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Australia Adventure

Australia DSA - Final Thoughts

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Well, I’ve been home nearly a month now and I think I’m all caught up on my sleep and no longer "on the trip" in my dreams. As I’ve seen friends and family since returning home, I have enjoyed sharing with them my photos and adventures from “Down Under.” Anytime I am asked, “How was your trip?” I say the same thing…”It was amazing!” There is one question I always get asked that I never have an answer for, “What was your favorite thing?” I tell people that every activity we did was special and unique…picking just one favorite is impossible.

When you travel to another country, you want to see all of the great landmarks and attractions, and boy did we…We traveled along the rugged, yet beautiful coast of the Great Ocean Road. We played in the rain among the treetops at the Otway Fly. We witnessed the magnificent sunrise at Uluru. And we saw the rainbow of colors in the fish and coral on The Great Barrier Reef.

Not only do you want to see these sites, but you also want to meet people and become a part of the country's culture. From this adventure I will take away so many wonderful memories, not only of the sites we saw, but of the people we met. After this trip I am convinced that a country's people are what truly makes an adventure amazing. As I created this final blog post, I wanted to take some time to reflect on those special people we met in Australia.

Marion at the Moonlit Sanctuary Wildlife Park. Marion was one of the first Australians we met and she was anxious to welcome us…and put us to work. Shovels in hand, she lead us to Rita the Wombat’s enclosure where we got our hands dirty. It was great! She didn’t cut us any slack for just getting off a 15 hour flight…she had a job for us and that job needed to get done, even in the rain. Marion wanted everyone to get a fist-hand experience while at the park.

Bill and Jan at the Ooraminna Station Homestead. I felt like I was home the minute we arrived at the homestead. The hospitality of the Hayes family was amazing. They greeted us as we climbed off our muddy coach with huge smiles. I’m not sure if they were aware as to what they were getting into with our group. :o) Everyone at the homestead took us under their wing – helped us crack the whip, get our swags set up, shared the history of the station, taught us about the stars of the southern hemisphere, and even let us set up a geocache just out off their front porch! Each meal they were right beside us, sharing stories and tales. They did it all and we absolutely loved our stay…thank you Hayes family!

Cassidy is an Anangu gentlemen who, in the shadow of Uluru, shared stories and legends of his Aboriginal culture. With the help of his translator, John, we learned the true resourcefulness of the Aborigines. Using leaves from the native acacia tree, Cassidy demonstrated a glue-making process. He also gave us the opportunity to try our hand with native hunting spears. And finally, dot painting. Cassidy and John shared with us the important role dot painting has played in the culture and provided us guidance with our personal creations. We were truly fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend time with these two gentlemen.

Terry and Jacque on the banana farm. Could you think of a better way to start your day…lamingtons, tea, coffee, and on the farm!?!? We were greeted by a barefooted Terry, with iPhone in hand, who quickly whisked us off on the banana cart. As we toured the 600 acre farm, Terry shared stories, facts and jokes. His sense of humor reminded me of my late grandfather. As I reflected back on our time at the farm, I once again felt like I had been visiting a relative. I will say one thing Terry…you still owe me a banana! :o)

Dunken with Reef HQ and Orpheus Island. During our time at the aquarium and on the island, Dunken wore many hats: scientist, instructor, tour guide, tech support, concierge, alarm clock, and cheerleader with the consistent phrase, “Okay beautiful people.” Whatever you needed, Dunken was there! He made sure everyone was safe and enjoying their time learning about The Great Barrier Reef and the ocean in general. I believe that Dunken and his staff had a huge impact on the students which will lead them to make changes in their daily lives.

And last, but DEFINITELY not least, Amanda - our tour manager extraordinaire! I have never seen someone remain so calm and collected under such pressure. (She would make a great teacher!) When some students were feeling car sick, she sought out some ginger. When we couldn’t make it to the bush camp due to rain, she wrangled up a 4 Wheel Drive coach. And when an item was lost, she sent out the search party. Amanda made our trip amazing with all of her hard work and information…it wouldn’t have been the same without her.

Finally, I want to thank all of the amazing folks at Discovery Student Adventures and Discovery Education for giving my students and I the opportunity to take part in this amazing trip. We have come home from Australia with friends and memories that will last a lifetime.

Orpheus Island - Australia

Friday, June 5, 2009

I just wanted to share a few pictures from our day on Orpheus Island. I didn't have my underwater camera housing, so everything is topside.

This was one of the days I was really looking forward to. It was the day that I could share a whole new world with my students - the underwater world. If you know me, you know I love scuba diving...the jury was out on snorkeling. I did enjoy our time in the water yesterday, but I think I will stick with diving.

