Author: Brad Pillans, Chair NRG Steering Committee

Extract from National Rock Garden Newsletter No. 14, September 2017

In November, last year, I was contacted by Jess Hallahan, a teacher at St. John the Apostle Primary School, here in Canberra. She wanted to know if she could bring a class of 48 year 4 (primary school) students to the NRG and whether someone from the NRG would be able to meet them there. Needless to say, I readily agreed to do so. Jess explained that she would like the students to think about why the rocks look different according to where they come from in Australia and to consider how they might have been formed. They also planned to visit the National Arboretum as part of their excursion.

Young minds are wonderful! When I met the group of students and their teachers at the NRG, we began with a bit of Q&A about rocks in general. They asked questions and I asked questions, and I am delighted to say that some of their questions (and answers) showed an amazing breadth of geological knowledge. One pupil, on mention of volcanoes, was quick to tell me that the giant eruption of Tambora, in Indonesia in 1815, was followed by the year without summer in 1816 [Tambora was one of the world’s largest eruptions in historical times and it injected so much ash into the atmosphere that global temperatures were lowered and accompanied by worldwide harvest failures]. Their collective enthusiasm would have allowed us to talk for hours, if time had been available. To finish the Q&A, I handed out geological timescale bookmarks and small, labelled specimens of high grade iron ore from Mt Tom Price, both of which were enthusiastically received. Then, with the same enthusiasm, they examined the NRG specimens, armed with a short list of questions provided by the teachers. In less than an hour it was over and we said our goodbyes. The following week, Jess Hallahan sent me a thank-you email – ‘the children had a fabulous time and can’t stop talking about the rock garden and all the questions you answered. It was a wonderful experience’, she wrote. Not only the children, I thought – I had a fabulous time too!

Year 4 pupils from St John the Apostle Primary School, in Canberra, enjoy getting up close and personal with rock specimens at the NRG. Image courtesy Brad Pillans, used here with the permission of the school.