Earth Week

Period: 20-26 April 2020

Welcome to Earth Week.

We are going to be thinking about endangered species and recycling and renewing this week.

There will be activities for you to do some research  - we know about the honey bees being in trouble but what about other Scottish wildlife?

You can do some investigation and then have a go at designing a bee and insect hotel - and if you have a garden or are heading to the park you could build one!

We also want you to be thinking about renewable energy and recycling all our plastic waste.

Watch out for the competition and remember to send in your entry - there is a lovely first prize and a few runners-up prizes too!

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Endangered Species in Scotland

Unfortunately some of Scotland’s varied wildlife has been highlighted as endangered primarily as a ?result of human impact - destruction of habitat, pollution, hunting and fishing.

These endangered species include;
  • wildcat
  • red squirrel
  • water vole
  • eurasian beaver
  • mountain hare
  • pine marten
  • puffin
  • otter
  • red deer
  • capercaillie
  • bottlenose dolphin
  • Scottish honey bee

Today you are going to do some research about one of these endangered species and design a poster with the information you have learned. Our Threatened Species in Scotland Worksheet will guide you to the information you need to find.

Take a photo of your poster and send it in to show us what interested facts you have found!

One of our threatened species is the Scottish Honey Bee, this is a worry because we NEED bees!
These tiny little workers are important because they help pollinate flowers, which helps us grow our healthy fruit and vegetables.

This YouTube clip (below) from Blooms for Bees gives us some information about the Bees in the UK.

Bees in the UK

Scottish Bees are in decline and we can all do our bit to encourage them to settle in our gardens and parks and ensure that they are able to play their part in the ecosystem which we know is so important as they are pollinators and are essential in food production.

Insect hotels can be quite elaborate affairs and you can now buy them in garden centres and large shops.

This one has a slot for butterflies to rest and feel safe and lots of spaces for bees and wee insects.

Have fun Making Your Own Bee or Insect Hotel, we're looking forward to seeing what you have been up to - keep the photos coming in!

Harvesting Wind Power

Sustainability is the capacity to endure.

Healthy ecosystems and environments are necessary to the survival of humans and other organisms, but it is human activity that has the greatest negative effect on the environment. There are a number of ways to reduce this negative human impact and the majority of people in the world have an urgent sense that we need to secure a better future for the present generation and to protect the future of generations to come.

?We are going to look at why it is important to protect our environment for future generations and why we need skilled and forward thinking engineers to do this.

Renewable energy is one of the best changes the world can make to slow the rising global temperature. This is because renewable energy sources such as solar and wind don't emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

Why Does Wind Blow?

Wind is created because warm air is lighter than cold air, therefore warm air rises and cold air sinks and this movement of air is called wind.

Wild Wind Facts

  • Wind energy is clean and renewable.?
  • Windmills date all the way back to the year 2000 BC where they were used in China.
  • In the past sailors used wind energy.
  • Farmers once used windmills to grind their grains and to pump water.
  • When we look around it is easy to spot wind turbines on the horizon - they are generating electricity from the wind.
  • A large group of wind turbines is called a wind farm.
  • One wind turbine can power 500 homes.
  • Wind turbines can be as tall as 200 metres and have blades that are 60 metres long
  • Small turbines are sometimes used to charge batteries or as backup power in caravans.

Wind Through the Ages

A little extra task for those of you who are interested...
How long have humans been harnessing wind energy?
You can draw out a timeline showing the progression of how we have used wind to our benefit. Remember to send us a picture of what you find!

More about Harvesting Wind Energy

What is a Wind Turbine?
A Wind Turbine is a device that changes the movement energy from the wind into electricity. ?Wind Turbines are a very important energy source in Scotland - in fact we produce enough energy from wind farms to provide energy for 2 Scotland's!

What is a Windmill?
A Windmill changes movement energy from the wind into mechanical energy. In the past farmers have used windmills to grind grains and also to pump water.

Now you can have a go at making your own Windmill. The video below shows you how to do this and we also have a Make Your Own Windmill Worksheet to help.

Make Your Own Windmill

We have also found you this great resource from Sustainable Learning (link to full PDF work booklet) and the activity we think you'll really enjoy is finding all the things that need wind to work. Remember to let us see your colouring in!

Earth Day

Today we are very lucky to have a guest post from Rhona Cowan who is PhD Student in the School of Chemistry at University of Edinburgh.

This week is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day!

This gives us a chance to stop and think about our impact on the planet.

When we think about our impact on the Earth it is useful to think of the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. These make us aware of what we are using, where to cut back and what we can recycle. People are not always very good at recycling, unlike nature, where nothing goes to waste!

In Spring Week we looked at how trees change over the seasons. When trees lose their leaves in autumn they are gone by summer, so where do they go?

Nature uses insects and bacteria to breakdown the leaves so that the plants can use the nutrients to grow. The plants use the leaves as a source of food and energy in the spring and summer. In autumn, when plants don’t need leaves, they fall to the ground and feed the insects and bacteria that make food for plants! The plant food made from leaves is called compost. Compost gives lots of healthy nutrients for the plant to grow big and strong, like fruit and vegetables do for us humans.

Lots of people use nature to help reduce their waste by making their own compost heap or for smaller homes and gardens a wormery. A wormery is where worms eat all the leftover food and make compost which can also be called worm castings! Worms are great at eating, they can eat half their body weight in one day. The composts they make can then be put into your garden to make the plants healthy! Worm compost is sometimes called “black gold” because it is one of the best composts to keep your plants well fed.

