On Monday 25 March the Year 9 Brainstretching Mathematics elective class attended an excursion to Werribee Zoo. In the lead-up to the excursion, the students had studied the use of networks and graphs for decision-making processes, then performed critical path analyses to determine the crucial activities and their timing. The students embraced an opportunity to be in a setting where significant real-life projects are managed and where they were able to ask questions.

We were greeted at the gate by the friendly Zoo staff who escorted everyone to an out of bounds area from the public to examine a previously used enclosure for meerkats. Our class project management assignment was about moving a meerkat enclosure, so it was perfect to hear about the move of the meerkats from this older enclosure to their current enclosure. We were informed the meerkats are moving again next year, once the Melbourne Zoo elephants take up residence in their new Werribee home on the range, and that the meerkats will then be on the way to the old elephants’ enclosure at Melbourne Zoo.

Students were interested to learn how clickers are used to train the animals and to assist with movement of animals between enclosures, as well as bringing them in for health check-ups. It will be an interesting day indeed when the elephants travel from Melbourne to Werribee via shipping containers carried on trucks.

The students were able to learn about the critically endangered Orange-Bellied Parrots, and were able to see the ‘pink ladies’ – a group of older parrots, too old to be released into the wild, so they enjoy a special enclosure to see out their days. The highlight of the day was perhaps the safari tour, which offered a chance to be up close to the many animals out on the savannah plains, and to count the number of Blackbucks in order to solve a posed counting problem (one male and 29 females!). Then, having just been told how dangerous the ostriches are considered to be should they ever escape, it was with some trepidation that everyone sat still in the tour bus as the ostriches decided to stop the bus and give it a bit of a close check over.

An excellent day was had at the zoo, and then in the subsequent lessons, many interesting discussions could be heard as the class used their collected information to manage the set project and answer the numerous problem-solving questions posed.

Leanne Whiteroad
Mathematics Teacher