Science week highlights

We had a thrilling presentation from Dr Adam Baker who works on rockets and satellites and collaborates with the astronaut Tim Peake. Here’s the live launch of an air-powered rocket: rocket launch.   And a demonstration of a real miniature rocket engine: rocket engine demo.

Adam told us about the International Space Station (ISS) – a giant science laboratory in space, orbiting the Earth at 25,000 miles an hour.  He encouraged us to use the International Space Station tracker (http://www.isstracker.com/) to follow its orbit. There’s also lots of amazing video of the Earth shot from the ISS on the web for anyone interested.

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We had an equally exciting presentation from a chemistry teacher at Dulwich College (and Rosendale parent) who explained how atoms are the building blocks of matter and performed some great experiments.

Explosion of a hydrogen balloon:

Burning ethanol in a plastic barrel:

Ethanol + oxygen –> carbon dioxide, water [which we saw left in the container] and heat energy [the barrel was warm]

Making lava lamps earlier today

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6CM scientists

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Winners of the spaghetti construction challenge earlier in the week..

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Our thanks go to Rosendale’s excellent science coordinator, Ms Nakibinge, who organised science week.

Natural History Museum

We spent today at the great Natural History Museum.   First we visited the new galleries on human evolution, which show the development of the human species (using skulls and reconstructed skeletons) from the point at which we diverged from the chimpanzees and apes about seven million years ago, through to the evolution of modern humans, Homo sapiens, in Africa an estimated 200,000 years ago.  Then we attended a workshop in a gallery charting the evolution of life on Earth over the last 500 million years, and acted out evolution by natural selection with the children in role as different species of birds competing for food.  After lunch we split into groups and went to our favourite parts of the museum.

Here’s Sonny’s photographic record of the trip:

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And more pictures of the day:

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Weekly round up

This week’s maths has been on ratio.  Here’s a clear introduction to the basic concept from the Khan Academy: Khan academy introduction to ratio .   For the next couple of weeks, the focus will be on measurement.  We’ll post videos on the blog covering some of the key skills, for the children to look at ahead of the lessons.

In English, we’ve begun to study Macbeth.  We’ve read a retelling of the first part of the play – to the point where Macbeth has met the three witches and heard their prophecies.  The children have written a letter from Macbeth to Lady Macbeth recounting these events.  As well as capturing the formality of a letter that a Scottish nobleman might have written a thousand years ago, the aim was to incorporate some of the Shakespearean language and style – we’ll post examples of the children’s work on the blog.

Our new project is on evolution (see previous posts).  Sylvie made this comment in response to one of these posts: “I found starting to learn about evolution slightly confusing because of questions like these… how did the evolution of the start of the whole galaxy start?   And how was the first cell made? There are a endless amount of unanswered questions about evolution. As you can see it is quite hard to get your head around.”  Quite!

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On Friday we discussed what people believed before Darwin’s theory of evolution and the fact that all religions and culture have their own accounts of creation of life on Earth.   Over the next few lessons, we’ll try to understand how a scientific theory is different from these accounts.   We’ve begun by looking at the route of Darwin’s voyage on the HMS Beagle around the world and next we’ll discuss his observations on the Galapagos Islands.    On Friday there’s a class trip to the Natural History Museum where we’ll take part in a workshop about the fossil record of evolution.

Have a good weekend

Nature versus nurture

We talked today about how we are shaped, as human beings, both by our genetic inheritance and by our environment (our life experiences and the choices that we make). reaiah

The children had to try to say which – genes or life experience – they thought was a more important influence on their development as a person.  Most thought it was their environment.

  • Zeca:  I personally think that the way you were born doesn’t matter.  The most important thing to me is nurture.
  • Sylvie:  I think the most important is probably environmental because it’s how you’re brought up that determines how happy you are or how your personality is built.
  • Faisal:  I think environment more than genes because you choose what you want to do and you choose the path you want to follow.
  • Sonny:  My life is more important than my genes.
  • Sarafina.  Environment shapes you as a person.  You kind of have a growth mindset if you believe in nurture.  If you don’t it’s a bit like you’re saying ‘I’m born this way and I can’t change it.’
  • Jim says that he’s grown up in a protective environment with caring parents.  He says, ‘Even if I had been born in a  troubled part of the world, and had the same parents, I would still be roughly who I am now.’
  • Nina gave this careful and balanced assessment:  I have inherited my mouth, teeth, nose, and eyebrows from my dad.  I got my eyes, hair colour and ears from my mum.  My parents both run and I think that I inherit half of that from them but I train and do a lot of cross country running to help…. and get lots of encouragement.   I personally think that you could be born with a talent and not practise or you could not be born with a talent but train really hard and succeed.  I think that envrionment and nurture is more important because it’s your choice of what to do or be.

Add your own thoughts by replying to this post.  

Bonus question: which member of the class has evolved from this young lady?

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Evolution – our new project

Depictions of 3.5 billion years of the evolution of life on Earth by Sarafina, Olivia and Gabriel (who represents the end of human evolution as a ‘dab’!)

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Here’s a selection of interesting questions and observations from members of 6CM that we will try to explore in the project.

  • Evolution from a single cell to a human being is miraculous.
  • Is it possible that humans will keep evolving?
  • Could humans evolve to use 100% of their brains?
  • Is evolution ‘just a theory’?  Could it be false?  What is the evidence to support it?
  • What different beliefs do people hold?  What did people believe before Darwin came up with his theory of evolution?

You can suggest other questions and ideas for us to explore by replying to this post.

Science poster display

We are finishing this half-term’s science project by publishing our results as posters.  

The posters will be on display first thing on Tuesday morning.  If you can, please come in and talk to the children about their work.

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Culture of microorganisms that we took from Sarafina’s tongue!

Learning about being a scientist

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We asked the class to round off this half-term’s science project by reflecting on what they felt they had learned about science.  Here are some of the extremely interesting and thoughtful responses.

Sylvie wrote: ‘I have learned that science isn’t about the teacher knowing the answer to the question – it should be about the children finding out for themselves.  It is about trying something new, combining as much information as you can from other scientists, then putting it together into a new experiment.  Use what you know.  Ask the questions that can be useful.  Change the world for good.  But it’s not just about the bigness of changing the world in enormous ways.  You should also do small experiments that add up to a better understanding of the world.’

Sylvie captures the spirit of scientific enquiry – but using science to change the world for good is a great point too (and not one that we much discussed).  Microbiology, as many other areas of science, has so much potential for both good and harm.  Nina said that ‘Science gives us power over our surroundings’ and Zeca that ‘Science is basically everything.  It’s like the future.’  So we must surely want young scientists to give thought to the purpose and goals of science at the same time as generating new knowledge.

Patrick said, ‘I learnt to think like a scientist.’  Caspar, ‘Ask lots of questions and don’t hold back.’  Archie said:  ‘I have learned that in science you can’t really do an experiment once because the results sometimes vary… Science is about doing experiments and finding out new stuff about the world by asking questions.’  

Eleanor compared science to a large experiment with endless possibilities.  Mohammed said something similar: ‘What I like about science is that there is always a new and better experiment.’  And Jim came up with a great idea for continuing his team’s experiment, which was to use yeast to generate CO2 and then use this to see whether mould will grow on bread in an atmosphere of CO2 or whether it needs oxygen.