2017, Fieldwork, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

My time at Juniper Hall

By Rowena

Hello! My name is Rowena. I have been at Juniper Hall for two years now as a tutor. However, now is the end of my time here- I am moving on to new things in the frozen North, at Newcastle University!

Prepare For Game Of Thrones To Get Really, Really Dark | Space

It’s going to be so cold.

As part of the tutor team, Juniper Hall has been a fantastic experience. From waking up every morning to this view…

The cows are back in my front garden for the Summer #moo

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I’ve taught some very interesting groups in my time:

  • Students that have found the free U2 album on the ipads and played music while recording river measurements
  • A-level biologists from London that have played hide-and-seek after class because they’ve never been to the countryside
  • “Miss, can woodlice fly? I bet they can.”
  • “Miss, is that a cow?” [Points at black & white horse]
  • A KS2 group that had to almost run back to centre from Box Hill after a freak thunderstorm, getting drenched by the time we were back (It was actually in Reigate)
  • A KS2 student that decided to make “leaf angels” with me (You rock!)
  • Every single student that’s sung the Banana song the next morning after a campfire
  • My last group that cheered so hard, and climbed on each other’s shoulders (in Bebbington. I feared for their heads)
  • All the students that have tried to jump the River Tillingbourne at Crossways, especially those that have failed (especially the ones that failed on camera!)
  • The students that have gotten stuck in Pagham Harbour with big muddy smiles
  • The students that wanted to spray paint rocks to investigate longshore drift (always a good idea!)
  • The KS2 children that made themselves beards out of burrs and stickyweed
  • The children that have fallen in the River Mole at the Stepping Stones (or leapt)
  • The Real Family Holiday families and children who have all been so curious- those that have climbed the starfish (I fear for you), the amazing red-haired super-mum who pushed a double buggy all the way to the shelter building area, the sweet kids that sat and made apple bird-feeders for hours last year, the huge set of families that made the most incredible shelter I’ve ever seen, that sat about 10 and didn’t leak a drop!
  • All the lovely schools that have brightened my days with thank-you letters…

It’s been said never to work with children and animals, and yet I’ve spent most days working with both (for better and for worse!)

 

 

 

animals

  • Once I found a mole in the River Tillingbourne
  • I’ve been headbutted by the goats so many times
  • I’ve spray-painted a chicken purple
  • A student once just straight-up grabbed a lizard from underneath a log and it was awesome
  • The horses at Crossways Farm have chased me around the field about 10 times in the last 2 months
  • The students that, instead of picking up an invasive crayfish after they dropped it, jumped on it, then threw it in a tree
  • The teacher that allowed me to scare their entire class with a pet stick insect (they all left the room entirely for 10 minutes)
  • The school that drove me to Leatherhead Animal Rescue to rehabilitate an exhausted brown long-eared bat and got me in the newspaper!

 

I’ve had such a good time while I’ve been here (in all weathers- sun, rain, snow, thunderstorms), with so many incredible memories. Perhaps one day I’ll come back to teach again! After all, I haven’t yet had a pond named after me like Kate (one of our recent Education Assistants).

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This is definitely the best spot to teach from

Thanks for all the great memories, Juniper!

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2017, Biology, Fieldwork, FSC, geography, Uncategorized

Best geography & ecology resources

By Rowena

Over time, I’ve been collating a list of websites that are some of the best (or coolest) resources for geography, biology and ecology.

Geography

Datashine  -The 2011 census, geolocated and mapped for multiple different census datasets.

NullSchool  -Mapping of the world, showing meteorological flows and ocean currents.

Ventusky  -Similar to NullSchool, although on a flat projection. Generally slightly easier to use than NullSchool.

Image result for ventusky

Windy.com  -Weather patterns emerging over the next 5 days, with forecasts and animated maps.

CO2 levels  -Looks at atmospheric carbon dioxide and the change over the past ~260 years.

Fairness on the 83  -Fascinating human geography on inequality in Sheffield, and the changes in life expectancy over the route of the 83 Bus.

GeoLibrary  -365 days of geographical books, covering all topics geographical!

Image result for geolibrary

London Tree Map  -London’s trees mapped, by species.

Made with Padlet

Ecology & Environmental Science

ISpot  -Citizen science project to identify and map species.

Hunt the Moth -A fun game where you have to find the camouflaged moth as fast as possible.

Cloud Atlas -An international atlas of different types of cloud, by the World Meteorological Organization. Used to describe and define different types of cloud.

And finally, data presentation…

Episode #58: The Financial Times Graphic Desk - Policy Viz

FT Interactive  -Visual vocabulary, but interactive!

2017, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Spring on it’s way!