The kids did an amazing job as scientists collecting all of their fish behavior and reef condition data. Is was fun watching them trying to keep track of one specific fish while counting the number of times it bit coral.

I learned that it's very hard to laugh with a snorkel in your mouth. Mrs. McGuire and I were buddies and she got VERY excited about some of the fish we saw.

Hanging out at the beach during sunset and finally getting to see some of the gorgeous Southern Hemisphere sky was another highlight of our trip to Orpheus Island.

Today we left the island and returned to HQ Aquarium where we were able to analyze our data. It was great to see all the information our group collected in tables and charts. This experience really gave students an opportunity to put their math and science skills to work. (We even did some graphing with bug bites and coral cuts!) I think there may be a few future marine biologists in the group.

I echo Mrs. McGuire - I really hope all of these students realize what an amazing opportunity this has been. Looking back over the photos we've taken, I can't believe all of the absolutely amazing things we have done over the last 12 days - it's incredible. We will be sad to leave Australia behind, but we are anxious to get back home to our families.

Swimming With The Fishes!

Yeah, I know... it's kind of an Italian term... but in this case it was REALLY cool!

I actually dove down and saw the fish! The underwater world is so beautiful! It's really amazing all the things that God put down there- hidden beneath the water! ...And the colors are AMAZING! I have loads of underwater pictures that I took with my camera!

I'll upload them later. It took a while just to write this page. The internet has been very slow. But it's so great to be able to share with you what we are doing!

I hope the kids really get the impact of this trip! To be able to swim in the Great Barrier Reef and study the fish and coral is really a gift! The kids got to collect data on two different types of fish (parrot fish and the butterfly fish) to see what kinds of foods they are eating in a 5-minute time segment. They also measured the ocean floor in 20-meter segments to see what kinds of coral are growing in those spots. They identified coral as: Hard corals (coral massive, coral branching and coral tables), Soft corals, Dead coral and algae, rubble, sand and algae. They did an amazing job! Today we took the data and put it in Excel to see what all that information looks like in graphs and charts.

I'll post my other pictures soon! Tomorrow we fly up to Brisbane to go to the Australia Zoo! The Pedwells and Maria Mead will be meeting us up there! I can't wait to see them! It's still a little surreal that I'm in Australia... and we only have 2 days left. It went by so fast!

I'm looking forward to getting home to my family! My daughter got asked out on her first date while I was away, and I want to get home to pick out a cute outfit (...but not TOO cute! Wink!)!

Mrs. McGuire

Discovery Student Adventures Dives Deeper Into the Great Barrier Reef

Thursday, June 4, 2009

G'day mates! It's Jannita again! No chance to upload photos to the album yet, but I did want to let you all know that we have surfaced from the Great Barrier Reef. I also posted a few pictures here. A truly surreal experience with giant fish and even bigger corals. While at the reef, students had to follow a Parrot and Butterfly fish... no easy task I assure you! After that they did ocean floor transect where they measured out 100 meters and swam along notating the health of the different types of coral. It was magical watching the students dive down and point out all the different types of coral we had learned about at Reef HQ... brain, honeycomb, massive, stag, vase, plate, soft... The colors were incredible... but was even more terrific was watching their snorkel covered faces surface and start giggling and recording their data. How did they do this?!? With clipboards, pencils, and special plastic paper of course :)
So... do you want to learn more about the Great Barrier Reef?!?! Check out this Discovery Education Assignment created just for you and your students!


OK! The moment you've all been waiting for! Our pictures of our amazing volcanic enriched powder for self tanning!
Sophie is busy sketching up our product lines! She's quite a good product manager!

We'd love to hear any ideas you may have on our new product! Any variations of the name? We're also thinking of a lip stain, henna-like staining, and seasonal collections!
We're also now working on a sunscreen made from bleached coral on Orphius Island! (Wink!)

Discovery Student Adventures Takes Lemons and Makes "SOLO"

Okay, so when I was packing for my trip to Australia with the Discovery Student Adventures team, I was imagining sunny skies and warm weather. So let's just say my suitcase was definitely not prepared for 50 degree weather and rain everyday since we arrived. But that's okay, because when you travel with Discovery Student Adventures and you have a fearless travel manager like Amanda, you take those lemon like situations and make SOLO, an Aussie version of lemonade that has become our Australian addicition. It could have been a normal drive into Bush Camp, but when the rain caused the roads to become too muddy and slick, Amanda transformed that route into a 4 wheel drive adventure... the bigger the puddles the more the kids hooted and hollered.

So here's a brief look at what we've done so far since arriving abroad only 8 days ago. Let's see if I can get this in one breath...

