Author Archives: jwiskow

Programming at Rode Heath by Mrs Ross

Throughout the school we have been programming in various forms.  Reception have been busy bees programming their Bee-Bots both practically and on the iPads, whilst further up the school have been learning Scratch.

Over recent weeks, Year 2 have been progressing with their programming skills. Initially, the children revisited programming Daisy the Dinosaur, moving on from inputting simple commands which made her go forward, grow, shrink or jump to using repeat commands.  This took a little more thought, as the challenge was to repeat the commands using minimal instructions. It was a little tricky but we got there with the help of the Repeat function. Continuing on our journey, last week Year 2 shared an afternoon with Year 1 showing them how to code using Kodable on the iPads. After listening to the story of how the fuzzFamily crash landed their spaceship on the planet Smeeborg we got stuck in to help the fuzzFamily explore the fascinating Technomazes of Smeeborg. In order for a fuzzFamily member to exit the maze the children had to program simple instructions (having learned that an algorithm is an instruction) for each creature. To gain maximum points they needed to collect the gold coins along the way. Kodable provides children with much needed experience of sequencing instructions and it was great to see the all the children enjoying their successes. Year 1 are now ready to help the fuzzFamily on their own! Good luck Year 1.

The majority of our Juniors and teachers have now completed The Hour of Code as part of their Introduction to Programming. In addition to this, some of our more experienced Scratch users have been assisting in class with the first steps of coding.

Our After School Club is going from strength to strength.  By the end of last term the word-on-the-code went viral amongst the lower Juniors and we are now bursting at the seams.   All the children are learning how to program using Scratch and so far they have programmed fireworks exploding, chomping fish and flying spaceships.  It never ceases to amaze me how quickly children find their feet with technology and application and Scratch is no exception.

In addition to learning Scratch and with the prospect of two Raspberry Pi computers being flown to the International Space Station as part of Tim Peake’s mission, Rode Heath Coders are to enter the Astro Pi project.  The project is to devise and describe an original idea for an experiment or application that can be conducted on the Astro Pi by Tim Peake during his mission.  The two best submissions will get the opportunity to work with the Astro Pi team to interpret their ideas and the team at the Raspberry Pi Foundation will then code them ready for flight on the ISS. Get your thinking caps on coders!

Congratulations - Daisy The Dino Kodable 1 Kodable wk1_3

Mission X at Rode Heath by Mr Randall

Mission X Train like an Astronaut has begun at Rode Heath School.

Over the last couple of weeks the Year Three class have been mentoring the other classes in the school. It was decided that rather than just showing staff in a staff meeting how Mission X worked and doing a one off demonstration lesson after school with a group of children, it would be more beneficial and engaging to show the teachers and their own class a demonstration lesson during school hours.

Each class was shown some of the Mission X videos relevant to their year group and a quick guide on the Mission X website. The Astro Agility, Martian Mountain and the Mission Control activities being common to most classes but adapted to suit the ability. For instance the climbing frames were used for Martian Mountains for all classes apart from Y5 and Y6 who used the ropes. Build an Astronaut Core and Do a Space Walk were demonstrated for Years 5 and 6 as well.

60 children in the school hall took some managing especially with a reduced area due to building work and a particularly busy timetable. After watching a couple of the Mission X videos, a dance warm up for all prepared everyone for the activities. First, each activity was demonstrated and then in groups, a rotation of five activities was then set up. Using partners, the children timed themselves on the Mission X activities. Next the class watching had the opportunity to join in, guided by the Year 3 children and the teachers. It was really good to see Year 3 children mentoring reception children as it gave them a sense of greater responsibility and the conversations going on were very informative. It all seemed to work well for the demonstrations.

What now? Well each class now has a guide sheet on how to teach the Mission X and manage their own P.E. session with the resources available. The hall timetable will need some adjustments to fit everyone in during each week. Monitoring of results (times, heart rates, comments) is something each class can adapt although there is a guide sheet they can use to start with. Around the school there is definitely a sense of energy and enthusiasm for Mission X. Over the last few weeks there have also been sporting competitions which have emphasised to the rest of the school how important it is to train and keep fit.

