Teacher Tips 5: Preparing for the holidays – and beyond

The end of the year comes quickly and at a particularly busy time for teachers not only having to deal with restless students, but also to conclude the teaching syllabus for the current year, as well as planning for next year.

This time of the year is also very important for the Trees for Survival programme. Here is a schedule which should be ticked off before you and your students go on holiday.

1. Pot on your seedlings
This is a great task to occupy the class in the run down to the end of term. Potting on seedlings is particularly important especially in the warmer regions, since not only does it provide more root space for the plants over an important growing period, but the larger pots/bags hold more moisture.

Potting on your seedlings, before the Christmas break, also gives your plants time to grow sufficiently to enable them to be planted out next June to August.

In some areas seedlings may not be ready to pot on at this time as they may have not become established sufficiently in their root trainers or smaller pots. If this is the case item 2 below becomes even more important as root trainers dry out very quickly and so need regular watering.

2. Ensure your unit irrigation system functions properly
Plants in root trainers or pots must not be let to dry out during the holidays. As you will know the best time to water is in the morning, but because all systems are different there is no hard and fast rule on how long the system should run. Suffice to say, and you will need to work this out by trial and error, watering should stop when water puddles on the surface of the soil and the pots should remain moist until the next morning. If this is not happening then maybe a second watering in the late afternoon or early evening should be considered. But remember that overwatering is almost as bad as under-watering!

So often we hear of cases where the caretaker or contractors at the school turn off the water over the holidays; then teachers and students return to find the plants in their growing unit dead and dying. As a precaution it is best to organise a holiday roster with students and their parents calling in to check the unit each week and make sure the irrigation system is working properly. A student (and his/her parent) per week are likely to be available to cover the six or so weeks of the holidays. It is a good idea to plan the roster now (Download your Holiday Roster here) and provide contact numbers in case messages need to be exchanged.

You will want to return from your holiday with plants looking like this……

……. and not like this!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is no need to fertilise the plants over the holidays but one of the tasks on the roster should be to pull out the odd weeds as they appear. In addition provide a standby spray container of diluted liquid soap (see Teacher Tips 4) which will be useful if an attack of aphids occurs.

3. Plan your TfS programme for the coming year
Things to consider might include:

a. Establish a date for your planting day on your school calendar – consult with your Council Field Officers and landowners

b. Check out the Teacher Resource kits which have been provided, if you are a TfS school, and consider including some more of the available material in your teaching programme for next year. The TfS programme can be effectively used to support the NZ Curriculum aims of environmental education eg:

Aim 1: awareness and sensitivity to the environment and related issues;

Aim 2: knowledge and understanding of the environment and the impact of people on it;

Aim 3: attitudes and values that reflect feelings of concern for the environment;

Aim 4: skills involved in identifying, investigating, and problem solving associated with environmental issues;

Aim 5: a sense of responsibility through participation and action as individuals, or members of groups, whānau, or iwi, in addressing environmental issues.

And don’t forget that the TfS programme also offers opportunities to develop writing and mathematical skills.