After a three hour coach journey from Derby, we arrived at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel in Kensington at just after 4pm. This gave us a couple of hours to relax and prepare ourselves for the big night ahead. My head teacher had travelled down separately, as only the team leads of the new finalists had been invited to the Derby events.
At 6pm sharp, we all gathered in the hotel foyer, keen to make our way to our prestigious dinner venue. There was a great atmosphere. Everyone looked very smart in their suits, lapels adorned with single red poppies, a poignant reminder of all the brave soldiers who lost their lives in the World Wars – still remembered.
And, what an incredible place it was to spend the evening – the obvious choice for a Science Award. The guest list was equally impressive. I felt quite honoured to be included amongst such eminent people and wondered whether I should have produced as list of intelligent questions to ask. It felt quite surreal eating my deconstructed prawn cocktail beneath the giant exhibits in the Making the Modern World Gallery, which showcases 150 of the most significant items from the Science Museum’s collections, including Stephenson’s original Rocket locomotive.
Before dinner we were treated to a series of short videos celebrating this year’s finalist projects. Of course, next year, it will be our team sitting there gauging the reaction of the crowd and wondering whether we have won the top prize. Although, winning didn’t seem to be the most important factor; it was all about celebrating the outstanding practice of teachers and the impact that their work has on children and their understanding of science. There was much appreciation from all quarters. Every speaker thanked the participants for their enthusiasm for and commitment to science. I felt really proud on behalf of our school to be included. And, we should feel proud of ourselves, as over 2,000 schools submit entries for this prize and we are one of only 9 finalists this year. Well done, Rode Heath.
After dinner, the ceremonies began with keynote speaker, Richard Noble, who spoke passionately about his exciting BloodHound SSC venture, now on track for a 2015 record attempt. Imagine a car aiming to travel at 1,000 miles per hour. Of course, we were lucky enough to take some of our junior children last year to Reaseheath college to see the replica Bloodhound car and take part in various STEM activities, so it was particularly interesting to see Richard in person.
Sir Tim Smith KBE, founding director of the Eden project, who has been involved with the RR Science Prize since its inception 10 years ago, made a brief, but very amusing speech, before awarding the Eden Award to St Mun’s Primary School for their ‘If You Go Down in the Woods Today’ project. Then it was up to the Chief Executive, John Rishton, to announce the runner up and prize winner.
The runner up was Chesterton Community College for their ‘Introducing Engineering via Animatronics’ project, but the overall prize went to Kate Greenway Nursery School & Children’s Centre for their ‘Playful Science for Everyone’. This was an interesting project as it involved children as young as 6 months old. Its aim was to provide very early science experiences to children and their families through a range of exploratory activities. I strongly believe that in order to generate future engineers, we need to capture and nurture children’s interest in all things scientific at a very early age. I think we are going to achieve this with our Out of This World project.
Certainly we are beginning to develop an interest in science across a wide audience, which includes both children and their parents. Our relationship with MMU will encourage our children even further by providing them with real experiences of what it is like to study science at university.
I can’t wait for our visit to MMU in January next year. In the meantime, we have a number of exciting events planned to inspire the children: Intergalactic pass the parcel; a Mars soil investigation and programming rovers using Raspberry Pi technology. We owe a massive thank you to all our external supporters who are helping us to achieve our goals.
And, of course, tomorrow we have one of the most exciting events in space history . . . the landing of the probe Philae on 67P. How can anyone fail to be awe-inspired by space?