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Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Science Camp Day 1

20 students and myself were lucky enough to be invited to attend 4 different workshops across two days. A huge thank you must go out to Jenny Dee, Hawke's Bay Branch of the Royal Society of NZ for organising this opportunity as it was free to schools.

Day 1:  Air Pollution

10 excited students and 1 teacher set off to the Napier Sailing Club to learn about air pollution. We discovered that as a city we were doing better than most. The specialists from the Hawke's Bay Regional Council shared some of their experiences of having to wear masks while cycling in the smog in London and we viewed images such as the one below of other cities around the world.

Smog in Shanghai
Students discussed what they thought the major contributors to air pollution were and they identified quite a few but we were surprised to find out that the worst in our city of Napier are the older woodburners in winter. Surprisingly traffic pollution which was thought to be the worst only contributed to about 5% of air pollution as Napier does not have that much heavy industrial traffic. We carried out an experiment of putting white socks on the exhaust pipes of a diesel ute and a hybrid car and ran them for two minutes. The result was clear on which type of vehicles we need on our roads and how much air pollution a diesel produces.

White socks on exhaust pipes

We looked at various methods the HBRC used to collect and monitor air pollution and different ways we could do this in our own school grounds, such as smearing a white piece of cardboard with vaseline to see what it collects in a set period of time. It was interesting to hear that there were permanent sites set up around the city and machines were demonstrated that were used where a car drove around various neighbourhoods and tested the air. We looked at data collected over periods of time comparing different years and the amount of transgressions over the limit made within that time period. I'm not going to mention which two neighbourhoods were the worst for exceeding the limits every time.

Air pollution is measured as something called PM10 which is made up of solid and liquid particles less than 10 micrometres in diameter which we learnt is roughly a fifth of the width of a human hair. We cannot see it and it can remain in the air for long periods of time and can be easily inhaled. I think it surprised the students how many health issues were related back to air pollution. Here they are acting out the job of the fine hairs that try to filter the PM10 on the way into our lungs.

Conservation in the Ahuriri Estuary

In the afternoon we met two good old blokes who have been working for the Conservation arm of the Hawke's Bay Regional Council for as long as they can recall. The kids were looking forward to this session as it meant getting muddy.

Before we headed off down to the estuary we found out a bit about why our estuary was so important and identified a few of the birds that we might be able to see. I hadn't realised that our estuary was the most significant on the East Coast all the way from Wellington up to Whakatane. It is the largest in size and in breeding numbers for the birds.

The kids were involved in activities such as searching and gathering food that the Godwit birds like to eat. They found plenty of crabs and small fish which led to a discussion about how important the estuary is as a breeding ground for some fish species that supply the big fishing out in the Bay.

Bird watching required patience and it was high tide so there weren't as many as there had been in the morning but we were rewarded with a pair of Herons and Godwits. We also learnt about the importance of some of the plant life there, how hardy it can be but also how we must protect it and the birds. The biggest danger to the birds are people walking their dogs off leads.

Back in the Sailing Club where it was warm at last the students had the chance to share what they had learnt and in the process learnt a bit about taxidermy.