Monthly Archives: November 2014

Martian Soil and Challenges with 3D printing

This week we had our first round of parents’ evenings and it was a delight to hear how parents seem to be enjoying our space project as much as the children. Indeed, we have our second blog from a Year 5 parent, Justine Williams, posted today. The general opinion was that their children were becoming very knowledgeable about space and had amazed them by their well-informed conversations on the topic – particularly the recent landing of Philae on 67P.

Almost every week, something exciting seems to be happening in the world of space. Indeed this very evening, Italian astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti, is leaving Earth from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with NASA astronaut Terry Virts and Roscosmos cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov.  They are part of the 42nd expedition to visit the International Space Station.

The Soyuz rocket will deliver the crew to their new home in under six hours. To get there so quickly, the rocket reaches up to 28 800 km/h accelerating 50 km/h on average every second for the first nine minutes after liftoff. It’s a good job it takes such a short time, as you wouldn’t want to be in that spacesuit for any longer than absolutely necessary – Mr Randall can testify to that.

Over the next six months we will be following Samantha and hopefully taking part in some of the experiments she will be performing in the micro-gravity environment.

So that leads on to what we have been doing towards our project this week. Well, Year 5 had a visit from Sue Andrews from ESERO, who led an investigation into different soil examples, sent by the European Space Agency. The children carried out various tasks, as if they were real space scientists. The objective was to determine which of the samples was closest to actual Martian soil. They were given a series of cards which contained facts about what scientists think Martial soil is like, based on data received from the Curiosity Rover, currently located on the planet.

Using a combination of observation and scientific processes such as filtering, evaporation and testing for acidity, the children were able to reach a reasoned conclusion. Both Sue and I were extremely impressed by the way each group worked cohesively as a team. It was wonderful to eavesdrop on the fervent discussions that were taking place – full of scientific language.

And, it’s not only Year 5 that have been focussed on space this week. In our weekly sharing assembly, again half of the work celebrated was connected with our Out of This World project. To celebrate the success of the Rosetta mission, the Year 2s had been busy making comets out of a combination of polystyrene balls, cotton wool, pipe cleaners and glitter – but the most important achievement was that they could actually describe the different elements of the comet to their audience. They knew about the nucleus and the coma and the fact that they were largely made up of ice mixed with smaller amounts of dust and rock – quite impressive for 6&7 year olds. Not to be outdone, Reception proudly displayed the maths that they had been doing – which of course revolved around stars. What a wide reaching topic space is!

To finish, just a note about 3D printing, which has proved to be more challenging than I first anticipated. This is definitely a technology still being developed and not yet fully ‘consumer ready’. But, it is a good thing, as it stretches the team. I have written about the importance of children working at the edge of their understanding, so it is right that we, as teachers, should occasionally move out of our comfort zone. By the end of this year, we will all have developed new skills, which we will be able to confidently share with others.

One of the difficulties we face is trying to integrate the printers into our existing school network. The goal is to be able to print wirelessly, using software on Laptops and iPads and be able to access Makerbot’s online resources and cloud services through the Makerbot Desktop software. This all works perfectly in a home WiFi environment, but there seem to be a number of restrictions preventing this from happening at school: frustrating, but not insurmountable. As one of the first primary schools to attempt to use this technology, we will hopefully end up solving these problems for those that follow.

We plan to share our expertise in March next year with other schools in our cluster, so the resolution of these issues can’t come soon enough.

Year 2 comets

Year 2 with their comets. Can you spot the coma?

Reception numbers

We like counting stars in Reception.


3D printing can be quite a mystery sometimes.

Capturing Children’s Imaginations

As a parent it is wonderful to see my daughter coming home from school so excited about the subject she is learning about.  The space theme has really captured her imagination.  She has come home since the start of September telling me all about the stars and constellations and Carys’s favourite, comet 67P.  When I asked why she likes learning all about it so much she replied “because its lots of fun”.  So Carys probably doesn’t even realise just how much she is learning and taking in.
I also enjoyed spending a couple of hours in the classroom on the open morning.  To spend some time with her, making things and just seeing what she is like in the classroom was fantastic.  We both liked making the stars collage and the Space Station we made has pride of place in her bedroom.
I am slightly biased but because of this topic and the school trip to The Space Centre in Leicestershire, Carys had her five minutes of fame on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show.  This was completely her idea to phone in, she was so excited to be going on the trip and loved telling Chris all about it.
Long may this exciting, fun and enthusiastic learning journey continue.

