From earth to infinity

26 Jun 2018

The Year 13 Earth and Space Science (ESS) field trip to Tekapo covered a lot of ground, literally and figuratively, proving beyond doubt that sometimes the best education happens outside the classroom. The main reason for the trip was to focus on astronomy at the UC Mt John Observatory, but teacher Dr Anna Johnston devised a plan to also cover geological and atmospheric aspects of ESS.

The group – students Rupert Acland, Harry Black, Harrison Liu, Jack McDrury, Callum McLean and Ethan Pidgeon, accompanied by Anna and Dr Andrew Taylor – travelled to Tekapo via Fairlie, returning through the Rakaia Gorge. They investigated a number of geologically interesting spots en route, plus observed atmospheric conditions, temperatures at various heights, cloud formations and movement, and at Tekapo explored the lake’s shore in search of fault lines.

“Looking at various landforms, seeing what types of rocks are found in different locations and understanding why, observing different conditions across the country, collecting and testing samples … just being out there made everything we do back in class a whole lot more relevant,” says Rupert Acland.
Their trip to the observatory was hosted by astronomers, and husband and wife team, Alan Gilmore and Pam Kilmartin. Alan, the former superintendent of the UC Mt John Observatory, and Pam have made a number of significant astronomical discoveries. Their passion for astronomy was as clear as the spectacular night sky and, with their guidance, the boys learned how telescopes work and saw amazing views of various galaxies and star clusters, including the coloured stripes around Jupiter and some of its moons.

“It was very practical and hands-on,” says Rupert. “You can spend weeks in the classroom talking about telescopes and astronomy, but it’s so much easier to take it in when you’re looking at it, through it, using it. And it’s a completely different experience being able to observe the night sky through a telescope.”
The group were away from Wednesday 13–Friday 15 June and came back to school having gathered enough data for three ESS assessments.


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