Day One

The weather in Adelaide gave us a great send off as we left GGHS at 3pm on our way across the border to Canberra. Stopping off briefly in Renmark to fill our tummies for the overnight ride, the Renmark Hotel made sure we didn't go hungry! We hopped back on the bus, settled in with a movie and some creative sleeping positions and waited for the sun to rise on the Eastern states. A fresh start in Yass with a much welcomed McDonalds breakfast, change of clothes and we were ready to start our first day in the nation's capital.

Our morning was filled with exploration through the Botanic Gardens, marveling at being able to walk through a Tasmanian rainforest and an outback desert climate within a few hundred meters of each other! If the students weren't awake yet, the fresh morning spray of the rainforest sprinklers soon fixed that!

Moving on from here we headed to the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) where the students were taken for a detailed tour of some of the athlete training centers such as the volleyball courts, weights room, swimming pool, gymnasium and indoor arena. It was inspiring to hear about the amazing achievements of many well known Australian athletes that had trained at the facility and the opportunities that the AIS can provide to up and coming sporting heroes. We were treated to a buffet lunch, eating where the athletes eat before heading off to the Reptile Zoo. A quick tour of the Avenue of Flags on our ride over, the students were able to witness the extensive international ties that Australia has and a good guessing game of how many flags we could get right!

The Reptile Zoo was met with excitement (and fear) by the group, taking our time to wander around the exhibits of some of the most deadly reptiles Australia has to offer. The resident water dragons wandered the premises keeping an eye on us and the Burmese Python 'Titan' gave us a floor show, displaying his impressive 50kg, 5 meter long size! Not to stop there, the students sat down to watch an interactive educational display of the range of reptiles the zoo houses, even wrapping the albino python 'Banana' around the neck of the not-so-excited Mrs Zwarts.

Getting late into the afternoon and in much need of a nice shower and relaxation we headed to our accommodation, settled in and enjoyed our first dinner of the week. Not to let them rest just yet, we were back on the bus after dinner for our final stop of the day, an exclusive after dark tour of the Dinosaur Museum. The lively hosts imparted a wealth of knowledge to the group on prehistoric history and had students cringing with the endless dinosaur puns!

A jam packed first day, we quickly realised just how much we were doing in one short week so a solid night's sleep was well deserved by the time we got back to the hotel.


Day Two

An early rise for breakfast, I am sure there were many who would have indulged in an extra hour's sleep, but with a day of law making ahead, there was no time to waste! After quickly eating a hot breakfast we set off on a day of learning all about how our great country is governed, solidifying the knowledge students had learned throughout the year in Social Studies.

We began at the Old Parliament House, impressive and ornate on its own, by splitting into groups and alternating between a tour of the Museum of Democracy and the Australian Electoral Commission.

In the Museum of Democracy students worked with interactive screens to learn about the different historical democratic events such as women's suffrage and the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Over at the Australian Electoral Commission students were taken through a journey of Australia's democratic history with changes to the rights and responsibilites of all Australians since settlement. Students worked through activities that demonstrated how the preferential voting system works before trying their own hand at a fruit election, with the Apple securing the absolute majority.

Stopping for a quick lunch under the shade of the Old Parliament House's Gardens, we took a short walk up the hill to the current Parliament House. Admiring the grand architecture of the building and taking lots of photos, we headed in for our guided tour of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Unfortunately we didn't bump into any Federal members but we did get a keen insight into the running of parliament and the importance that both houses play in shaping the future of Australia. Students then used this knowledge to hold their own parliamentary debate in a House of Representatives over the proposal to introduce free WiFi on all public transport. Not surprisingly the law did pass  with majority support from both the government and the independents.

Moving on to our final stop before dinner, we entered the National Capital Exhibition to learn about the origins of the city of Canberra, how its position was selected, the meaning of its name and the competition winners for its design. Students got a birds eye view look of the deliberate planning and symbolism of the multitude of landmarks within the city and the future development of what has been called 'Australia's city'.

A little weary and tummies rumbling, we returned back to the hotel for dinner and some much needed R&R. Many students took advantage of the hotel pool on such a warm day before heading out at sunset to climb the Telstra Tower and take in 360 degree views of the city, again highlighting the deliberate design of the landmarks.

A very informative day, we are now all ready for a good night's sleep, ready for an action packed day of science tomorrow!


Day 3

It was a warm start this morning as we headed out to GeoScience Australia to learn more about natural disasters, rock formation and climate change. Students were able to work with sedimentary samples and geo data programs to gain an understanding of how natural events such as earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions have altered the natural environment. We were even able to record our own mini earthquake on the seismometer with some enthusiastic jumping!