Comets, Rosetta, Philae & 67P

This week has been amazing, by Heidi Pheasey (with help from Poppy Williams)

Heidi & spine

The week started off as normal with a Monday and Tuesday filled with maths, guided-reading, literacy and some fun art work with Mrs Malem, creating a beautiful Remembrance Day poppy picture for our class display.

Wednesday was extremely different! We had this insane assembly, where Mrs Ross came wearing a white science coat and carrying steaming, crackling dry ice. We watched some interesting videos about the comet chaser called Rosetta, its Philae Probe and the comet 67P. After that, Mrs Ross tried to make a comet of her own asking someone from the audience to help her make it. She got some water and poured it in to a plastic bag and then she added some sand and soil followed by 10 drops of Tabasco sauce (to represent organic matter). Mrs Ross then added the dry ice to all of the ingredients, which made it crackle and stick together. Lots of carbon dioxide came out like a gust of wind across your face. Once Mrs Ross pushed it all together, she finally released her hands, grabbed hold of the comet inside the plastic bag and revealed it to us all! Wow, what an exciting way to start the day…

After lunch Year 5 went outside and watched Mrs Ross launch bottles rockets with dry ice. First she poured some water in a small bottle, then put some dry ice in with it. She shook the bottle and gently placed it in the ground. Suddenly, the bottle exploded, flying really high. One of the bottles nearly hit Mrs Malem! Afterwards, we went back into our classroom, where Mrs Wiskow explained how astronauts grow taller in space because there is no gravity. Mrs Wiskow set us homework to measure how much our bodies shrink during the day, because gravity is pushing down on us all the time. We had to measure our height when we woke up and just before we go to sleep. I found all this information really exciting, so when I got home I rang my Dad and asked him if he had a model of a spine that I could borrow for school.

He did! So I took it to school the next day, everyone thought it was amazing (Jonny Hart from Year 4 thought it looked like dinosaur’s neck bones). We had a little lesson about it, Mrs Wiskow asked “Does anyone know how we shrink ?”, I put my hand up straight away, but wasn’t allowed to say the answer because she knew I would get it right.  In the end no one knew, so Mrs Wiskow asked me! In between the bones of the spine we have discs that are squashed during the day. I call the discs pillows because my Mum said they are like a pillow you sit on, when you get up they return back to size. Did you know it is like that with our discs when we sleep?


When I got home I asked my Mum how much we grow in space. She didn’t know, so she suggested she that as she is running the Out of This World project’s twitter account (@OotW_UK) she could use it to ask Tim Peake for our class. Here is his answer and my reply to him.

Did you know scientists use the symbol delta (Δ) to mean “change in”, so when my Mum wrote ‘Dheight’ in her tweet to Tim it was short for ‘change in height’? Also, 2 inches is the same as 5 centimetres, so if I am 138cm on earth now, I would be 143cm in space – tall enough for Alton Towers, yippee!


Space Assembly & 3D Printers

On Monday 13th October there was an assembly about space. It was amazing to see all the classes’ space work. Even the Reception class joined in and some of them are only 4! My class, Year 5, did a presentation for the start and Heidi, Jack and Ben showed their ISS models. Frankie shared her poem and Izzy showed her 3D version of The Plough constellation.

After that, Oliver from Year 6 shared his presentation about Solar Energy and then Year 4 showed the work they had been doing in maths – using pie charts to illustrate a typical astronaut’s day. Year 3 children demonstrated what happened when they dropped their Lunar modules. Both Year 2 and Year 1 had done tangrams and Reception showed an outstanding array of pictures.

Exciting news is that finally our 3D printers are here. What a relief! We have already tried them out and printed a variety of things including an octopus, SpaceBot, chain, words and we have even scanned and printed Yoda from Star Wars.

