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Water recycling

Can we design a water self-sufficient living space for an Auckland family? That was the challenge for 90 students at Willowbank School for their 2018 SouthSci project.

Using wooden birdhouses, the Year 5 and 6 classes researched, designed and built their own model homes complete with a water filtration system, solar panels and LED lighting.  

After learning about what makes water clean enough to be used in a home to drink, students set up a collection system by attaching guttering to the school greenhouse. 

Teacher and project leader, Tina Joshua-Bargh says students gained a “much deeper understanding of how water is filtered in an urban area and of ways to conserve water”.

They experimented with different filtration systems using different natural materials, aqua tablets, filter jugs and boiling water.

The students learned ways to reduce their environmental footprint at home which they shared with their families.  

Working through SouthSci made a big difference to the success of the project, Tina says, starting with having the funding to provide authentic hands-on learning for all her students.

“Having the resources to buy equipment made this project sing for the kids! 

“It was awesome to be able to buy solar panels, LED lights and actually have each small group build a home, rather than being constrained by budget to only building one as a demo.” 

Another key element was being able to consult experts like Watercare’s Sally Smith and having three young engineers from Fisher & Paykel Healthcare as mentors.

“The kids really valued and enjoyed having the experts from F&P Healthcare visit us, their patience in answering the kids’ questions and their willingness to engage with them.”

Tina says it was also “super valuable” to be able to visit Hobsonville Point in west Auckland to see the kind of sustainable neighbourhood they were learning about.

The water recycling project, and its precursor the previous year focused on water-saving gardening, offered a cross-disciplinary vehicle for Willowbank students to gain a deeper understanding of the Nature of Science from the New Zealand Curriculum.

In 2017, twenty-seven Y6 students with the help of F&P Healthcare mentors designed, tested and built a prototype robotic watering system that measures soil moisture and waters the plants when needed.  

Tina says that initial SouthSci project made students more aware of the need to conserve water which led to the inquiry into water-recycling.

“This was a really enjoyable and rich learning process for both my students and myself,” she says. “This was authentic STEM learning from start to finish.”