USYD Spectacular Science Excursion

A group of Year 7 student went to the University of Sydney to take part in an amazing experience all to do with bees! There were mini workshops, all incorporating bees and the production of honey and overall it was an awesome experience. The workshops tested our abilities and knowledge on how bees produce honey, do their jobs and how bees pollinate thousands of flowers each day! 

We started off the day with a lecture from a professional beekeeper and researcher! We learnt lots of really cool facts and got to experience what a university lecture felt like. Professor Beekman taught us lots of interesting facts and information that will help in our future experiments and research on our St Clare’s bees.  After that we split off into school groups and went to our first activity. 

In our first activity we played a game that focused on being altruistic, which means to give something without expecting anything in return. After that we stopped for a small break before continuing to our next activity. This time we went to the physics lab and made paper helicopters. We had to create an experiment and collect the data to put it into a graph. This was a really interesting and fun experience and gave us a real life view of what physics university life is like. 

In the science lab we did two different activities. The first one was bee bingo. In this activity we were each given a type of bee and we had to examine this bee under a microscope. We then had to decide what aspect suited our bee and match them up. For example if you noticed that your bee had a large, stocky body and head then it would probably be a buzz pollinator compared to using pollen baskets. 

Our second activity was honey tasting and evaluating. In this activity we were given honey made by the 5 different types of bees which were the European Honeybee, Stingless Bee, Blue Banded Bee, Green Metallic Bee, Sweat Bee and Teddy Bear Bee. We had to test the honey on consistency, smell, flavour, clarity and colour. Even though all the honey looked very similar they had a variety of tastes and smells. We also noticed that the stingless bee honey had a lot less produced because they only produce 1 kg a year so there was a limited amount of honey. We also found this was the runnier type of honey and a unique one to eat.

After we had finished all of our workshops we had a final lecture. This involved liquid nitrogen. The lecturer asked us questions about it and even gave an experiment on an egg. It showed how different chemicals and forces can affect different aspects of nature. It was a very educational lecture which was easy and fun to listen to. The presenter also used gas from a fire extinguisher to push a go kart. It was a very interesting and unique presentation.

We all really enjoyed this experience and would highly recommend it to others. We learnt lots, had fun and got to see the life inside a real university! We speak for the group when we say that was an amazing experience and we were all very inspired by how much effort the university had put into it. 

Olivia Zammit and Suki Waddell (Year 7)

Monitoring Our Beehive

The 7.1 students are creating monitoring devices using their Microbits to collect data that will help us check on the health of our beehive. This is their role in the STEM project currently taking place across all Year 7 classes.

Each group has chosen a sensor they think will help provide valuable data for the class to analyse with everything from UV Sensors to barometric pressure being used in devices.

One group is responsible for monitoring the number of bees that enter and exit the hive. They have set up a ‘beecam’ to capture their data. They video files are then dropped into iMovie, the footage slowed down as much as possible and then one minute segments analysed from each session’s footage.

Today was the first day of collecting data and there was lots of interesting activity happening in and around the beehive as groups positioned their devices to accurately collect the data required.

Bee Project: Data Collection

Our Year 7 students are moving along with their STEM project, ‘Can St Clare’s Sustain Another Beehive?’ At the moment the focus in Mathematics is on data collection using Microbits.

The 7.1 students are looking at how they can use their Microbits to monitor the health of the hive.  Last week they had the pleasure of hearing from Carmela, a data engineer from UTS. Carmela spoke about how crucial data has become in most occupations and what becoming a data engineer involves.

This was a great lead in to the work we have done this week is creating a device that we can use to monitor the health of our beehive. The students have incorporated a number of sensors that will collect information they can use to ensure our hive has every chance of maintaining the right conditions for our bees.

The devices which will monitor light, UV, humidity, temperature and air pressure will be put to use next week being place around the beehive. We also have a team that has set up a bee cam that focuses on the movement of the bees in and out of the hive.

We will have much data to share in the coming weeks!

Bee Project 2019

Our entire Year 7 cohort began their STEM program for Term 4 last Monday. This is the first time we have run a STEM project across the entire year group so we are very excited to see how the students interact with the project.

The STEM project is very similar to the project that was nominated as a finalist in this year’s Australian Education Awards. It is based around the native stingless bee and proved to be a great learning experience for the 7.1 class of 2018.

Our model of running smaller trials of projects before implementing across a cohort has continued this year with three new projects trialed throughout 2019. These projects will be implemented across Years 7 and 8 in 2020.

During the lunch break last Friday, Elke, of Elke’s Bees, took some time from her busy schedule to check on the health of our beehive which was installed late in 2018. The installation of the beehive was the culmination of the 2018 STEM project.

Some of our 7.1 students made their way to the front garden during to observe the process as they will be required to develop a method of monitoring the health of our beehive as part of the involvement in the STEM project. Elke was able to give them some tips on what they need to monitor as well as showing them the inner workings on the hive.

As our hive was very healthy, Elke was able to split the hive and in doing so create a new hive that will be installed in another school over the coming weeks. Watching Elke split the hive and then being able to not only see the inner workings was just incredible. Some of the students were able to have a little taste of the small amount of honey inside! Not quite the same as the honey we are familiar with. The native bees are not as prolific as the honey bee when it comes to making honey, definitely a little savoury with a hint of lemon!

It was definitely a great learning experience for all of us and we look forward to sharing the progress of the students as they get further into the project.

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Drone STEM Project

Our Year 8.1 students began their second STEM unit for the year at the start of this term. The driving question for the unit is, “How can people and technology improve society?’ The students will be using our Parrot Mambo drones and drone technology in general to investigate this question.