By Rowena

Spring is definitely on its way, with a delightfully warm weekend- barely even coat weather! We’ve been writing up our Spring Index here like last year to calculate when spring is starting. Last year the average index (which is across all the FSC centres) was the 26th April, which was the same as 2015. I think this year it might be earlier though, as we’ve already recorded quite a few early indicators!

Spring Has Sprung – Darcie Rian

We look primarily at 4 indicator species, although we’ve also been recording others as well- and important events such as first lunch outside (11th March), and first time wearing shorts (13th March). The 4 big ones though;

  • Swallow
  • Orange tip butterfly
  • Horse chestnut budding
  • Hawthorn flower

We’ve already recorded our first orange tip last week (27th March), a whole 18 days earlier than last year’s, which was on the 18th April.

Beyond the Human Eye: Orange-tip Butterflies - More Than Just a ...

Train ticket butterfly (Source: Beyond the Human Eye)

Last week brought the first house martin to Crossways Farm as well on the 31st March, an exciting spot by Jack on the coach back from the river. I got my first swallow yesterday on the 3rd April, although up in Hertfordshire, not in our area for the Spring Index, so the competition’s still going for the first spot for us in Surrey.

Barn Swallow in flight - Olympus UK E-System User Group

(Source: E-group.uk.net)

We’re still waiting for our horse chestnut and hawthorn, but no doubt they’ll be on their flowering way soon. The warm weather today rewarded a pair of slow worms under the reptile mats. No mammals, but the bees were flying from the apiary down in the meadow as well, despite the grey clouds.

Slow worm

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2016, Biology, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Bioblitz 2016

By Rowena

For half term, we ran our annual Bioblitz to record all the birds, bugs, plants and anything else on Juniper Hall’s grounds. In the weeks leading up, Daniel’s been busy handing out tons of flyers around Dorking and Leatherhead…

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So many leaflets!

Thankfully when the big day came the weather was kind to us! It all kicked off with opening our moth traps, which we had put out the evening before. Unfortunately there were only a few moths inside, as it’s getting to the time when they’re all tucked up and hibernating, but happily a few extras were brought along by the AES to admire as well.

Next we had Lisa and Saoirse open mammal traps in Templeton Woods. There were a couple of successes, with a water shrew, and then some wood mice later on in the ha-ha.

 Drawing quite the crowd

Later on in the lineup we had woodland and meadow invertebrate hunting. We got out the sweep nets, pooters and keys to see what we could find, scooping up grasshoppers, shield bugs, leafhoppers and moths. In the woods we had some fun charming worms too, making them wiggle to the surface to be identified.

The reptile mats didn’t reward any reptiles, but Lisa and a few families did find some hiding mammals and lots of insects- the ants just love colonising underneath the felting we’ve put down in our meadow.

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What’s Lisa found?

While Saoirse manned the ponds, looking for underwater critters, Rowena and Helen made some nettle tea with the kelly kettles, that took a lot longer than it should have…

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Putting on a brew!

Also throughout the day we had arts and crafts in the students’ common room, colouring moths and glittering invertebrates, and local societies joining us in the Templeton Room to promote bats, birds and bugs!

A big thank you to everyone that visited and helped, and to the lovely charities that attended; the Bat Conservation Trust, Surrey Bird Club, the Amateur Entomological Society and others!

We haven’t got final totals for everything we recorded on the day yet, but we’ll be sure to update once we do know what we managed to find.

2016, FSC, Uncategorized

Atmospheric Carbon over 400PPM

By Rowena

In the news last week, something that’s been creeping up for a while- Atmospheric carbon levels. It’s something I’ve been watching for the past few months, while I’ve been developing our new carbon day resources. The Guardian‘s released a new article (that’s all a bit doom & gloom) which states apparently, we’re never going back below 400PPM.

So what does that number even mean? NASA puts it best, so I’m going to quote them;

Data are reported as a dry air mole fraction defined as the number of molecules of carbon dioxide divided by the number of all molecules in air, including CO2 itself, after water vapor has been removed. The mole fraction is expressed as parts per million (ppm).

Carbon dioxide levels have been increasing over the past 50 years, from around 319PPM 50 years ago, to 386PPM 5 years ago, to the current number of 402.25PPM. Quite the exponential increase. If you’re anything like me, those figures are easier to imagine as a graph;

The inexorable rise of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

Graphic from NASA

September should have a low atmospheric carbon number because plants have been photosynthesising away all summer, removing carbon from the atmosphere. During winter there’s still some photosynthesis (evergreen plants, and plants in the Southern hemisphere), but not quite as much- because the Southern Hemisphere has a lot more ocean surface than the Northern Hemisphere, so it doesn’t have quite as much effect on carbon levels.

