2016, FSC, Uncategorized

Wild Art

By Rowena

Wednesday of Real Family Holidays found us making wild art in Templeton Woods and on the lawn. We started off with nature’s palettes, finding the different colours of spring…

Nature’s palettes

With all the colours of the rainbow found, we took inspiration from Andy Goldsworthy to create our own sculptures using what we could find on the grounds.

Fabulous sculptures on the lawn and in the woods

Beautiful!

2016, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Spring is coming…

By Rowena

Spring is definitely on its way, and more boxes are getting filled in on the Spring Index sheet in the tutor’s office! I took a walk up Juniper Top last week one evening, and there was so much birdsong in the air. Almost the first bird I spotted was a blackcap, its squeaky sharp call drawing my eye. First one of the year, perched on a branch of a hawthorn. I paused to admire him and the view before heading further up the hill.

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Blackcap, image source: british-garden-birds.com

The grass is peppered with yellow meadow ant nests as you walk up, huge grassy knolls that would be teeming with life if you were to peel away the vegetation from the top. Not a wise idea, unless you really like ants! In Ants, by Derek Wragge Morely, Lasius flavus’ nests are called “climbers’ compasses” by the author, as;

“…climbers who are lost in a mist or fog can nearly always establish their compass points by observing the way in which the nests of the Yellow [Meadow] Ant are built.”

The steep side of a nest nearly always faces east- and this is the case on Juniper Top!  Along the path, there was a surprising lack of nests, when there were so many further away.

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View to the west

Heading into the woods, the quiet of the open meadow was broken by a thrush, singing from a high-up branch. Another spring tick!

He was overshadowed by a chorus of blackbirds belting out alarm calls as I went further, each surprising the next with their loud chuk-chuk-chuk. A squirrel was surprised too, complaining from the undergrowth as I came to Box Hill viewpoint. It was too late to stop off at the National Trust cafe, so I kept walking down the Burford Spur now, heading back towards Juniper Hall. Dorking was glowing with streetlamps as the light dimmed, the church just about visible along the High Street, a train speeding along the railway tracks towards London. The valley was full of mist hanging low to the ground, Denbies Vineyard and Norbury Park dim outlines. By the time I was back to Juniper Hall, it was dark enough for the goats to have already been put away for bed. A bat zipped across the front lawn as it decided it was nighttime and safe to come out!

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2016, FSC, geography, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Broadwood’s Folly

By Rowena

Big changes have been happening up at Broadwood’s Folly today! Sitting in the office halfway through the morning, we were surprised to see someone scaling the side of the tower, a dark blob halfway up the masonry. Then, what should have perhaps been somewhat more obvious, we spotted the rather large cherry picker rising up out of the woods next to the tower. What was going on? A quick scour of the internet popped up the following result from the National Trust:

We’ve had to make the difficult decision to remove the tree growing through the tower known as Broadwood’s Folly at Box Hill.

We have long known the tree was having a detrimental effect on the tower, but on balance thought the tree within the tower offered our visitors a unique experience.

Read more here

Wow- bit of a surprise from the National Trust there! Over the course of the morning the tower started to change from it’s normal furry outline to one a bit more bare, so at lunchtime three of us decided to take a quick walk up to the top to see how it had changed.

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Cherry picker on the move

It was quite evident that the tower is not going to look like it has for the past decade. The tree, a holm oak, was starting to look a bit unwell, so the National Trust have decided to remove it from the tree to save the tower. A look at some of the wood they cut down does show there was some pretty nasty rot going on in parts of the tree, which probably wasn’t helping its health…

Sections of wood cut from the holm oak

Holm oak is an evergreen oak from the Mediterranean region, with leaves that are spiky like holly. Sometimes it’s called holly oak, because of this strange feature. Coming from the Mediterranean, it’s obviously non-native, so probably was dropped by a bird as a seed, and has grown up since. In the heartwood there are amazing radiating lines from the centre, which are much paler than the rest of the wood- which has a lovely pinkish tinge in the very middle. The tower is Grade II listed, so the National Trust have decided to cut the tree so that it is not impacted by the tree. It’s a popular walk from the National Trust visitors’ centre on Box Hill, out to the tower and then back via Happy Valley, so the National Trust want to keep the popularity of this walk by preserving the Folly.

Then and now

It’s not quite the same without the tree growing out the top though! Watch this space for some more pictures when they cut down the tree completely, and we get a very different tower from the one we’ve known…

Jason and Michelle check the tower out

2016

South East Regional Training

By Rowena

On the 11th and 12th of January, staff from Field Studies Centres all over the South East region came to Juniper Hall for regional training. Very exciting! Two days of lectures (and lots of FSC fun) lined up, with speakers from Juniper Hall, other centres and outside guest speakers too. All fun for us at the centre, and visiting staff from the other London centres (Amersham, Epping Forest and the London Projects), Flatford Mill, and Slapton Ley.

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Tasty insect snacks on the tables- Yum!

The day kicked off at about 10am with an overview of the geography specification updates, and sharing of resources for new A-level biology. Everything’s changing this year in the exam specifications, so we’re updating all our teaching resources. We’re trying to get away from using powerpoints, as they’re a little overused at the moment, and instead trying out programmes like SMART notebook, and apps like Popplet and FreezePaint. With any luck I might get a chance a bit later on in the term to write another blog post about those!

Next, Jo from Flatford Mill talked about “Immersive Ecology”, an exciting new session to engage students with ecology. We’re very excited about this, and eager to implement it at Juniper Hall- it’s a new session at the start of residential courses, designed to get students thinking about ecology and how amazing a topic it is, rather than throwing them right into hardcore coursework or controlled assessments. Hopefully we’ll get to teach it very soon!

After, we had a look at some of new resources, we moved on to looking at Field Network Systems, which allow immediate upload of data collected in the field to the web, using a remote wireless network that can just be put in a safety sack and turned on. This was very exciting to investigate by the ponds- we did a little data collection ourselves, recording the water boatmen, daphnia and flatworms wriggling around in our nets.

Heading back inside for a while, we investigated some new apps to use with tablets (such as freeze paint, like I mentioned before). There are some really cool teaching tools I’m excited to use in the future.

After lunch, we took a walk up to Broadwood’s Tower as a group and back down through Happy Valley, slipping and sliding our way through the woods. It’s quite muddy at the moment, but thankfully outdoor tutors are always prepared with their walking boots!

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Looking out over the Burford Spur

Back in the Templeton Room, we covered peer observation and how it can be used for personal development, how courses can be reviewed effectively to make them more engaging and relevant, and how to implement questioning in sessions to get the best out of students. This session was led by external speaker Caroline Upson, who gave us valuable advice on illustrating standards of work. In the future, we intend on making “success criteria” for different presentation methods, to show the level if detail required to achieve different grades.

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Success criteria for drawing cross-profiles

It was a good high to end the day on, having created some useful new resources to use in teaching. After dinner, we headed as a group to the local pub to catch up on news and enjoy different company. The hardier of us headed later to the Ice House for a campfire under the stars- I was told it was lovely, but very cold!

 

 

Day two started off with something a little different; guest speaker Lisa Minshull came in to update our maths skills beyond the statistics we all know (and love!!) to teach. It was pretty tough at times- my maths is not quite as good as it’d like to be- but very rewarding when even I managed to get some of the answers right! Hooray!

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The maths wall

The last session of the day pulled together everything we had learned over the past day and a half. Working in our centre groups, we looked at what we could take from training to put into resource development and teaching. There were a lot of really great ideas flying around, and I think we all got a lot out of two days of training- certainly I did!

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Working hard!