Year 3 Mission X

Digital Camera Digital Camera

Year 6 Views on MMU Visit

MMU Visit

The Rode Heath children were very fortunate to experience a day at the Crewe campus of Manchester University on Wednesday.  “How To Train Like An Astronaut.”

In the morning they met Mrs. Pheasey in the library and then had a tour of the campus which included a visit to the Halls of Residence.  Here they had an insight into the working day of a student and their way of life.  Chatting to the students, our children enjoyed the chance to ask them questions.

The older children stayed for a meal at the university where they ate food that astronauts could only dream of, i.e chips and sausage etc.

The Astronaut Training included how strong they were with their hands and arms, how much air was in their lungs and timed running between gates with a camera finish.  Team building exercises included walking together on a pair of large skis and a “Crystal Maze” type game.

The children also watched a presentation about robots.

Mr Leech (who in his youth had attended Crewe Campus) proudly returned there as the Headteacher of our lovely children.

We can be sure that the children gained a wealth of different memories. Thank-you to all involved for a great day!

Susan Brookes Smith

(Year 6 parent)


Out of this world

Wednesday 14 January 2015 was by far the most memorable day of this academic year. We went to MMU (Manchester Metropolitan University). We went there to train like an astronaut as our topic is (try to) train like an astronaut. Our favourite part was team building because it was very challenging for the whole class. The coolest part was standing in -200C (the same temperature as a freezer.) Sadly, the worst part of the day was while we were coming back from the university.

By Mollie and Hasan

Year 6


Train like an astronaut

Yesterday we went to the MMU to train like an astronaut. They took us round the campus and we learnt about the life of a university pupil. We had to run through cameras to test how fast we could run. We had to blow in to a piece apparatus to measure our oxygen level.

We had to test how long we could hold a plank for. We got put in an environmental chamber which was -20 degrees that is the same temperature as your freezer at home. Another experiment that we did was to test our muscle strength.

There was a jump mat and it was testing how long we were in the air. We tested our team work and concentration we tried get a cross some blocks and only three pieces of wood between 13 of us it was difficult but we did it without any one falling off.

By Maisy and Kieran


Rode Heath at MMU

On the 14th January 2015 KS2 went to the MMU in Crewe. It was by far one of the best days of our lives.

There were a series of tasks that we had to do such as, an asthma test, a strength test and such more. We visited there because would like to Train like an Astronaut! We also went in to a freezer (Environment Chamber) it got up to -200C degrees.

One of the best things we did was the sprinting. We all enjoyed running as fast as we could from gate to gate. Another thing we did for mission x was the inhaler test where we had to take a deep breath and blow as much oxygen into a thermometer and see how much oxygen we had inside us (we had to blow into the thermometer quite quickly).

One of the other tests was a strength test where you have to squeeze an instrument that tested your strength in your arm.

We also did a jumping test. We had to stand on a rubber platform connected to a computer and jump as high as we could. This tested how high we can jump.

In twelve weeks’ time we will do activities similar to these and see if we have improved on any of them.

We definitely recommend this marvellous university for a school trip.


By Evan and Sophie.

On Wednesday 14th we went on a trip to Manchester Metropolitan University. One of our favourite bits was the team building activity where you had to get a bottle of acid (pretend, not real) from one side of the hall to the other. You had to do this by making bridges with only three planks without touching the floor or you had to start all over again.  This would be helpful for astronauts as they need balance in space and helping each other. They need to work as a team to overcome difficulties and so did we with this activity.

We had a tour around the campus and learnt how students live. Then we found out about some of the students who live there and gossiped with them.

Next we went to the student zone and had lunch which was delicious. We had lots of fun learning about robots and saw some amazing ones who can: dance, play the violin, solve a rubix cube and look like humans. We learnt how robots can help us in the future.

Finally we did lots of sporting activities for our train like an astronaut. We had a lovely day and hope we come back soon.

Eva-Mae & Amelia


14-1-15 MMU Mission X Launch Day

What an amazing day we had at MMU on Wednesday, courtesy of Clare Pheasey and her team. What an incredible opportunity for our KS2 children to experience at first-hand, life on a university campus.