Landed after an 17 hour flight and headed straight to the Moonlit Animal sanctuary where we fed and walked among wallabies, cleaned Rita the wombat's cage and checked the fertility of sugar gliders. Nice scenic tour through Melbourne... very artistic place! A hike among the canopy of the Australia rainforest at Otway fly (screamed my head off when the kids shook the bridge) Took the "Great Ocean Road" drive, one of the top 10 drives in the world... watched what happens to CarolAnne when she has eaten too many lollies (candies) let's just say the call it the liquid laugh (but it's definitely not funny!) Had a behind the scenes tour of Healesville Sanctuary where kids got to witness a kangaroo autopsy (let's just say I stayed behind the glass and by the looks on the kids faces, I made the right choice!) Went shopping in the famous Victoria Market and enjoyed some local yellow kiwi (bought beanies, gloves, and a scarf as it is still freezing cold and rainy) Took a flight to the center of the outback where we had an overnight at the Ooramina Bush Camp... made bread, learned how to crack a whip, enjoyed a roaring campfire, and we slept in swags (an Australian sleeping bag type thing) An early rise and off to one of the most famous iconic Australian spots... know to some as "The Rock" other's as "Ayers" and officially as "Uluru" It's GIGANTIC. Met with Cassidy an Aboriginal who taught us how to make glue, throw a spear, told us stories in the sand, and helped us make dot paintings. Cooked our own dinner on the barbie. Woke up at O-Dark-thirty to watch the sunrise over Uluru. It did not disappoint and words don't do it justice! A magical moment for all! We saw our first glimpse of sun... but we are still bundled up... in fact they hit record lows today! Kids got to ride camels in the bush (laughed hysterically at their expressions) Took flight again to the northern shores.... officially threw jacket off as we hit the warm tropical weather... but guess what... still raining! Did I mention that we've seen rainbows EVERY DAY?!?! We are officially somewhere over the rainbow! Witnessed a croc feeding at Hartley's Crocodile farm and one of my trip highlights cuddled up with a Koala (they are VERY stinky and I decided not to sneak him in my bag) Watched where we stepped at a Banana factory :) Saw lots of banana trees and even helped packing a few, LOTS of mud, a terrific waterfall, the biggest spider I have ever seen in my life, and the BEST cream and lemingtons for morning tea. Headed toward the Great Barrier Reef and stopped for a picture with the world's largest Gum Boot for Eren. Enjoyed an Aussie burger... they put beets on them... it's fantastic! Reached Reef HQ and practiced snorkeling at Adrenaline Dive. Now the kids are down stairs at the Reef HQ learning how to identify fish and coral for their research expedition to Orpheus Island tomorrow.... insert long exhale here!

Can you believe all that in 8 days!Enough from me... go now to and read the kids and teachers AMAZING twitters and blogs. POST COMMENTS... they read them every night!

Now, go to and pick which adventure you want to go on next year. EVERY teacher needs to have this amazing experience with their students and where there's a will, there is a way!

So cheers to each of you and a giant G'day from Australia! Here's a sneak peak of what we've done so far!
-Jannita Demian

We Have Humidity!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Up until yesterday, I had never said, “I love the humidity!” We have truly enjoyed our warm, humid weather here in Northern Australia. After leaving the center we headed north to Cairns and made a stop at Hartley’s Crocodile Farm. We were treated to an amazing show and dinner. Along with the giant crocs, another one of the night’s highlights was the up-close visit with a koala.

We did have some rain this morning, but we were on the coach headed to the banana farm, so we managed to stay dry. And we were treated to several more rainbows…something else that has been as common as the rain.

Before hopping on the “banana bus,” we enjoyed some tea and lamingtons on the front porch of our hosts. On our way to the banana fields we stopped by a gorgeous waterfall. For me, the biggest surprise about the banana trees were the large, plastic bags covering the bunches of bananas. The bags protect the bananas from the sun and pests. They are different colors based on their stage of ripening.

We finally arrived at the packing building and the kids enjoyed playing in the water as the bananas were being washed. As you can imagine, there was a “small” amount of water that made its way out of the trough.

Back on the coach we headed south from Cairns to Townsville. It was exciting to meet the staff members at Reef HQ who will be working with us over the next few days. We got a quick tour of the aquarium and then headed over to the dive shop for a snorkel lesson. All of the kids did an amazing job and are ready for the Great Barrier Reef.

We will be learning more about this amazing ecosystem tomorrow and will venture out to the waters around Orpheus Island on Thursday where we will take part in a research project in conjunction with James Cook University. I am very excited to be sharing a passion of mine, the underwater world, with my students. Everyone is looking forward to the reef.