Day 6: Primary School, Picnic and Penguins!
Today we visited Cowes Primary School in Phillip Island. The students there are very friendly. They welcomed us with an energetic and fantastic African drumming performance. Then, everyone got to meet their buddies. Aliyah loved her buddy because she was very friendly and caring, and she said she really likes our school (her name is Alice). Aiman also liked his buddy because he gave him a ten-cent coin. Sharon loved her buddy because she was very friendly and helpful. Christopher’s buddy was very sociable and told him about anything he wasn’t sure about. Andy’s buddy always asked questions about the Chinese language. He was also very friendly. Wan Shyan’s buddy gave her eight badges that were all made by her! We got free food at the school canteen because the school was kind enough to let us try their food. However, Christopher did not realize that the food was free and he paid money! :D We all visited the school’s sanctuary, which was next to their very nice playground. Most of the Grade 3 to Grade 6 students could do backward somersaults, and they asked us to try, but we said no :) Some of us attended an art lesson with the Cowes Pri Students, where we made beautiful Aboriginal paintings using the symbols they taught us. At the school vegetable patch, we planted potatoes, fed the chickens (with worms from the worm farm), and held the chickens. Andy learnt that chickens can fly, and Wanshyan found out that horse dung can be odour-free if it is left to dry for a long time.
After the school visit, we went to meet another Mr Peter (Cole) for lunch at Rhyll Inlet. Mr Peter prepared Apple Blackcurrant juice, orange juice, scrumptious barbequed chicken and fresh bread for us. We had lunch in a natural setting, where there were a lot bushes, and it was very beautiful. We could see the sea from where we were having a picnic, and we also saw an island that was not too far away from the coastline (Mr Peter said it is called French Island). After lunch, we went on a “short” walk that turned out to be quite long. Some of us were running, though, while those who were slower were chased by Mr Helmi, who said he would carry them. We walked to the mangroves, where we saw many different spider webs with different patterns. Mr Peter told us about the four reasons that mangroves are important. Firstly – it helps to prevent soil erosion. Secondly, it helps to keep the water clean. Third, it is home to many birds. Finally, it supports a large number of animals in the ecosystem there. Did you know that mangrove plants live in seawater (unlike rainforests, which need fresh water)? We saw some holes in the soil below the mangroves made by crabs, and Melody saw a worm in the water. Mr Peter explained that the oil from the rotting mangrove leaves makes the water look green and filmy. On the way back, we saw a tree which had flowers which looked like mealworms. Most of us were grossed out! :D By the time we got back to the coach, we were all panting, but surprisingly, we were not sweaty. That is because the air was very cool and dry.
After the walk at Rhyll, we went to the Penguin Parade Centre. We were given a talk by two rangers, Rebecca and Carissa. They said we were not students anymore, but junior rangers. We were all given a headband that we could draw our junior ranger name and picture on! Coral named herself Blue Coral Bubble Tea, Jamie called herself Fluffy Penguin, Afiqah called herself Penguin Master, Azreen was Jedi Penguin Master Azreen, and Jessalyn was Jess-pen. We put on our headbands, and began our adventure. We learnt how the penguins camouflage themselves in sea; that the male has a short, fat beak, and the female has a long, thin beak. Reb and Carissa brought us to the spot where they discovered feathers from a dead penguin. They were very sad, and wanted to find out what had happened. They started investigating, and asked for our help. So, we learnt to differentiate fox and dog footprints in order to solve the mystery of who or what ate the penguin. We found out that fox footprints were found near the site, as well as fox poo (fox poo has a little “tail” that helps us to identify it). They told us that inside the fox poo, they discovered more penguin feathers. So, we concluded that the red fox was the culprit. We felt like we were police, investigating a case. We were sad to find out the truth, and we learnt that foxes are harmful to penguins. In fact, a fox can kill 40 penguins in a day – that’s 280 penguins a week! So, Reb and Carissa explained that they need to work hard to keep foxes away from the penguins.
After the Penguin Mission, it was time for the Penguin Parade! We were EXTREMELY excited (and cold), because we had never seen penguins in their natural habitat before. Previously we had only seen them in zoo enclosures, where they are not very free to roam around. At the Penguin Parade, they are wild animals, with the freedom to roam anywhere they want to. From the Penguin Parade Centre, we crossed a wooden bridge and we could see a very beautiful ocean. The wind was very strong, and we were almost frozen stiff (however, we were warmly dressed in our thick down jackets and our long sleeved tshirts. Some of us, like Coral and Gheslynn, were dressed in 6 layers!). At first, we saw nothing, and then, all of a sudden, we saw movement in the water. We were so excited we nearly had a heart attack! Then, even more penguins arrived. They waited for each other before marching together towards their burrows. Sometimes, they would all be standing in a row, waiting for a big wave to come, and when it hit them, they quickly dove back into the water. We think it was because they were too scared to come onto the beach (Wayne thinks they wanted to go surfing). Once we saw the first group of penguins moving, everyone stood up to watch them, because they were so cute! After a few more groups emerged, we stood up and followed some of the penguins home. Luke counted 120 penguins at one site! When we followed them home, we noticed many interesting things. We saw a penguin couple slapping and hissing. At first, we thought they were fighting; in fact, they were greeting each other after a long day at work. The penguins made a lot of noise, which sounded like they were snoring. Actually, they were just communicating with each other!
Let us tell you about a special penguin named Mr Grumpy. Mr Grumpy is a very territorial penguin. When a penguin waddles casually by his burrow, he “scolds” them by making loud noises and scaring the poor penguins away. We saw him standing outside his burrow taking charge of his territory when the penguins were waddling back to the Centre.
Tonight, we also sent you our special surprise. Wait and see what it is! You will probably get it sometime next week. On the way back to our hotel, the P5s sitting at the back sang Justin Bieber songs, Baby and Eenie Meenie. The bus was like a disco!!!
Tomorrow is our second last day. We have mixed feelings. We will miss Australia so much, but we also really want to go home to Singapore. Tell you more tomorrow! Hope you enjoy our personal messages above!!:)
All 35 of us:)