The main purpose of the day was to launch the Train like an Astronaut element of our Out of This World project and we were lucky enough to be joined by Heather MacRae, who runs the event on behalf of the UK Space Agency. However, the day was much more than that – it was to demonstrate to our Rode Heath children what they could aspire to, through hard work and commitment to their learning.

The events started, for the Year 6 and 5 pupils, with a series of tours around the campus where they had the opportunity to interact with real students and ask them questions about university life. Most intriguing for some of the Y5s seemed to be the fact that you had to pay to do your own laundry.

Following that we were invited to a lecture room where we listened to Dr Stephen Lynch talk about robots. He entertained us with a series of video clips showing various examples of robotic technology, including a robotic fish that is used to measure pollution and the Lego CubeStormer which can solve a Rubik’s cube in 5 seconds.

The children listened, spellbound, as they learned about Robonaut, the first dexterous humanoid robot in space and the first US-built robot on the ISS. Ultimately, robots like these could help build space stations on the moon for humans to inhabit, the obvious advantage being that they do not suffer from human limitations – such as oxygen deprivation – and would be much cheaper to send into space.

Perhaps one of our Rode Heath pupils might even be involved in their development in the future. Who knows?

Finally, the children had the opportunity to handle a real robot. Even though the Sony robotic dog, Aibo, is relatively old technology, it is still incredibly addictive and captivated the children as it responded to their stroking by wagging its tail, moving its body and making dog-like noises.

To earn the chance to engage with Aibo, pupils had to ask a question about robotics and I was very pleased with the scientific nature of their responses. They had obviously been very motivated by the subject matter.

Lunch was taken in the student refectory – much to the bewilderment of some of the staff and students, who seemed completely unaware of our visit. To suddenly have your space invaded by 50 primary aged children is probably quite alarming. It certainly freed up a few tables. Having feasted upon chicken dippers and chips and having wiped up the deluge of squash that was spilt by children missing the last step on their way to grab a seat next to their friends, we set forth enthusiastically to the Sports Hall for the main activities of the afternoon.

These consisted of two workshops. One was a team-building session run by the Outdoor Education students. This involved the children working together to cross the sports hall on a pair of very large horizontal stilts. Hermione in Y5 was magnificent as a leader – she would make a perfect cox! They also had to transverse a “deadly acid swamp”, which required a great deal of co-ordination and balance.

The second set of workshops involved the children performing a series of fitness challenges using specialist MMU equipment such as jump mats and starting gates. They were able to collect data which measured key components of their fitness including stamina, lung capacity, power and upper body strength.

All this activity was filmed by a quadcopter circling above the children – a great set of clips for our final Rolls Royce video. You should be able see the results shortly on

For many children, the highlight of the day however was the opportunity to spend a few minutes in the University’s environmental chamber. This gave them a real feel for what it might be like to work in extremes of temperature – just like astronauts. At -200C, it certainly was cold! After about a minute my camera hand started to shake, resulting no doubt in quite wobbly footage.

All too soon the day was over and it was time to leave. We’d had a marvellous day and learned a great deal.

Back in school, there was yet another surprise for the children. Garry Pheasey and his team had designed and produced a Rode Heath/MMU/Out of This World ruler for each of the Year 5 and Year 6 children who had attended the event. Having watched a short video explaining how the rulers had been made, I gave the rulers out to the excited Year 5s.

And what’s the first thing that they did with them? As if orchestrated, they all instinctively balanced the rulers on one finger to find the centre of gravity! Charlie even commented on the fact that the Sun was in the middle of the ruler, which was fitting as this was its position in the Universe (something we had been discussing in Monday’s science lesson!)

This tells me that our project is working . . . .

9-1-15 Looking forward to the New Year

My goodness, we may only have been in school for four days, but we have certainly hit the floor running. It seems ages since I have written about the project. The first term was so hectic; I still can’t believe we achieved so much. Right up until the last day of term, space continued to be a major part of our daily diet with a rendition of Chris de Burgh’s ‘A Spaceman Came Travelling’ even featuring in our Year 5 Carol Service. Indeed one of our last activities was to respond to the NASA interns’ All About That Space parody – and what fun we had, making our own music video. Being spontaneous can often inspire creativity – check out the results for yourself if you haven’t already done so.

