of the edges were sharp so we had to wear gloves to protect our hands

scouts (5)

The scouts were very handy with power tools too

Thank you Taiaotea Scout Group, you really worked hard on this project. I appreciate your efforts and interest in this project.

Room 2 find a slug!

This week Miss Dixon who teaches in Room 2 sent me some photos of a slug! The students had asked her to send it to me.

Here is a photograph of the slug

room 2 slug

Room 2 spotted this outside their classroom

I spoke to some scientists who said that they thought it was a Leopard slug. It is not a native slug, it was introduced from Europe. Its hard to tell from the photograph, but a Leopard slug is usually larger than the more common black slug. If you see it again, please can you measure it?

Then at lunchtime some more scientists got out a MASSIVE book about invertebrates and shared some facts about slugs. I wrote some facts for the students in Room 2.

  • Slugs are nocturnal
  • They are related to sea snails,mussels, oysters, chitons, octopus, pipi and squid
  • They have a tongue called a radula that works like an electric knife to scrape algae from rocks. I saw a diagram of the radula and it looked pretty scary, it put me off my lunch!
  • Sometimes Leopard slugs eat other slugs but mostly they eat dead plants and fungi

I have been using a great website called Naturewatch as part of my studies here at Massey University. There is a cool app for Naturewatch for I Pads if you have one, or you can just check out their website. Here is the link to the Naturewatch page on the Leopard slug for you to find out more information.

Last Cool Slug fact: One of the scientists said that if you carefully put a slug on a glass tile, you can look at its muscles move from underneath. The muscles are called pedal retractor muscles!

Thanks for sharing your photo Room 2



Scientist visits School

Today I visited St John’s School with Dr Weihong Ji who is my host at Massey University. She came to look at the Native Gully walk area. We walked through the bush area and looked at the variety of trees. We looked for evidence of bird life. There is a nest, that my daughter Charlotte spotted over the holidays. It is either a Thrush or a Blackbird nest. The only way to tell is to look inside it. If its mud lined, it’s a Thrush nest, if there are just sticks on the interior, it’s a blackbird nest. It will be fun to put a mirror on a stick and take a look one day.

We attached some bright pink flagging tape on some of the trees and wrote the  names of the trees on, if you see theflagging tape in native bush area (2) tape, you can have a look at the name of the tree. Please look after the tape, its important science business! Remember you can only go in the Native Gully Walk with an adult. This is a safety rule, I found out why we have this rule the hard way today because I slipped over and Dr Ji had to help me up!

Canyou see the bright flagging tape?

In a few weeks time I hope to put out some sugar feeders in the Native bush area.  I bought some feeders on Tiritiri Island, they attract tui and other nectar feeders.

I encourage everyone in the School community to put sugar water feeders in your gardens (and keep cats indoors!) Please try to take photos of any birds that are attracted to them. You can post the photographs on this blog or email them to me at School.

The recommended amount of sugar in water to attract native birds is 20%. That is 1 part sugar and 4 parts water. You can put it in an old saucer, no special equipment is required! There is a sugar water feeder outside the building where I am based at Massey, and tui feed from it.

sugar feeder at University (2)

This is a sugar water feeder

 Weihong says its best to avoid feeding bread and seeds to birds in the garden. Bread is not good for any species of bird and seeds attract non-natives like sparrows. This interferes with the natural populations of native birds as the sparrow population gets too large and well fed and compete with the native birds.

I popped in to see my class and introduced my host Dr Ji to the children in Room 12, they were very happy to see a “real” scientist in School. Well done on showing such lovely manners, Dr Ji thought that you were very well behaved today.


Zealandia Sanctuary

Just before Easter,  I flew to Wellington for my 2 day Curriculum Course at the Royal Society. I went down a day early so that I could visit the amazing Zealandia Sanctuary. I wanted to compare this predator free sanctuary with the others that I have visited at Tarwharanui, Shakespear and Tiritiri Matangi Island. Zealandia is located in the city, in an urban area. I was interested to see the way that they kept predators out and precious native species in. I was lucky to meet Sue and Darren the educators at Zealandia and I helped out with a trial class nightwalk.

I was really impressed with the visitor’s centre which was massive and housed 2 floors of interactive display. The outstanding seven and a half minute movie to introduce conservation of native species in Zealandia should be compulsory viewing for every schoolchild in the country. It really put the destruction of native species into context. It was quite powerful and reminded me about how special some of our endangered creatures are.


The amazing moving moa

We were lucky enough to join a guided walk at dusk in the sanctuary. There were some really good information displays throughout the park, they gave lots of information about how the park operated and controlled predators.