The project was launched last week in their Science class with the students working with their teacher, Miss Ruan, and our technical guru, Mr Ben Johnson. Miss Ruan led the students through the process of unpacking the driving question, while Mr Johnson took the girls through the basics of the Parrot Mambo.

In Maths the students will be developing their skills in using and analysing data. They will look at how different companies use drones to gather and analyse data as well as making comparisons between drone companies based on available data. Companies like PrecisionHawk are leading the world in using AI to make analysing data more efficient.

In Science it will be all about ecosystems and how drone technology is enabling society to monitor and manage ecosystems more efficiently. The students will be required to program their drone to map out the ecosystem that exists within our magnificent front garden. They will also look at drone companies like DroneSeed that are emerging in the agriculture industry.

In Technology all Year 8 students are involved in using the drones through their unit, ‘Engineered Systems’. This unit will run until the end of 2019, so there will be opportunities for all Year 8 students to learn to code the drones and explore how drones are humans are changing the way we view our world.

Initially we had planned for this project to be purely a STEM project, however, with the vast amount of innovation happening with drone mapping, Mrs King was keen to get the students exploring this question in their Geography class.

We are looking forward to sharing more of this project as it develops over the coming weeks.

Year 11 Biology

On Tuesday the 11th of June, twenty-four Year 11 Biology students visited the Lachlan Wetlands in Centennial Parklands.

The purpose of our excursion was to measure abiotic and biotic factors within the wetlands and collect data for an ecosystem depth study. From this we could analyse any trends and develop an inquiry question to investigate further with secondary research.

We worked in groups of four to collect quadrant data along a pre-established path. Some groups collected data about air conditions such as light intensity and humidity, and other groups collected data about soil conditions such as pH and moisture. We also counted bat populations, estimated canopy cover and used an identification chart to observe plant diversity in the under storey.

After lunch, we considered how human activities can affect fruit bat populations such as extreme heat and noise pollution from major events that happen within the Park. The excursion was an eye-opening experience as our education officer told us that 50,000 bats live in Lachlan Wetlands and that they are very affected by the noise from music festivals and temperature fluctuations from climate change.

Many of us also fed ducks bread in parks as children, but we found out that bread can sink to the bottom of ponds and decay, and that bread is also really unhealthy for ducks to eat. We concluded our day by brainstorming practical management strategies in groups to reduce human impacts on this ecosystem, and used clay to model our management plans.

STEAMPunk Project Update

Our 8.1 class was joined this morning by Rachel, a water engineer from UTS. Rachel spent some time sharing a little of her journey to becoming an engineer, before talking about some of the recent projects she has been involved with.

The idea behind the visit was to connect our students with someone working in the field they are investigating. The driving question, ‘How can we survive drought?’, connected with the work Rachel does, so she was able to move around to each group and discuss their ideas for responding to the question. This was invaluable feedback for the students as they progress towards their final product.

The students also had time to work on their projects and the arrival of a myriad of electronic equipment had the teams frantically working to connect sensors to their Microbits. The incorporation of sensors required a whole new level of expertise and we were fortunate Mr Johnson was available to guide the students through this next phase. There was even time to venture outside and test the soil moisture in the front garden!

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The project is developing well and we are starting to see the ideas become reality. With only three weeks to go there is much still to do as each group must create a presentation for the showcase and a supporting website.

STEAMPunk Girls Project Launch

As part of our ongoing commitment to incorporating STEM/STEAM projects into the curriculum our 8.1 students are participating in an initiative by STEAMPunk Girls from UTS.

The driving question for our project is, ‘How can we survive a drought?’. The project will run over the next four weeks and will be embedded across most of the subjects the students are studying in that period. 

The students will work in groups to respond to the driving question. The one requirement is they must include their Microbits into their solution. Each student has their own Microbit and they will need to work out how to code the Microbit to collect data as well as talking to other Microbits. How the group uses the data to respond to the driving question is up to them.

We launched the project with the 8.1 class yesterday and they were certainly buzzing with some great ideas. We started with an excerpt from the 7:30 Report  which looked at the harsh realities of life in drought affected parts of NSW and then the students worked in their groups to unpack the driving question.

The students were then issued with their Microbits and after a short demonstration from our Mathematics Coordinator, Chris Pocock, there was time to set up the Microbit and explore the capabilities of the device.

We will share the progress of each group as the project gets underway.

STEM Academy Project Update

The delivery and installation of our beehive signified the end of our STEM Academy project for 2018. The driving question for the project was, ‘Sustainability-Whose Responsibility?’ examined through the life cycle of the native stingless bee.

Elke from Native Stingless Bees has worked with us throughout the project to teach our students about native stingless bees and then help identify the best place to locate the hive.

The native stingless bees are much smaller than the bees most of us notice in our gardens and our the newest members of our community were soon out and about familiarising themselves with their new surroundings.

Our students still have a little work to do with the project. This is around communicating to our local community that there is now a native beehive close by. The girls have prepared posters and videos that will help get the message out there.

This project has been a great way to start our journey down the STEM road. We have a number of STEM projects in planning for 2019 and look forward to sharing the details of each in the weeks ahead. A full review of the current project will be posted once all evaluations have been completed.


Second Bee Workshop

Last Friday we had Elke from Native Stingless Bees visit for the second of our ‘Bee Workshops’. The focus of this workshop was the native stingless bee in preparation for the arrival of our hive in early Term 4.

Elke spent the first half of the session taking a close look at the characteristics of the native stingless bee and what was required for a hive to be successful. There was a lot of discussion around the work the girls had already done in Maths and Science to identify the ideal location for the hive.

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The second part of the session was out in the front garden to see where exactly the hive should be placed. Two locations have been identified as ideal for the hive and preparations will now be made to ensure everything is ready for delivery in October.