There are two types of worms that are used in wormeries the tiger worm or the dendras worm. Wormeries come in all shapes and sizes, here is an example of a big one!

The top layer is where you find worms and food waste like banana peels, apple cores and even egg shells! The worms eat this up and make compost which falls through holes into the second layer. Worms can be picky and they don’t want any unwelcome visitors so they don’t eat greasy food, meat, citrus fruit, garlic or onion! Most worms like to stay close to their food so when more kitchen waste is added the hungry worms will move up towards it staying close to the top. When the second layer is full and empty of worms it can be taken away and used in your garden. At the bottom is a collecting layer for liquid which can come from the kitchen waste or the worms! Some fancy wormeries have a tap so you can easily take the liquid out, this can also be used as plant food!

Here is a useful link for details on the different types of wormeries and how to make and care for one from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS):

Follow our simple Make Your Own Sun Catcher Guide to show how you can be good at recycling, just like a worm.

Rhona Cowan (STEM Ambassador, University of Edinburgh)
Rhona Cowan
PhD Student, School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh

"Initially come from a biology background. My interests then moved into analysis by studying Pharmaceutical analysis. I then worked in a Pharmaceutical company to analyse various medicines. After ~ 10 months I moved to start my PhD in which I work with a company to make modifications on their plant based material using enzymes to make green materials. A few examples of the applications are that the material can be added to paint and concrete to improve the quality but it can also be used on its own as a waterproof film on takeaway cups to make them biodegradable."

"Besides academia, I have previously been a girl guiding leader arranging science nights and from this I understand how to appeal to a wide range of skills and knowledge."

Rhona is a first year PhD student in the School of Chemistry at the University of Edinburgh studying biocatalysts. Specifically Rhona is working on sustainable methods using enzymes for modifying cellulose.

Earth Day Quiz
You can check your Answers here.

Make Your Own Sun Catcher

Water Power

The power of H2O!

We get a lot of rain in Scotland - A LOT! So how do we make the most of this resource that falls straight out of the clouds and into our laps?

Today we are going to find out how to get energy from the movement of water - Hydropower.

Being able to harness this energy is a very ancient skill. Converting the energy from flowing water into electricity is a renewable source because the water cycle is constantly renewed by the sun.

In the past farmers used hydropower for mechanical work to grind grains, much the same as the windmills.

Some Hydro Power Powerful Facts:

  • Hydropower is a renewable source of energy.
  • Hydro turbines can convert 90% of available energy into electrify - this means they are very good at their job!
  • Small hydro turbines provide energy for about 200 homes, and these are becoming popular for some communities in Scotland.
  • Just under half of the renewable energy in the UK is provided by hydropower.
  • Most of the hydroelectric power stations in the UK are in the Scottish hills and mountains.

Make Your Own Water Turbine

The best way to see how the movement energy from water is changed into mechanical energy is to see it in action, so today we are going to make our own water turbine and use the hydropower to lift a weight.

We have created a Make Your Own Water Turbine Worksheet (PDF) as well as this handy slideshow (below) to help you work through the instructions.

Remember to let us see your water turbine in action!

Make Your Own Water Turbine
Make Your Own water turbine

Waste Not, Want Not

Wasteful Packaging

Before 2014 Scotland used 800 million plastic bags every year!
Then in 2014 the Scottish government added a levy on plastic bags to help reduce this excessive number. Has it worked? Short answer, YES!
Since the charges have been put into place the number of plastic bags used has been reduced by 80% - that’s a reduction of a whopping 640,000,000 bags!

So why is this significant, and why is it important to cut down our use of plastic bags?
These massive numbers reinforce the belief that we live in a ‘throwaway’ society. It is very important to know that these used bags have to go somewhere and that ‘somewhere’ is usually a landfill site.

Today you are going to investigate how long different types of bags last in landfill.
This piece of investigative work will take place over a long period of time, so you will have to be patient.

Our How Long Does a Plastic Bag Last in Landfill? worksheet (PDF) will explain the steps to set up this investigation as well as giving you a template for recording your results as well as writing up your findings, again, this investigation has to happen over a number of months - the longer you spend collecting results the better your investigation will be.

Food Packaging

Food packaging is important as it has a number of roles including:

  • protection
  • informative
  • preserving
  • tamperproof
  • hygienic
  • safety
  • attractive

However, in some instances, excess packaging is used unnecessarily and all it does is add to landfill sites.

Here is an important question for you… What is the Courtauld Commitment? If you don’t know we would love for your to do some research and find out.

Now we would like you to look at this Packaging Worksheet (PDF) and decide in each case if the packaging is:

  • Perfect
  • ok, but a small change could make it more environmentally friendly
  • quite a lot of waste, ways of changing should be investigated
  • far too much excessive packaging, must be changed immediately

In what ways do YOU think these products could be repackaged to reduce wastefulness?

You can do your own investigation into packaging by looking at what your family buys the next time at the supermarket and identifying a product with excess wasteful packaging. You can design more environmentally appropriate packaging - remember to use materials that are recycled and can be recycled again!
Present your findings in a poster and let us see!


We all like a challenge and this is a cracker - no pun intended!

The instructions are found in this Packaging Challenge Worksheet (PDF) and we are excited to see how you get on, send in a video if you can - we’d even like to see your bloopers!

Plastic bags

Wasteful Packaging

Challenge Protection

Also see our other Home Learning Topics information and our Learning Resources.

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