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Photo courtesy The Gisborne Herald
The class, made up of year five and six students, decided an analammetic sundial would be the perfect gift to the school as their legacy project.
“We thought really hard and decided we should do a sundial,” said 11-year-old Molly Lankshear.
Room One teacher Tim Kirkpatrick says the sundial fitted in well with themes around identity that the class had been studying throughout the year.
“It is all about how we see ourselves. Gisborne is the first city to see the sun and we wanted something that represented what we are about in Gisborne.”
Analammetic sundials have an arc with the time on it, and an area with the months of the year marked out. By standing on the month, students are able to tell the time by where their shadow lands on the arc.
They have been enthusiastic about the project.
“We built it because there are not many in New Zealand or the southern hemisphere,” said 11-year-old student Ben Blakeman.
The students began the project in the second term, designed the dial in term three, and built it in term four.
“Before the final one, we made lots of prototypes and had to learn lots about them before we put them all together,” said 11-year-old Hattie Kemp.
“When we had finished the five prototypes, we had to decide which one was the best,” said 10-year-old student Libby Scott.
Mr Kirkpatrick says the community got behind the project. Pasty’s Masonry and Ceramics provided the tiles, Mobile Concrete provided the concrete and parent Corrina Scott helped with concreting and grouting at the weekends.
The idea of building sundials in Gisborne was raised with the school by Ray Sheldrake.
He says the sun is Gisborne’s biggest point of difference and believes having human sundials built throughout the city would celebrate this.
He first suggested the idea to the District Council but there was not funding for it. Now he has taken the idea to schools, which have picked up on it.
Mr Sheldrake says sundials are perfect projects for schools because the theory behind them can be incorporated into all lessons from science, to history, to art and design.
“It is such a simple thing to do but it has such a huge educational value as well,” he says.
Since Makauri’s sundial was completed, other schools have shown interest in completing their own.
Mr Sheldrake has created a free e-book to document the journey to make the sundial. It can be found at http://www.gisbornespecials.co.nz/gisborne-sundials
Mr Sheldrake envisages a trail of sundials that reinforces the city’s unique place as the first in the world to see the sun, and celebrates the district’s Maori name — Tairawhiti, “The coast upon which the sun shines across the water”. In fact, he sees in this an answer to the search for a branding strategy for the region.
Education is also central to the concept. If schools buy into it, the sundials will help build understanding of time and the calendar, mathematics, geometry, the solar system, the sun, light and shadow.
Gisborne’s place as the first city to see the sun was determined 130 years ago in October, 1884 in Washington DC. Then US President Chester A. Arthur had invited 41 delegates from 25 nations to the International Meridian Conference, where they selected Greenwich as the official prime meridian —which also helped established the international dateline and our position in relation to it as the “first city to see the sun”.
Three years ago that title was challenged by Apia, when Samoa shifted itself to the west of the international dateline — skipping a day at midnight on December 29, 2011. The Samoan capital is now the first city to see the sun over winter, while Gisborne (due to the tilt of the earth and our proximity to the dateline) is first during the summer months and, importantly, on New Year’s Day.
He has even targeted the area for the first sundial in his mind, the intersection of Aberdeen and Roebuck Roads at the Botanical Gardens.
Speaking in the public forum section of the council meeting, he said this “crazy idea” came to him in September last year and since then he had researched it throughout the world. That included obtaining pictures of this type of sundial in many cities.
This was a concept that would suit all parts of the community and fitted all cultures — European, Maori and others.
It would give Gisborne a fresh paradigm.
Mr Sheldrake said a few years ago there were plans to build the world’s biggest sundial here but people would always build a bigger one and this was a much more feasible concept.
In Napier, even the teenagers got into the spirit of Art Deco week and he believed the whole Gisborne community could involve itself in this project, as sundials offered participatory experience, and were practical, fun and educational.
He was not asking the council for a lot of money. The sundials could be built at a relatively low cost. The council could look at building one or two a year, creative design being important.
But he also wanted to get businesses, service clubs and schools to support the idea and build their own sundials so they became spread throughout the whole city.
Mr Sheldrake said the sundials would not be in competition with the navigations project but would fit in with it.
If the council decided to create a task force to establish this, he would like to be involved, he said.
He believed while there were sundials right throughout the world, Gisborne — as the first city to see the sun — would be the first place in the world to take them up as a city.
Standing orders mean the council cannot debate an issue raised as part of the public forum.
But there was spontaneous applause from councillors and people in the public gallery for Mr Sheldrake’s presentation.