Real life contexts can be a great way to teach problem-solving skills. This was certainly the case for Room 5. The students had a question they wanted to answer - where did the water go when it left the classroom roof in a big storm? This became a focus for their Inquiry, Water Works. From this initial question, students then had to imagine, design and create a possible solution.
We used the Robot Engineering Design Cycle to work through the design process. These steps included:
We had our question and now students had to research their question and possible solutions. We thought the water might be collected or run into the Wairakei Village storm water system. We took photos to track what happens to our rainwater at school, and we were horrified to see that most of it goes down the drain. We hoped we could become better kaitiaki and conserve our precious water resource.
The water on the classroom roof travelled down the pipe and into a drain. This goes into the Wairakei Storm water. This is a waste as water is a precious resource and we should collect all our rainwater in tanks. Benjamin.
Room 5 then considered what we could use this recycled rainwater for.
We could use the rainwater we collect to wash our dishes, water gardens, for the goldfish to swim in the aquaponics unit and for water for our sandpit. Leela
One of our students talked about something she had seen on TV about where all the Monarch Butterflies have gone in New Zealand gardens. We wondered what we could do as a class to encourage these butterflies back into our local environment.
This step encouraged us to look for ideas to help create a solution to our problem of water conservation. The students wanted to demonstrate they were kaitiaki (guardians) of our local environment. They also wanted to encourage Monarch butterflies back to the school grounds. We researched collection systems that supported our need to use our water in a better way. We also researched the Monarch Butterfly and what they needed to survive and thrive in our school environment.
At home on the farm we collect our rain water in tanks. This water is used for the cow troughs, drinking, taps, showers, washing clothes and to flush the toilet. (Ella).
The Monarch Butterfly numbers in gardens in New Zealand are decreasing. While they are not native to New Zealand, they pollinate flowers and they are cool to see flying around in the wild. Red Admiral butterflies are native to our country. They need some stinging nettle to lay their eggs on and no predators can get them because they will get stung. (Kian)
This step allowed students to be designers. The students had to use pictures to plan what their water collection system and vertical garden would look like. They had to think about the parts we needed to include and label a diagram of what it would look like. The materials needed to construct it were also considered. Could we use recycled materials to help support our desire for caring for our environment and what plants would attract the Monarch butterfly?
We made a plan so we knew how to construct a vertical garden and rain water collection system. I labeled all the parts so someone else could see our design and follow the instructions to make it. Our shopping list is needed to ensure we have all the different materials we need and it shows how much we need of each thing. (Andi and Tane).
This required us to revisit the materials we needed to create our rain collection system, vertical garden and swanplan planter box. Students had to ensure we sequenced our steps:
First undercoat the pallet, the rainwater collection buckets and swan planter box.
Next add the artistic detail of the Monarch Life Cycle on the planter box.
Paint the butterfly design on the flower pots.
Create the outline using a white crayon or pastel.
This part of the process required cooperation and teamwork.
Our class painted the pallet and the wooden planter box to make sure the wood did not rot or grow mould. (Laura and Micah).
The reason we planted swan plants is because that is where the Monarch Butterfly lays their eggs. The eggs grow into caterpillars who feed on the leaves of the plant. After they get big and fat these caterpillars make a cocoon. After many days they hatch and turn into amazing black and orange butterflies. (Alysha and Lacey).
We were lucky to have some expert gardeners from the Enviro Group (Anna, Hector, Nathan Victoria and Chloe) come and help us plant the swan plant planter and vertical garden using wet newspaper and potting mix. We followed safe practice where the students had to wear gloves and masks when handling the potting mix.
Unfortunately, we are still waiting on an opportunity to complete this step as we need it to rain significantly so we can collect the water. It is our intention to measure the amount of rain water our containers collect using a simple water level measuring device.
The students in Room 5 considered what we could do to our rainwater collection system to increase the amount of water we were collecting.
Max suggested that, if it rained a lot the container would collect lots of water which the sprinklers would be able to spread across the planter box. We could collect even more water if we connected it to one of our down pipes. These gather water from the classroom roofs. The area of the roof is much larger than our containers so we would be able to collect more rainwater.
The students have already offered the following suggestions as to how we can increase the amount of rain water we can collect including cutting into a down pipe to collect the rain from the classroom roofs.
This was an Inquiry where the students were able to access all the knowledge they had accumulated from our “Wonder of Wai” Inquiry and reinvent themselves as engineers and designers to create a solution to a water need in our school environment.
Keywords: engineers, designers, plans, labels, vertical garden, water cycle, accumulation, Monarch butterflies, potting mix, nectar, food source, downpipes, storm water, collection tanks
Curriculum links: Science - Physical World, Technology - design process