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Forests of Life goes international

25 May 2006

Forests of Life goes international

Ensis' Forests of Life school science programme has just gone international by signing up its first Australian school, in addition to securing its second Rotorua district school - all in one week.

Rotorua's Reporoa College and Golden Square Secondary in Bendigo, Australia will now join Mokoia Intermediate in Forests of Life (FOL) - an education programme that aims to encourage students into science through inquiry based projects that benefit the environment.

The Forests of Life programme is managed and developed by Rotorua-based Ensis (the joint forces of Crown Research Institute, Scion, and Australia's CSIRO) and it is funded through the Ministry of Education's Digital Opportunities fund. The aim of Forests of Life is to engage students in science through real projects that benefit the environment. With the support of scientists and teachers, students explore the spiritual and cultural values of forests, global forest issues, forest ecology and sustainable forest management. The students also use information and communications technology (ICT) to investigate important science questions.

Forests of Life project leader Tim Barnard says the programme has had great support from its pilot school Mokoia Intermediate in Rotorua. It is hoped that the programme will eventually extend to many more schools in the Bay of Plenty and across New Zealand.

"The pilot has gone very well and we have enjoyed working alongside students and teachers. The project has recently attracted interest outside New Zealand and from as far a field as Canada and the United States," says Mr Barnard.

The Australian school first contacted Ensis last year regarding the possibility of becoming involved in the programme. While the idea of expanding the FOL overseas was always on the cards, this early interest from Australia prompted research to see how the programme could be successfully adopted internationally.
"As Ensis is a joint venture with Australia's CSIRO, it's even more appropriate that we develop links with schools and students across the Tasman," says Mr Barnard.

Ensis will work with the new schools to develop an inquiry-based research programme that encourages students to explore forest ecology and sustainability. Students will work with each other via the web allowing their ideas, learning and experiences to be easily shared.

"We are the programme's first local college on board and we suspect we will not be the last. We are looking forward to introducing our students to this science initiative and taking advantage of something that got started in our very own Rotorua backyard," says Reporoa College, head of social sciences Kathleen Gordon.
Kerrienne Hocking, the science teacher at the new Australian school, Golden Square, says her school was keen to be involved because science is a subject that students can traditionally shy away from.

"We hope the hands on philosophy of the Forests of Life programme will break down some of those barriers for students and inspire them," says Ms Hocking.

For more information on the Forests of Life programme please contact Tim Barnard at www.ensisjv.com.

ENDS

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