Zealandia had excellent information displays

The highlight of the dusk walk was seeing my first ever kaka birds. They are stunning brown and orange birds that are noted for being really clever! The feeding stations have been designed to challenge the kaka to think and plan how to access their food. Kaka are really noisy, they are not shy and you can get really close up to see their feeding stations and take photos. I was entranced and could have stayed there for hours.


kaka working out how to get food from the feeding station

The educators used information technology in a really innovative way. I-pads were shared around the group and entries were uploaded using the Naturewatch app. I was really impressed with the enthusiasm of the students who worked collaboratively to take  photos and record interesting information. The students were in a sort of competition with the other group as to who could get the most information. Sue, our guide, was knowledgeable and engaging, she talked to the students about the flora and fauna in the Sanctuary. She shared stories of  how people can use plants as medicine and in everyday life.

At the end of the dusk walk we saw some takehe in a small enclosure. The light was fading so photos are not as clear as I would have liked. I bought a book in the visitors centre about takahe so that I can read it to my class when I return to St John’s School.


Mrs Marsh spots Takahe in Wellington!

After a bite to eat, the sun went down and we went on a night walk. The Educators and extra guides carried strong beamed red torches and students and teacher fellows were issued with small red filtered torches.

There are no photos here as it was too dark, but we did hear and see lots of creatures.

We heard a pair of kiwi calling, saw lots of tuatara (There were lots of these rare ancient lizards at Zealandia and they were really easy to see), cave weta, glow worms, stick insects, Maud Island frogs and gecko (in an enclosure).

After the walk we left the students to have their supper, set out their mattresses and stay the night. 2 teachers and a Zealandia educator were lucky enough to stay the night with them. Fortunately we were able to escape to our nice quiet hotel.

I would like to thank the educators at Zealandia for letting me join in their trial night walk for students. I learnt a lot!

If you are ever in Wellington, try to visit this excellent Sanctuary, its amazing.


Back to School!


Mrs Marsh goes back to School….in Dunedin

Last week I went to The University of Otago to attend an “Enhancing Leadership” course. This is the part of the Teacher Fellowship Scheme to enable us lead the Science curriculum when we return to School. I really liked the motto that was written on our course notes, certificate, pens, water bottle. It was:

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself

I learnt a lot about myself, my values and leadership traits that I really admire. And that was just the first day! During the week we had lots of homework to do, and we have more to do before the end of term 1 and term 2.

Course B people, the B stands for brilliant (Thanks Julz for that one)

Course B people, the B stands for brilliant (Thanks Julz for that one)

On Wednesday evening, exhausted from all the learning, we went on a city tour of Dunedin in a lovely Daimler Jaguar car. The driver took us to some of Dunedin’s famous sights and shared some of the history of the car and the city.


Dunedin’s famous Railway Station Building. Our car was the one on the right.

We all walked to the top of the world’s steepest street, Baldwin Street. It was quite a climb!


It’s a lovely view from the top of Baldwin Street

I am really grateful for the Executive Education staff who made the week run so smoothly. Also I really enjoyed getting to know the Brilliant “B” course teachers, they made the experience so much fun. Special thanks need to go to my daughter, Charlotte, who let her Mum go away for the week of her 11th birthday!


Graduation: course completed


The sun shone on the beautiful old Dunedin University buildings

White coat alert!

Jill in lab (3)

Mrs Marsh looking like a scientist in the University lab

This week has been very varied, incredibly busy and really exciting.

I got to assist in some lab work with some ecology students. One of the students was Ally who I met on Tiri, what a small world!

Jill and Ally in lab

Using the lab equipment to weigh beetles

Also I helped out with some mist netting in an urban bush setting. We managed to catch blackbirds, silver eyes, fantails and a grey warbler. I noticed that the birds that we saw in the urban areas were different than the species that we saw in Tarwharanui. There were no bellbirds here in the city!

grey warbler

A tiny beautiful grey warbler

I am off to Dunedin next week for a Leadership course at the University of Otago. I have been packing my thermals and I am looking forward to catching up with some of the Teachers on the Royal Society Fellowship programme.

Week 5: watching tui movies

I have spent some time watching recordings of Tui birds feeding their babies (science word: nestlings) on the nest. The recordings were taken a while ago and the scientists that I am working with wanted some data from them. The data will help scientists investigate how good Tui birds are at parenting.

I was really surprised at how often a parent bird returns to the nest to feed her nestlings. Its not very relaxing being a parent bird!

Tui nestlings have huge beaks compared to the size of the rest of their bodies. The beaks are bright yellow. Can you guess why that is?


Today I learnt that scientists are incredibly methodical: during the video watching I had to rewind and recount the feeds to be sure that I had recorded it correctly and rewind again to check the place of the visit on the recording. It takes MUCH longer than one hour to record observations and check the notes on a one hour recording!

All of the information is recorded on an Excel spreadsheet. I can now see why scientists need to have very good IT skills and maths skills. (Both of which I feel that I am currently lacking!) If I was to encourage a student to consider science as a career, I would definitely recommend that they study Maths and IT beyond NCEA too!