What’s in our bush? How does it cope with dry times? These questions ‘ignited the imaginations’ of the Yaapeet Primary School students and their visitors for their National Science Week event, a guided walk of their Bush Reserve ‘next door’.

On August 24, Mr Rod Newnham came to Yaapeet to share his knowledge of the local bush with the children in the morning and the community in the afternoon.

In 1988, Rod, a former YPS parent and Wyperfeld Park Ranger, had led YPS children on a similar walk and collected plant specimens as a record. These had been found at the school in May and led to the idea of this walk.

Rod’s visit was funded by National Science Week with a grant from the Federal Government’s Inspiring Australia and the Royal Society of Australia.

“Thirty years ago the weather had been wet. There was more diversity in plants and more in flower,” Rod said.

“Today we will look at what plants do to save moisture in dry times.”

“Tread lightly and look for little things, surprising things,” Rod told everyone at the start.

The afternoon walk was attended by 25 people, from pre-schoolers to octogenarians. As well as locals from Yaapeet, there were visitors from Cannum and Alice Springs. The afternoon began with a BBQ lunch provided by the school.

During the community walk, the YPS children shared some of what they had learned from Rod in the morning about how plants reduce moisture loss.

As speakers to the group, a grade one student spoke about Hopbush having hard, small, waxy leaves.   Celie spoke on lichen, on branches and trunks, and moss, on the ground.

“They shrivel up when it is dry, and grow again when it is wet,” Celie said.

Breanna spoke on Caseas. “They have spindly leaves and deep roots.”

Rod spoke about the surprisingly tiny leaves of Bulokes. “The leaves are the joints between the bits of the long green needles (stems).”

Rod also drew attention to the change in plants going up the sandhill from Caseas and Wattles to Mallees and then Bulokes and Pines.

Comparing this walk with that of 1988, Rod commented that the bush here today had less variety than 30 years ago. He said that rabbits, drier years, competition from Bridal Creeper and a lack of fire would have contributed to this.

Rod encouraged everyone to notice things and to appreciate this bush more.

For Harry, the most amazing thing was a big black cat (that didn’t belong in the bush), while for Taylor it was finding out about Wattles (which needed fire for new plants to grow).

We were all thankful to Rod for all that he showed us about this bushland, its plants and how they get through dry times. It was an inspiring day of Science.

Mrs Herben concluded with, “A big thankyou to Jeanie Clark for making a submission for the grant and also helping our students understand about how science is about observation and care for the environment.”

From Jeanie Clark, YPS Science teacher

National Science Week guest speaker Rod Newnham shows the hard leaves of the eucalyptus that helps retain its moisture.