The New Year promises even more challenges for the children, all with Space at their heart. This week the Year 5s were studying measures in Numeracy. Over the Christmas holiday, I was fortunate enough to discover (via Twitter) the excellent book by Nick Tiley-Nunn entitled ‘How To Teach Primary Maths’, so I decided to kick off the year with his activity using popcorn as a unit of measurement. This provided a great deal of excitement and produced much excellent maths and discussion about why popcorn was not the most accuracy method. It also presented the opportunity to tweet Tim Peake to inform him that he was 100.15 units of popcorn high, to which he dutifully responded. After all, we have to link to space somehow! There was so much value in the investigation that we devoted most of the day to it

For the rest of the afternoon we talked about the historical evidence that existed for the Earth being spherical (why is that such a difficult word for children to say?) and this led to our Big Write on Wednesday morning being a letter from Galileo to one of his doubting students, persuading him of that fact. Another example of how the topic of space can pervade all areas of the curriculum.

The best however was saved until last with Sarah Gallagher-Hayes from coming in to do two days of Space Art with the children. Our focus was to create a number of large sculptures from mixed media with wicker as an underlying structure. The results were amazing and it was wonderful to see different year groups working closely with each other – particularly the Year 6 children with the Year 2s.

Other year groups, not involved with the large wicker work created their own fabulous art, inspired by our Out of This World project. Year 1 made rockets and 3D models of the planets from wire and Modroc; Year 3 designed lunar bases using art straws; Year 5 took photographic images from the ISS and put their own slant on them. Not to be outdone, Reception made their own aliens and designed underpants for them – some of them were spectacular! Truly a diverse range of creativity.

What has been encouraging is the cross curricula opportunities that have arisen through undertaking this space art, particularly in the areas of maths – measuring, 3D shape identification, proportion to name but a few – right down to Reception and KS1, where the children have had the opportunity to use the language associated with measurement.

Next week is going to be even more exciting for the Juniors. We are launching the Mission X element of our project with an event at MMU in Crewe. Here we will be taking advantage of the expertise of real sports scientists and using their sophisticated equipment to experience what it is really like to train like an astronaut. The data we collect will be taken back to school and used in our maths lessons: real, purposeful learning. What could be better than that?

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Robotics in Year 6

In the last week of term, Year 6 was lucky enough to have an amazing afternoon as part of the Out Of This World project.  Doctor Louise Dennis from the department of computer science at the University of Liverpool came in and told us a little bit about Robotics. It was a brilliant experience because we have never controlled miniature robots before.

Robotics, we learnt, is the branch of technology that deals with the design, construction, operation and application of robots.

Using computers we controlled smaller versions of rovers called Noor, Karen and Claudia by laptops. There were a set of instructions that we had to use so that the rover moved.  The instructions were things like: forward, reverse, right, left etc.

Also there were tasks we had to complete which were: make sure the flap was working, work on the delay and find out how long it took to go forward.

Sophie, Alex, Amelie and Isabelle worked together on Claudia.

Chantelle, Izzy and George worked on Noor.

Jo, Ryan, Kieran and Charlie worked on Karen.

We hope we can have this experience again sometime in life.

By Sophie Richardson & Alexandra Hilditch

Year 6 2 Year 6 3 Year 6 1

Making learning informative and fun!

Well, what a year this is turning out to be and who would have thought my daughter, Jessica Smith, would have found the whole subject of space and astronauts so enthralling. This was a topic that Jessica had never shown any enthusiasm for, but now – WOW! – she is totally fascinated by the facts about the ISS and more so with the wonders of Tim Peake.

Her enthusiasm I am sure is down to a totally inspiring and passionate teacher, who is totally transforming my daughter’s understanding about space and the ISS.

Jessica will now turn the television over to watch any TV show relating to space or the ISS and can talk in detail about Tim Peake. Moreover, she is now drawing and making models of the things that she is learning about.