From there we headed over to the National Zoo to learn about their conservation efforts and come up close and personal with the Sun Bears and Tiger exhibit. The students really connected with the rescue stories of the Sun Bears, being taken from captivity in Vietnam. The weather was really starting to heat up so the shade of the Questacon Technology Workshop was just what we needed. Tasked with creating a rocket that would fly the furthest, the students learned about the innovation process, testing their rockets for different variables before launching their final product. There were definitely some interesting designs with large wingspan and colourful tails, but the winning designs were those that kept the design simple, slimline and lightweight, travelling well over 30 meters!

Just across the walkway was the Royal Australian Mint where we had the opportunity to learn about the history of Australia's currency from the very early Holey Dollar all the way through to the current design that has completely re-designed the Australian coin collection.

The hot weather had exhausted all of us by this point so the short break for dinner and a dip in the pool had us all refreshed and ready to go for our adventure at Questacon by night. Think Investigator Science Centre x 10! Students went from exhibit to exhibit testing theories of light, gravity and maths. Many of us fell free fall from 6.7 meters and tried our luck at building structures that would withstand the earthquake room. Always a highlight of the trip, having the centre exclusively to ourselves after dark just adds to the magic of the experience.

Day 4

Today was a day of exploring the arts and defence. Our morning was full of a variety of art work, with a tour through the exclusive Versailles exhibition at the National Art Gallery. Pieces from the great palace had never been outside of France before, so it was a wonderful opportunity to learn about this rich French history. It was an interesting exhibition which had also incorporated the sense of smell as part of the experience with an exclusive fragrance drifting through the exhibition as you walked through.

From here we walked the short distance over to the National Portrait Gallery to learn about the influential Australians who not only featured within the paintings, but also the artist's stories behind them. Students tried their hand at doing their own portraiture, some displaying some real natural talent in the arts!

We had a quick stop for lunch before driving over to the Australian Defence Force Academy to tour through their educational facilities. We were able to enter the soundproof room where we found out just how hard being completely silent can be, then had the opportunity to play with magnetic fields and liquid nitrogen. It was a rare treat for students as they watched the nitrogen dance across the floor in a white cloud. It was fantastic to see what opportunities the Defence Force offers for students and their possible future careers.

Feeling the weather turn quickly when we were on the bus over to the National Museum, it was lucky we would be inside for the rest of the day as the rain set in. Exploring the endless galleries of Australian history, student highlights were Phar Lap's heart, the South Australia exhibit and the Garden of Dreams. The museum is such an interesting building in itself, it would be easy to spend the whole day there exploring, but it was time for us to head back to the hotel and start packing up ready for our departure tomorrow.

Day 5

The weather had well and truly turned back to winter on our last day with a high of 14 and rain most of the day. We started out at the National Archives, learning about Australia's Constitution, the history of official government photography and trying our hand at the immigration dictation test under the White Australia Policy. Not being allowed to have one capital letter, punctuation mark or word spelt wrong, it quickly sank in just how hard this test must have been and the intentions behind it.

Moving on to the High Court, an award winning structure in itself, students were able to sit in the highest court rooms of our land, learning about the types of decisions High Court Justices must make and the impact this can have on our society. Each room was grand and commanded the respect they deserve and the students engaged with some really insightful questions about how the Australian Justice system works.

A quick drive-by tour of the memorials along ANZAC Parade with Ms Wadey-Smith, we quickly ate our lunch ready for our final afternoon at the Australian War Memorial, again another place we could easily have spent the whole day exploring. Working in line with the History curriculum, students were taken through the World War I exhibit, highlighting some of the major battles, warfare techniques and stories of bravery by many Australian men and women who have served our country. This final tour is always an emotional one and the students gain a real appreciation for all our defence personnel and their families.

We toured through the interactive D-Zone, designed for students to get a ‘hands on’ experience with some of the major battles in Australia's history including the World Wars, Vietnam and the Cold War. You weave your way through a model submarine, through to the muddy trenches of WWI and finishing inside a helicopter used in Vietnam. From here we had some free time to explore the rest of the memorial, heading to the aviation exhibit to watch a film on the use of various military aircraft in battle before culminating the day with each student placing a poppy on the Roll of Honour for their service person of choice. The sea of red poppies really brings home just how many Australians have sacrificed their lives to protect our country. From this we took part in the Last Post ceremony with our defence family students able to lay a wreath as the bagpipes played. This time brings great reflection over all that we've seen and learned in this week and a great way to end our journey in Canberra. We all boarded the bus exhausted, inspired and ready to head home to spend the holidays with our families. What a fantastic trip with such an amazing group of students!

Sarah Zwarts, Teacher