February 2015

February has been an exciting month and will culminate next week in our long awaited opportunity to #Talk2Tim Peake. I am pleased to report that progress has been made in all areas of the project and awareness of what we are achieving is continuing to spread amongst the wider community. We have had many valuable comments from parents via Twitter, including one from our link governor, Andrea Rutledge, who observed that ‘the mentoring between year groups is a really powerful product of the space project.’ And, it is not only parents, but organisations that are following our progress with interest. A couple of weeks ago I was invited to Daresbury Laboratory by Phill Day of the Science and Technology Facilities Council to discuss their plans for primary STEM workshops. They are keen for Rode Heath to trial any new ideas and would like to have a dedicated page in our next set of Space passports. This is a significant move, as it both gives credence to what we are trying to achieve, but will also provide a series of bespoke (and free) workshops for the schools to attend as part of the process. I believe this is just the first of a number of organisations who will wish to become part of our future passports.

So let’s hear from the rest of the team . . .

Clare Pheasey – Here at MMU we have been working hard in preparation for our exciting Google-hangout with Tim Peake on Wednesday 25th February. With the prospect of 200 primary school pupils on campus just 1-hour before the 1st of this academic year’s Visit Days for 2015-16 prospective university students, this has been a cross-faculty venture involving a number of key stakeholders including: IT services, timetabling, estates, marketing, recruitment, student ambassadors and our department’s Development Unit. In addition, earlier this month I applied for a Royal Society Partnership Grant (https://royalsociety.org/education/partnership/) to develop an educational, fun, portable fitness testing package (including instructional videos, spreadsheets and equipment) to be used by regional schools in conjunction with the successful Mission-X programme. Funding the application would not only allow the team to expand the Out of this World project to the wider primary school community, but would also help MMU Cheshire provide invaluable work experience for undergraduate students. So fingers-crossed!

John Randall – The Mission X program is underway now and all classes are training like astronauts! While the weather is still cold, activities are taking place in the school hall. Astro-Agility, Martian Mountains, Bear Crawls, Planks, and Mission Control are the main activities being carried out at the moment. Year 6 have been courageously doing the Space Station Walk Back in the cold around the school field! The Year 3s have mentored all the classes now which has enabled pupils and teachers to have the confidence and knowledge to carry out the Mission X challenges. The school hall is usually taken up with P.E. activities and it is great to see children working with each other and showing enthusiasm to monitor and beat their times and performance. A recording sheet is available now which can be transferred to the Mission Journal later on. It has been good to see a conscious effort by everyone to complete Mission X activities each week.

Carl Leech – February has really seen a step change in our 3D printing. The upper junior children have designed, modelled and printed a number of ‘tools’ for Tim to use during his six month mission on the ISS. The vast majority have been multi-functional spanners, screwdrivers etc… as well as a number of containers designed to be used for when conducting experiments. Due to time pressures involved, the children have been initially limited to two prints.  One print is for creating a tool for Tim and the second print for a purpose of their choice. This week, two girls showed off their desk tidies that they had made in our Friday Sharing Assembly. The impact on their learning was clear to see. They had identified a problem, used a CAD program to design a solution and then printed the result. The most pleasing part of this project so far was that both desk tidies sat pride of place in the classroom performing the job they were created for: #girlsengineering I hope the boys can keep up!

Sharron Ross – February saw the whole school embark on the programming element of the Out of This World project.  Over previous months the juniors in Code Club have been building up their programming skills in Scratch. When ‘Programming Week’ arrived it was their opportunity to take on the challenge as mentors to the rest of the school. Each session began with an introduction to Scratch, creating a simple maze. This was followed by the children creating their own Space Maze which entailed designing planets, rockets and spacemen.   Millie and Merly from Year 6 were mentors for Year 6, Year 5 and Year 2.  They were excellent in guiding the children to create a Space Maze in Scratch.  It was then the turn of Olivia and Thomas, Code Clubbers from Year 4, to mentor Year 3 and Year 4 and what an exceptional job they did too.  Ms Sinclair commented that Thomas was real natural: patient and articulate with his instructions. He even kept an eye on the time!  In KS1, Year 1 took their newly gained knowledge from Year 2 and embarked on their programming journey with the Kodable’s Fuzz Family.  Even Reception spent a morning learning how to program using Kodable: a progression from the Bee-Bot skills.

It has been an invaluable experience for our mentors and a very powerful learning tool for children to learn from their peers.  Furthermore, it has been amazing to observe how adept the children have been in rising to the programming challenge. Our next task is to enter the Astro Pi competition and code an app or design an experiment to run on Raspberry Pi.

Caroline Sinclair – The maths element of our project has continued to gain great momentum, especially as this month saw the challenges of ‘Maths Week’, which included a visit from ‘The Problem Solving Company’. Most importantly, the children have become enthused by this fundamental part of their learning journey.  It was with great fun and determination that the Y2 and Y3 pupils navigated themselves around an electronic maze, while children in Y5 and Y6 solved shaped problems manipulating 3d shapes into cubes and working with giant tangrams.  The children in Y4 have established that we are a very friendly group of people – their work on handling data showed that the majority of children would make friends with an alien … if they were lucky enough to meet one!  What has excited me most this month is seeing the children working together to work out solutions to open-ended investigations: they have asked questions, decided how to solve problems and have used many strategies to overcome difficulties – and all of this with a smile on their faces and excitement about the tasks in which they have undertaken.

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