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Science Week – Enhancing the Core

During the 23-27th March 2015, Year 10 took part in activities in science ranging from looking at owl pellets, to F1 racing where they designed and raced cars.

Students were put into 6 groups and had a day focusing on biology, chemistry/geology and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). They also carried out activities based around core physics and astronomy, aided by Brian Sheen from Roseland observatory. On the Wednesday there was a chance to hear guest speakers’ talk about their experiences in science and how it had helped them in their careers.

Physics day

On Tuesday 24th March 2015 Year 10 spent a day carrying out physics and astronomy activities to consolidate and extend their knowledge from core science. All students had the opportunity to view the sun through a hydrogen filter and observe sun spots, areas of cooler gases on the sun’s surface. Brian Sheen from Roseland Observatory brought the telescopes in and assisted Mr Gidzewicz as he talked though the electromagnetic spectrum, the recent partial solar eclipse and light.

At other times students were revisiting the concept of convection currents and making hot air balloons to demonstrate the theory. Solar powered boats were created in another workshop and renewable energy was the focus for the hour.

The difficult concept of electric circuits was investigated, with students making series and parallel circuits whilst measuring the current and voltage in them both. Mrs Clark and Mrs Boyson led a lesson on light, using ray boxes and prisms. This led onto making pin-hole cameras and thinking about the use of lenses and the functioning of the eye.

An activity which linked in with the astronomy day was thinking about the expansion of the Universe and the Big Bang theory. The students made small spectrometers which were used to show how chemical compounds absorbed different parts of the light spectrum. There was also a brief appearance via Skype from Hannah Wakeford, part of the Astrophysics group at Exeter University. She explained how she has used spectrometers on the Hubble space telescope to research the atmosphere of extrasolar planets.

Chemistry day

During the chemistry part of Science Immersive Learning Week, students took part in three main activities.  Each student considered the advantages and disadvantages of bioethanol as a fuel through making a board game whilst working in groups.  Later in the day our Year 10 scientists went on to study the geological science parts of their courses.  We took a ‘journey to the centre of the Earth’ through making ‘vertical mobiles’.  This allowed students, in their groups to be creative an kinaesthetic learners.  The results were brilliant.  In the final hour of the day students looked at the volatile world of volcanoes and made amazing 3D models of two famous volcanoes; Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh (an extinct composite volcano) and Eyjafjallajokull (a fissure / sheild volcano in Iceland).

Biology day

All students had a day of biology activities throughout the week. We focused on environmental monitoring, using freshwater invertebrates as an indicator of the health of a river.  The participants identified the organisms in 2 water samples and assessed the water quality based on what was found. They then went onto look at an adaptation of one of those organisms such as Mayfly larvae or flatworms. Students also looked at lichens in order to monitor the amount of air pollutions. They carried out a small survey in the school grounds, identifying lichens that were more or less tolerant to nitrous oxides. This was quite difficult to do as many lichens look quite similar until you look carefully with hand lenses.

The biology day had an owl theme also running through it. Firstly, students dissected a Barn Owl pellet. They identified the species eaten by the owl, based on skull and tooth shape. It was mainly field voles that had been the prey. The activity moved on to consider the food chain, and how energy was lost as it moved up a food chain. The pupils answered an exam question based around energy in food chains to finish this activity.

The final event of the day was to see some actual owls! Wendy Winstanley from Porfell Wildlife Park and Sanctuary brought 3 owls to talk about their different adaptations to their habitats. A barn owl, a wood owl and a day flying owl were the particular subjects. It also gave students an opportunity to ask further questions about them, and owls in general.

Careers day

In the middle of the week, guest speakers from the local area were invited to talk to the students. The speakers included a vet, a naval engineer, a radiographer, a geology professor, PHD students and people from the Environment Agency and West Country Rivers, amongst others.  They talked about the kind of work that they did, and the route into that career. There was an opportunity for students to ask questions, before moving onto see the next set of speakers. This enabled all the pupils to see and hear all 12 speakers. During the day, Year 10 had the opportunity to reflect on what sort of future they wanted and to challenge the stereotype of science related careers. Some feedback from the session included “I now understand about the range of jobs science can lead to.” and “The radiologist and neuroscientist were fascinating to listen to.”