January 2017. The grass of the wetland area has lost even more of its colour since December. We are putting this down to the poor nutrient levels especially nitrogen. Nitrogen levels are almost directly linked to the level of chlorophyll which of course is used by plants to make food with sunlight and gives them their green colour. Coupled with the short hours of daylight the grass is struggling to make chlorophyll and so healthy growth is severely hindered.
Until I read a bit of trivia recently, I wasn't aware that January is actually named after the Roman god 'Janus', who, according to legend (and in typical hyperbolic, mythical fashion) had the redeeming feature of having not one, but two heads. The two heads faced in opposite directions. One head looked back to the previous year and the other forward to the new one. Janus was the 'God of Gateways' and presided not only over the gate to the new year but also the Gate of Heaven no less. An important job! So why two heads?
looked forward? What job did that one have? Was it to predict the future? Or was it to give hope? To see that although it was the dark and cold time of the year, better and warmer times lay not too far ahead?
It is too simplistic to just say that looking back is pessimistic in nature and looking forward is optimistic but maybe there is some truth in it. I'm guessing Janus' heads found each other's outlook hard to bear at times.
This time of the year nature helps us to look forward, not backwards. Though it is quiet, it seems like everything around us is getting ready to happen. In school we are keenly awaiting the appearance of frogspawn in our outdoor classroom and we are keeping an eye out for bud burst to occur in our trees - some of the 'signs of Spring'. (More about that in February.)
January is said to be the quietest month of the year, and weather-wise this seems true - especially with the January we've had this year. It has been largely dry and calm, with a good deal of sun.
How quickly we forget that this time twelve months ago, we had just endured storm Gertrude, the seventh storm of the Winter.
Although it has gotten somewhat wetter this week, we have had some lovely sunny days. The kind of days that seem gifted to us from another season.
When looking at the images that Graham took in his most recent drone flight, our surrounding area is even more beautiful in January than in the Summer months. It does not have the richness of colour, but it has a fresh brightness to it. Though we can't see it, even the air seems cleaner.
In school it has been anything but quiet the last three weeks ("When is it ever?")
When we returned after the Christmas break, we had two weeks before the big event of the month took place - The Primary Science Fair in Mary Immaculate College - and there was lots to do to be fully ready.
We needed to:
Poster boards printed and ready.
Graphic designer Glen O'Sullivan did a superb job putting our images together in two poster boards. This gave our project a clean and professional look. Glen had worked with some of the class on preparing the images for the posters.
The Model of the Weltand.
The original clay model was built using normal art clay. It was only meant to be a trial version but as it progressed we promoted it to being the actual one we would use. Over a few weeks however it became clear that the clay was not up to the job as it cracked and shrank excessively.
We ordered more expensive modelling clay and went back to the drawing board, literally.
The new clay did not shrink as fast, helped by wrapping it in cling film to slow the drying.
It started to turn out a much better job.
Everything was done to scale, even the Senior building of the school! Likewise the children tried to paint the colours as close to the real shades as possible.
The model turned out to be one of the most eye-catching features of the project display. It meant that the children could point and show people about the wetland. It allowed people to actually see instead of trying to visualise things, such as our grid mapping for instance, or the contributing rainwater run-off from local residents' driveways. The children really enjoyed the making and painting of the model and I'm sure they would agree it was the most enjoyable maths lesson in scale ever!
The grass trial proved very interesting. We had learned about seeds and how they have some stored energy for germination already inside them. Based on this I had predicted that both soil samples would germinate the seeds evenly, but that the grass in the wetland soil would then not continue to grow as well as the normal soil. However there was a big difference - even in germination, with the wetland soil doing much poorer.
Grass growth was also much poorer in the wetland soil.
The soil test was another very effective exhibit in our display at the Primary Science Fair. It clearly showed that the wetland does affect the local flora - which was part of our project question.
The Primary Science Fair itself proved to be a very memorable day out for the children. When we turned up to register early in the morning we randomly got assigned exhibition stall number one, maybe an omen we mused but it was certainly a funny start!
We made a roster so that all the children would get to present at our stall for an hour during the day.
We have said many times that the best thing about the wetland project is that it has so many different facets to it. The skills of greeting people and engaging them, answering questions and communicating ideas and concepts were used to great effect by the children on the day. Though the judges were interested in the content of the project, the thing that made the biggest impression on them was the children that they met, who they commented were extremely well able to explain all about their project. Below is a short clip of things in full swing.
A huge well done to the RDS Primary Science Fair team and Mary Immaculate for putting on a great exhibition. Well done also to all the children and teachers from other schools who were at the Fair. It was a real playground for the brain! Lastly, a big thanks to all the teachers who volunteered on the day to help supervise the children.
Inevitably, February promises to be an anti-climax with our project - it's not every month you get to be part of a Science Fair. But like the Roman god Janus, we have to tell ourselves enough of looking backwards, now it's onwards and upwards!
We have a number of things planned in the coming weeks such as testing for Chlorophyll and changing the nature of our grass trial. And you never know, by some miracle we might get some heavy r...!
February is almost here and for a few more weeks the plants and animals are still having a rest, saving their energy for when Spring starts to push Winter away for another year. Longer days and life reawakening - optimism abounds!