Working on this topic has also had an impact on Jessica’s general school work. She wants to do well all the time so then maybe, the class will get a reward of more space time.

Jessica talking endlessly about the Sokol spacesuit that the school had on loan and found the antics of the teaching staff trying to get out of the outfit hilarious.  As a result, learning is not just very informative, but it is entertaining and because the school is making it so much fun, the kids are gaining much knowledge, enjoyment and a sense of achievement.

For me as Jessica’s mum, out of all the activities the school has done around this topic so far, I found the Open Morning that the school held to be absolutely wonderful. To be able to work so closely with my child, on a subject that she is totally enthralled by, delighted me. Making the model of the ISS – although very sticky – was great fun, and to be told by my 9 year old daughter, “Er, Mum, do you know nothing about the ISS – that bit doesn’t go there!” was a great moment. She has a world of knowledge now about a subject that in September she knew nothing about.

Well done, Rode Heath, for teaching in such a fun, entertaining and interesting way.

Lorraine Smith


Jess and the Sokol spacesuit


Jess demonstrating how difficult it is to move in micro gravity.

7/12/14 – Space campers to Mars

There I was thinking there wouldn’t be as much to comment on this week about our space project, as I assumed we were starting to wind down (or is it actually wind up?) for Christmas. However, looking at the pictures that teachers are tweeting, this is far from the case.

Not only that, but I am constantly amazed by the grasp that some of our children have of quite complex ideas. Take the Year 4s for example. They have been on a mathematical journey this week, working out how long it would take to travel to Mars in a galactic camper can. There were some very large numbers involved, but by working systematically and with the help of Ms Sinclair, they came to the conclusion that the journey would last for about 80 years.

This knowledge was shared with the Junior classes in our Friday assembly. Moreover, Noah explained about the conjunction and opposition of planets, demonstrating a remarkable level of understanding. Apparently this came up as a result of the book the Year 4s are studying in Literacy – ‘Shrunk’ – which, of course, has a space theme.

And what of other year groups? Well the infants can be excused as they are spending most of their time rehearsing for their Nativity play next week. Yes, some schools do still perform them! But, I see that despite their busy schedule, the Year 1s have found time to squeeze a guided reading session in. And what are they reading – a space book of course!

In the world of space, of course, nothing ever stands still and this week saw the test flight of the Orion spacecraft, which takes us one step closer to human exploration of Mars. It looked like it travelled much faster than Year 4’s camper van, which is a good job! I wonder if any if our Rode Heath children will have the opportunity to travel out of the confines of our Earth. Moreover, in today’s Sunday Times there was an article about the UK Space Agency’s most ambitious programme yet: to send a solar-powered rover to the surface of Mars by 2018 – I just love the way our next Out of This World theme is clearly opening up for us. Next year will obviously be devoted to robotics – using the Raspberry Pi technology we have been putting on hold.

In Year 5 we left it until the end of the week to focus on our space activity. We were looking at the concept of centre of gravity and were lucky enough to have two ex-pupils – Sallie Belcher and Molly Pheasey – in to help us. It was great to see that they hadn’t lost any of their enthusiasm for learning. What they have gained though is confidence and they lost no time in helping out groups as they investigated the impact on centre of gravity of placing a ball of clay at different points on a metre ruler. It wasn’t actually a very satisfying experiment, but what it did allow us to do was examine how we could have made our results better and come up with a different way of using the clay.

This week coming up is computing week, so we should all be trying to fit in our hour of code. An important step if we are going to move on to creating our own space programmes in Scratch.

2/12/14 Martian Soil and Galactic pass the parcel

Martian Soil & Galactic Pass the Parcel

Sue Andrews from ESERO came into school to do a morning on Martian soil. She gave us all a challenge. We had to try and decide which one of the samples was closest to the real Martial soil. We had to do several tests to find out.

We worked in a team and we each had a job which was exciting because we each had our own responsibility. For example, someone was in charge of health and safety so they had to make sure that everyone wore glasses – I felt like a real scientist when I put mine on!

It was challenging, but fun at the same time. My favourite part was when we were able to watch the water evaporate whilst it was over a candle.