How does atmospheric carbon affect us?

  • Global warming (more carbon, more warming, more ice caps melting, and positive feedback loops)
  • Sea level rises (due to that ice cap melting)
  • Species & habitat loss

All a bit depressing, really. The Guardian have gone a bit dramatic with their headline…

The world passes 400ppm carbon dioxide threshold. Permanently.

It’s probably not permanent. Although we’re at 400ppm for now, there are loads of ways to reduce it- and atmospheric carbon levels fluctuate yearly. Next year, there’ll be a whole different number on the table. Countries all over the world are trying to reduce carbon production by reducing food waste, charging for plastic bags, banning single-use plastics and improving public transport, transferring to renewable energy. Environmental companies and charities are springing up all over, offering eco-friendly resources. Ecosia is a new search engine that plants trees as you search the web (my new favourite!) So maybe it’s not so bad after all.

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2016, Biology, FSC, Uncategorized

30 Days Wild & other exciting things

By Rowena

June is fast approaching (somehow!) and is the month for biodiversity, it seems. This morning I’ve been doing a little bit of research to promote three different fantastic biodiversity projects in June, and made ourselves a board with loads of information and resources for the coming month.

30 Days Wild- All of June

Set up last year, 30 Days Wild is an awesome drive by the Wildlife Trusts to get more people outside and interacting with nature. Individuals can sign up here for a pack, which contains things like a calendar for the month, stickers, a badge, and some ideas of what to do! There are loads of free activities that the Wildlife Trusts are putting on too, which is pretty cool as it means people really have the opportunity to get out and explore.

They also have an app, which you can download for some quick ideas to get outside in nature. I’ve not downloaded it yet (too many other recording apps!) but from a quick glance, it looks pretty fun.

 

National Insect Week- 20-26th June

National Insect Week is a bi-annual event run by the Royal Entomological Society promoting insects. There are tons of events occurring during the week all over the country, which is pretty cool really, as insects are sometimes undervalued- especially the ones that aren’t “pretty”.

The section of NIW’s website I like the best is the Learning Resources area (I guess that says a lot…)- there are loads of activities and things to do; worksheets and things to read, lesson plans, podcasts and websites. Fantastic!

 

Great British Bee Count- 19th May- 30th June

Run by the Friends of the Earth, the Great British Bee Count mostly revolves around an app used to count bees. When I first downloaded it only 10 bees had been counted- now it’s over 18,000! When you spot a bee, you can record it on the app. There are handy pictures too, which makes it easy to work out what you’re looking at. It even has a few non-bees that look like bees (like wasps and bee-flies).

Record all of the bees

You can also do a timed count, watching a 50cm area for 1 minute and recording all the bees that visit the flowers you’re watching.

Putting together all these cool biodiversity projects into one board was a bit of a challenge, and I might have gotten overexcited… But there’s so much to look forward to in June!

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So much biodiversity!

2016, Biology, FSC, Uncategorized

Seeds from SPACE

By Rowena

Last week, we had a very exciting delivery through the post- seeds from space! Daniel spotted the RHS Campaign for Gardening was giving away seeds that have been taken up to space by Tim Peake.

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In September 2015, 2kg of seed was sent up to space to the International Space Station and stored there until Spring 2016, when they returned to Earth. They now have been distributed in packets of 100 to schools around the country to be grown alongside control seeds. There is a packet of 100 red seeds, and a packet of 100 blue seeds. We’re not sure which seeds are control and which have been to space, so the experiment is to see if, when they grow, a difference can be seen between space seeds and Earth seeds!

British astronaut Tim Peake

We have seeds from one of those packets! Actual space stuff!

As according to the instructions, we planted the seeds (thematically, rocket seeds) in boxes of soil, gave them a good water, and filled in the poster we had to record our results on. At the moment they’re being kept in the soon-to-be new library, but will be moved to East and West classrooms in due course, to be monitored by visiting schools and staff.

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Carefully brushing the soil over the seeds

So what’s the point of it? Well, the experiment will show whether seeds are affected by being stored in space- which will be vital to know if we want to grow seeds on other planets one day. There’s a rigorous method that we had to follow so that our experiment is the same as everyone else who’s planting them. For the students planting seeds, this is a great opportunity to learn how to follow methods and justify why things are being done the way they are.

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Sarah waters the seeds

Every few days we have to count how many seeds have germinated, and measure the height. At the end of the 6 weeks that the experiment is running over, our data will get put into a national database, and the results can be analysed. This data will be published to the public as well, which is very exciting.

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The first few seeds have germinated already, so we are busy watering and waiting for the rest to sprout as well. Hopefully they’ll soon grow big and we can see if there are differences between the two packets!