Exploring Iceland from rural New Zealand

Issue: Volume 97, Number 21

Posted: 22 November 2018
Reference #: 1H9onN

A virtual field trip is providing New Zealand students with the opportunity to ‘visit’ Iceland while learning about Aotearoa in the process.

In a two-teacher rural school nestled beneath Mt Taranaki, students are on a journey around Iceland.

The trip is one part of the school’s year-long focus topic, which looks at natural disasters, hazards and emergency procedures.

Waitoriki School Principal Teresa Jones says the virtual field trip (VFT) allows students to extend their knowledge of the world and access experiences they might not have had otherwise.

“Because we’re in Taranaki, we live right underneath our mountain here. We know at some point it’s going to go up again, but we have no idea what it will be like. For us to go to Iceland and do the Iceland field trip, we’re hearing first-hand from people what it was like to actually be there when a volcano erupts,” she says.

The students also took part in the Kaikoura VFT earlier in the year and explored the effects of the earthquake.

“Of course, we get earthquakes here as well, so our kids knew what earthquakes were like, but not to the same extent as what they had in Kaikoura.”

Visual benefits

Teresa’s students particularly benefit from the visual aspect of the VFT, which allows all students from Years 1–8 to access the information and learn together.

“Group discussion helps to deepen their understanding and we can spend as much time as we need on each idea, such as how to use water to change the direction of a lava flow, which they successfully did in Iceland in 1973. It is amazing how much our younger students are able to contribute to and talk about. You would never get that level of understanding without the virtual field trip experience,” she says.

“They had a video where it looked like you were standing in the centre of the Earth and you had the magma plume going up and you could see Iceland going over the top. It was like a hotspot and you could see how Iceland was forming, which of course is how our mountain formed. When they were watching that one and when we were talking about it afterwards, that brought a huge amount of discussion around the movement of the tectonic plates over this magma hotspot and the children were linking it to themselves and our own situation and understanding where we are in the world.”

LEARNZ field trips

Waitoriki School was one of 165 schools around the country to take the ‘Natural Hazards’ VFT to Iceland. The experience is one of 15 field trips offered by LEARNZ and one of two taking students outside New Zealand.

LEARNZ Project Director Pete Sommerville says the purpose of the trip was to explore how Icelanders coped with the natural hazards they faced, some of which are similar to those experienced in New Zealand.

“The other thing was to look at what those natural hazards mean for Iceland. Of course, the reason that tourists go to Iceland and the reason tourists come to New Zealand is because the landscape has been formed by the things that cause those hazards, so the mountains, lakes, rivers and glaciers are there because of tectonic forces that create natural hazards.”

Students visited the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, which erupted in 2010 and ceased air-travel all over Europe for about 10 days, and the Eldfell volcano, which erupted in 1973 and covered the nearby village with lava and ash. They heard how the Eldfell eruption almost destroyed the harbour but was prevented from doing so when locals sprayed the lava with seawater for the following five months.

Another aspect of the trip was to explore the geothermal energy created by the volcanoes.

“Iceland has got more electricity than it needs, so it sells that electricity to other people. It also means that there is a lot of research going on to better understanding about what that geothermal energy can do for the future, so one of the things we did was to look at an international drilling project that Canterbury University is a partner in,” says Pete.

“The possibility is that they’ll be able to drill into a live magma chamber and extract the energy, but also potentially reduce the pressure on a volcano and perhaps prevent it from erupting. It’s never been done before so that’s an interesting facet of natural hazards. While they are hazards, they produce huge opportunities potentially for the future.”

The ‘Natural hazards – lessons from Iceland’ VFT is supported by the Earthquake Commission.

For more information on the trip, visit
www.learnz.org.nz/naturalhazards183(external link).

Curriculum links

The VFTs have strong links to The New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa. The ‘Natural hazards’ field trip encourages, models and explores these values:

  • Innovation, inquiry and curiosity.
  • Ecological sustainability.
  • Community and participation.

This field trip will help with learning across the curriculum, including in social studies, science and technology. Because Taranaki Maunga (Mount Taranaki) is important to the people of Taranaki, this learning is also an example of how local curriculum can be meaningful for learners and engage the support of their parents, families and whānau.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 11:54 am, 22 November 2018

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