We learnt how scientists test soil samples and our whole class liked it, so it would be really good if we could do something like that again. It tested our teamwork and increased our knowledge about space.

Hermione Pugh

Martian soil IMG_2058 IMG_2056 IMG_2055

On Monday Year 4 took part in a galactic game of pass the parcel.  Every time someone unwrapped a layer there was something new to learn.  One of my favourite facts was that if something gets sucked into a black hole it gets stretched a lot while also getting thinner.  We were wondering how liquid or gas could be stretched.  Another fact we learnt is that there are 10, 000, 000 stars in the sky.  We figured this out by volunteers coming up and making the number ten times bigger by adding zeros until we had the right number of stars.  We found it amazing!  I unwrapped a layer; it was exciting waiting to find out what I would discover … it was ‘matter’.  We learnt that everything is made from matter.

Aiden Austin and Amelie Pepper

IMG_2052 Galactic Pass the Parcel 3

2/12/14 – Galactic Pass the Parcel and Train Like an Astronaut

Well, more than a week has passed since my last blog. Everything is becoming very Christmassy at Rode Heath, with Year 5 rehearsing for their annual Nativity performance and the Infants putting the final touches to their Christmas play. Despite this though, there are still plenty of space activities going on.

Early last week we were fortunate to have two visitors from the department of Mathematical Sciences at Liverpool University – Paul Sapple and his colleague, Brian. I had been very intrigued to take part in their activity, which was entitled ‘Galactic Pass the Parcel’

Years 4 & 5 were the lucky classes this time and they excitedly trooped into the hall where they were asked form a large circle. Paul explained the basic rules and the music started. The parcel sent round the circle was certainly an impressive size and the children waited in eager anticipation for the music to stop.

The first layer revealed a map of the solar system, which was carried around the circle for everyone to see. This led to quite a sophisticated discussion about galaxies and black holes. At one point, I was quite concerned about the complexity of scientific language being used – but the children seemed to be understanding well and indeed, Paul commented that he had never been in a primary school where the level of knowledge about space had been so high. Just what you want to hear!

We moved onto the number of stars in our galaxy – quite a large number, but an excellent way of demonstrating multiples of 10.

The next layer revealed the planets themselves and we were quickly able to demonstrate that we knew the order they should go in. Jack had the hardest task, keeping the Sun in the air – I think that it was quite awkward to hold.

Gradually we drilled down until we looked at our own Earth and its orbit around the Sun. We then added in our Moon, which was quite tricky for the Year 4 children to act out, as well as remembering that the Earth spins on its axis every 24 hour to create both day and night. To be honest, I was amazed by the amount of learning that was packed into a single hour. Paul even talked about why we experience seasons. Finally, it all came down to matter – atoms and particles.

The activity is billed as a trip through time and space, disguised as a children’s party game and it is certainly that. It is an excellent way to explore the vastness of space as you zoom in to Earth.

You can read about Year 4’s views of the event in the latest pupils’ blog.

The event to mention is yesterday’s Mission X launch event at Abraham Moss High School in Manchester. I had been asked by Heather MacRae to speak about our experiences last year with Train Like an Astronaut and to share our Out of This World project with a collection of teachers and Space and STEM ambassadors. Two of our Rolls-Royce team members accompanied me: Clare Pheasey and John Randall, who is going to run the event in school from January.

It was an excellent afternoon and very encouraging as the audience was very enthusiastic about our project and the quality of the work we are producing. It was also a great opportunity to meet some influential new contacts, including Lynne Bianchi, Head of Science Education Research and Innovation Hub at Manchester University. I have been following Lynne on Twitter for the past few months with great interest. I am hoping that this will be the start of an exciting relationship – I look forward to taking advantage of the many opportunities for primary science teaching that are clearly on offer.

I was also introduced to Chris Beard, National Space Academy Regional Hub Co-coordinator, who has offered some help with our 3D printing in the form of training on Autodesk123d – that will certainly be really handy!

Galactic Pass the Parcel 4 Galactic Pass the Parcel 3 Galactic Pass the Parcel 2 Galactic Pass the Parcel 1