I am looking forward to having the opportunity to design something from scratch.

By James Biddulph

One of our Makerbot Minis.

One of our Makerbot Minis.

Open Mornings

On Tuesday, Year 5 had an opening morning about space. Parents also came in to see what it is like to be in Year 5. We were split up into 3 groups. One of the groups had to make a model of the ISS and we made it from cans, Pringle tins, paper and a glue gun. We also had a little quiz before we got started. This was really fun. Our next task was to make a constellation called The Plough. We needed card, string, scissors, tape, ruler and tinfoil. After we had finished putting it together it looked amazing. Our last task was to write a poem about a button. We had to pick a button and write things about it and describe it as well. After we finished writing it we put it into a poem by using some words and phrases. It was really fun and everyone’s sounded brilliant.

We had a great morning and I think the adults did as well. Can’t wait to see what we are doing next.

Mia Brown

Parent's working with Year 3 children.

Parent’s working with Year 3 children.

Moving about the ISS

This week has been AMAZING!

On Monday we all tried spinning on a chair with wheels without help. It is REALLY difficult on your own because you need somebody or something to push or pull onto because you cannot move all by yourself. We did this because we wanted to see how gravity works. Gravity was discovered by Sir Isaac Newton nearly three centuries ago.  If you tried to spin on a chair in space, you would just keep spinning round and round and couldn’t stop but on Earth it is hard to move and when you do you can put your feet down to stop.

On Tuesday we all tried to draw a spacesuit for our Out Of This World book.  First we had to draw the body of the spaceman in the suit, then all the gadgets on the spacesuit and then his helmet. We did have a picture to help us, but it was still tricky.  When we had drawn it we coloured it in.

We have had a really busy and fun week learning more about Space.  I wonder what we will learn next week. I can’t wait.

Carys Williams

It was really difficult to move without your feet touching the floor.

It was really difficult to move without your feet touching the floor.

Looking after the Sokol Spacesuit

Wednesday brought lots of science for Y5 as they made the most of the last week with the spacesuit.

As part of the amazing Space adventure currently taking place at Rode Heath Primary School, a group of children took it in turns to try on the spacesuit that they have borrowed from the International Space Centre. This demonstrated exactly how hard it is to get into it – according to our research it’s almost impossible.

Once the gloves had been extracted from the rest of the suit it was time to tidy up! We tipped some split pins onto the floor and put two yoghurt pots either side. We then picked two teams and one of them wore the gloves whilst the other one didn’t. Each person had to pick up their pile split pins (one at a time) and put them into the yogurt pots. Our results showed that it is easier to pick up small things without any gloves on.

Our last investigation was very interesting. On a piece of paper we wrote our name, then put on the glove and wrote it again. My writing was ok but some people’s went all over the place. It was so funny! However some people’s writing got better. I think some thick gloves might be included in school uniform from now on!

Sadly the spacesuit is due to go on Monday. However I can’t wait for the our next activity.

Hannah Taylor

How are we going to get into this?

How are we going to get into this?

Using the space gloves isn't easy

Using the space gloves isn’t easy

Mr Randall

Launch Day

On Wednesday 10th September, Rode Heath Primary embarked on an Out Of This World Space Day adventure!

The “Out of This World” project is led by Mrs Wiskow and her fellow space team: Mr Leech, the 3D technology; Ms Sinclair, the mathematics; Mrs Ross, the IT department; Mr Randall, the fitness coach and Mrs Pheasey, the healthy body organiser. There were a number of activities from Rocket Building to Designing a Space Patch – each jam-packed with learning and fun!

One of the exciting tasks was designing space patches and then entering them into the Blue Peter Space Patch Competition! The winning one will fly into space on Tim Peake’s suit – amazing! Another popular activity was designing and building an aerodynamic rocket! A Year 3 pupil said, “It was really good fun when we launched the rockets. We were surprised by the results because my team won.”

The younger pupils designed a smaller rocket made out of cardboard and a rubber nose cone. A lady names Wendy from Daresbury Laboratories came with her mini rocket launcher and launched the rockets for the Year 1 and Reception children.

