The Matthew Flinders Eco Experience

Posted: 04 November 2020

Age range:

Whole school

Curriculum area:

Science

IDEALS

Discoveries

Overview

The Flinders Eco Experience at Matthew Flinders Anglican College invites visitors to explore the school’s rain forest-fringed campus via a self-guided walk that links nature with technology. The Eco Experience weaves a one kilometre path through the 22-hectare College campus and enables visitors to use their mobile device, such as a mobile phone or iPad, to explore and experience the flora and fauna along the way.

Details

The Eco Experience weaves a one kilometre path through the 22-hectare College campus and invites visitors to use their mobile device, such as a mobile phone or iPad, to explore and experience the flora and fauna along the way. Known as ‘tree caching’, the technology enables users to scan their mobile devices over the QR Codes (that look like black and white bar codes) placed at key points along the path. Once the QR code is scanned at the base of a tree, for example, the scan directs the user to a website, video or other digital source to learn more about that tree, and interesting facts about that tree species.

The technology is simple:

The Flinders Eco Experience was created as a whole-of-College collaboration, including the Flinders Capital Works Manager, Mr Rocco Perugini and students and staff of the Environment Club, Science Club and IT departments, as well as some parents. Mentors from the local community included Tracey McMahon, Plant Research Technician Genecology Research Centre and Dr Rob Lamont, Conservation Geneticist and Molecular Ecologist, both from the University of the Sunshine Coast. Flinders teacher Sheree Bell, who facilitates the Flinders Environment Club, says visitors will discover that there are 40 species of birds in addition to possums, kangaroos and other marsupials who also frequent the local area.

The walk incorporates both native and exotic species. Some of the trees are mature and quite tall, with orchids and vines scattered through them. They provide fruits attracting birds and other fauna. If you look carefully you may see some nesting boxes attached to a tree; a home provided by our students.

The creek has permanent water in some areas and a large catchment, so it runs in some sections all year round. Forty species of bird have been identified with possums, kangaroos and other marsupials also frequenting the area. The occasional freshwater turtle pops up to say hello. There are many macro-invertebrates like snails and small fish in the creek visible from the bridges.

The trail is approximately 1km long and includes two bridges, two outdoor classrooms and multiple seated areas. It starts at the Quarterdeck Cafe meandering through the Secondary School, bordering the Anthony Vincent oval, and crosses the creek to the Flinders Early Learning Centre. Continuing further, it borders the Forrester Field and returns through the Primary School to finish in the Main Car Park, at the aptly named, Flindersia Australis (Crows Ash).

Challenges

The school’s WiFi is not accessible along parts of the walk, so to allow everyone to fully enjoy the walk we provide a portable WiFi router to those who need it for the walk. This can be booked out in advance with the IT Department with instructions.

Impact

The benefits of this walk are numerous, including providing a resource for teaching and nature appreciation. Small bridges and seats provide collection points for classes undertaking field work or to simply sit and ponder nature. It is a source of inspiration for our artists and writers, as it provides a tranquil and relaxing setting for them to work.

There are numerous benefits for our students being able to reconnect with nature in this way.

A study on the cognitive benefits of nature found that subjects who took a nature walk did better on a memory test. Nature walks and other outdoor activities build attention and focus. There are pieces of evidence that indicate strong environmental connections to be related to better performance, heightened concentration, and reduced chances of developing Attention Deficit Disorder. Research has also shown that people suffering from mild to major depressive disorders showed significant mood up-liftments when exposed to nature. A study has found that spending more time outdoors and less time with our electronic devices can increase our problem-solving skills and improve creative abilities.

Advice

Author: Sheree Bell, Teacher in charge of the Environment Club and Marine Science/Science Teacher, Matthew Flinders Anglican College

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