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Turramurra Powerful Owl project sees students, teachers in hands-on habitat help roles

Posted by on 09/07/2018

Awareness encouraged: Karen Harper.

Awareness encouraged: Karen Harper.

Awareness encouraged: Karen Harper.

Students and teachers are rolling up their sleeves to learn about the environment in a hands-on program set to benefit local habitats. Powerful Owl Project, a joint initiative involving more than 360 students from five schools within the Turramurra Learning Community of Schools, is focused on creating new habitats to encourage owls back to the area.

Project partners include Gibberagong Environmental Education Centre, ARIES, Birdlife Australia and Taronga Zoo.

“Students, young and old, have engaged enthusiastically in the Powerful Owl program and have gained knowledge, skills and understanding about themselves as leaders, learners and custodians of our natural heritage,” says teacher Karen Harper from Gordon West Public School.

“The project’s emphasis was the complex challenge of supporting habitat awareness for the Powerful Owl,” she says. “As these majestic native owls require nesting sites in old growth forests, protecting remanent bushland and planting suitable native flora for the future is integral to their survival.” Students gained knowledge about the importance of protecting natural eco-systems that ensure food and water sources for the Powerful Owl and its prey. They were also involved in planting or regenerating native habitats within their school grounds and were encouraged to build suitable wildlife-friendly habitats in their own backyards or on home balconies.

Working together in teams of 10, the Year 4 primary students were mentored by high school students from Years 9 and 10. The older students are in a leadership program and underwent mentor training before they started working across the primary schools.

“The high school students took on the role of group facilitators which allowed them to practise their instructing, mediating and negotiating skills through managing different groups,” Harper says. “Working with the younger students also gave them the opportunity to refine valuable interpersonal skills such as developing rapport, empathy, patience and sensitivity towards their younger team members.”

“While the project was carefully planned, managed and assessed, the emphasis was on student-centred learning with minimal teacher instruction,” Harper says. “It allowed students to practise their collaboration, communication and critical thinking skills.”

Harper says students particularly enjoyed the “hands-on” learning and were eager to share their experiences with others. An Expo Day was held at Turramurra High on September 16 where projects from each of the schools, as well as the high school students’ reports, were showcased. Works documenting the students’ ZooSnooze excursion to Taronga Zoo were played on the day to communicate environmental messages and raise community awareness.

“The range of interesting projects showcased the diverse range of creative ideas and solutions the students developed through flexible thinking,” Harper says. “Some teams selected paint, clay and papier mache to construct dioramas, models, books and posters. Other teams chose technology to create short videos on the iPads they had access to, with one team even developing a Stop Motion Animation piece.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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