To launch the junior rockets – the longest one, measuring 810cm – Rocket Scientist Roger and Rocket and Missile Engineer Dave brought in their home made super rocket launcher! A group of Year 3 girls had the longest distance measuring 63 metres! It was a fantastic event.

The whole day was filled with excitement and fun. It was certainly an inspirational day! The whole school is looking very much forward to the rest of the year’s activities with the space passports.

Millie Bradbury
Year 6


Rosetta & 67P

So where were you when Philae landed on 67P? Well, many of our Rode Heath pupils were glued to the television, eager to watch history in the making.

And, what a week for science this has been as a result. It doesn’t matter that Philae has now shut down. What matters is that a washing machine-sized probe was even able to land on a comet, hurtling through space at 34,000 miles per hour and 300 million miles away from Earth.

In primary school, science is generally about carrying out experiments that we already know the answer to, but this was refreshingly different – no-one could predict what was actually going to happen. It was all about ambition; daring to do the seemingly impossible; stretching all boundaries and this is what we talked to the children about in our Wednesday morning assembly.

It also gave us the opportunity to wow them with a bit of magic, as we demonstrated how to make a comet using dry ice. The children were mesmerised, as Mrs Ross, wearing her white coat, protective gloves and glasses, squeezed the mixture together, causing wafts of sublimating dry ice to spew forth from the reinforced plastic bag. They were equally intrigued by the ingredients, particularly the Tabasco sauce which represented the complex organic molecules found in comets and meteorites.

The resulting ‘dirty snowball’ caused a spontaneous round of applause. This was certainly exciting science and the children were eager to learn.

Back in the classroom, the learning continued with the Year 5s discovering more about where comets came from; what they consist of and why landing on one would be so significant – quite ambitious for 9 and 10 year olds, but very compelling. There are however plenty of excellent ESA resources to help with the understanding, therefore teaching is not really a problem.

As there was some dry ice left over, we went outside and used it to fire small pop bottle rockets into the sky – another opportunity to explore Newton’s third law of motion.

It was really interesting to feel the bottles, even after they had been launched into the air – they still felt really hard because of the pressure still remaining inside them.

On Thursday the children came in very excited, bursting to share the news they had been watching about Philae– the conversations were a delight to listen to, full of scientific vocabulary. We all wondered whether the little probe would survive the night.

The rest of the morning was spent looking at the huge numbers involved in space. The Year 5s found out distances of various celestial bodies from the Sun. This involved reading and then rounding very large numbers to the nearest million. We are going to use this data next week to look at orbits and how long it would take to travel to each of these bodies by various means of transport– obviously, the Kuiper belt and 67P were included in our research.

This coming week the excellent Sue Andrews from ESERO is visiting Rode Heath. The children will be working in groups to investigate Martian soil samples. I can’t wait . . . .

Charlie helping comet Dry ice sublimating Feeling the pressure Where is it Sharron and rocket


A Parent’s Perspective

The definition of a happy, enthusiastic pupil begins with their teacher and the school. As a parent of a Year 5 pupil, I could not be happier that he attends Rode Heath Primary. It is reassuring to know that he enjoys school, but is also excited to talk to me, sharing what he has done and learnt.

This year the school is immersed in the exciting topic of space. Mrs Wiskow believes that you should never underestimate what children can achieve – she sets high standards – and I have been delighted by the level of work my son has produced. Recently, he was very proud to be able to spend the morning working with me in Year 5. The ISS station we built together has now taken pride of place in his window and on a clear night he looks to see the star constellations we learnt about.

A child spends a lot of time in school and their contentment is essential. My son wants to come to school each day. Over this term, I have been delighted to see how his self-esteem, willingness to participate and contributions have grown.

The whole school are working together and supporting each other with their space project, which is creating a superb learning environment for the children. Over the next few years, with this focus on science, the school will produce a solid foundation for children to build on and expand their knowledge in the future.

Rachel Swinnerton

Pierce and his constellation.

Pierce and his constellation.