Tuesday, 6 February 2018

AZTEC POO - British Science Week Activity packs review 2


This pack has 14 different activities in three categories plus ideas for the poster competition and links to the citizen science project for this year.
The three categories are: Exploring our Home; Exploring the Outdoors and Exploring the World.
There are acivities which are very practical and some which are more research based.
Some of the activities are also eligible for CREST awards.
It is hard to pick a favourite from this pack but we especially like:
what could be more appealing to a primary class that to make their own ancient poo. Using a salt dough and brown colouring ( although I think I would use paint rather than the suggested beef stock cube - not sure my senses need that much stimulation) and then adding  " dietary evidence" - what a great phrase - you create a coprolite from history.
You can tailor this activity to your history theme by researching the diet of your chosen time period/geographical location and adding the suitable elements such as corn and seeds for the Aztecs. Once allowed to set the coprolite is examined!

This is a great project from the ever popular Practical Action team based on a real life problem faced by the tomato growers in Nepal who need to transport their produce down the mountain side.
This engineering activity challenges your pupils to devise and make  some way of transporting cherry tomatoes ( or you could use play dough versions) down a slope without touching them, throwing them or making them "fly".
I like the way that this activity can be accessed at different levels by a range of age groups and the support material is extremely comprehensive.

You could make this into a whole day event for your upper KS2 and earn a CREST Discovery Award.

If you have access to the right technology in your classroom you might like to try using augmented reality - where images "come to life" on screen - as part of a  minibeast  ID and hunt.
I downloaded the app to my phone and didn't even print out the silhouettes of the ant and the spider
(although that is really what you should do). I opened the app and pointed my phone at the silhuette on my laptop screen and a giant ant came to life! Not for the arachnophobe but the spider is quite incredible - holding your phone with an apparently larger than life spider about to pounce is slightly unnerving. I can imagine if you linked your device to your whiteboard it could be quite an experience!!
I think as an activity this is really a bit of a gimmick to add something new to a minibeast identification game but well worth a try for the novelty even if you just do it yourself.

Download the activity packs here:
Download the augmented reality app using either the i-store or app player suitable for your device.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Mr Seahorse - British Science Week 2018 Activity pack review 1

A review of the Early Years activity pack produced by the British Science Association for British Science Week 2018

Every year the BSA produce some great packs to encourage schools and other organisatons to take part in BSW.
This year using the theme Discovery and Exploration the early years pack looks at three areas :  the outdoors, the home;  the world.
Within those areas there are hands on activities for 3 -5 year olds.
Exploring the outdoors by looking at minibeasts and building a bug hotel or growing seeds
Exploring the home looking at what happens if you mix oil and water or finding creature figurines frozen in ice
Exploring the world by making giant bubbles or a rocket

There is also the opportunity to gain BSA explorer certificate - you can find out more info here:

I think my favourite of all the activities is Mr Seahorse from the Exploring the Home section.
There is a link to a beautifully illustrated science book by Eric Carle
Mr Seahorse explores the science of fathers in nature - the seahorse of the title who incubates the eggs and gives birth and various other male creatures that in one way or another are responsible for the raising of their young.

Youngsters are encouraged to create a sensory bottle filled firstly with coloured water then sea creatures and perhaps glitter or other small particles  and finally topped up with oil. Once sealed the bottle is tipped gently from side to side as the oil and water swirl and create patterns and bubbles.
What you get is a beautiful but stimulating science conversation starter that links to the story.

I will definitely be trying this one out with a certain young scientist I know!

Thursday, 25 January 2018


Image of front cover of the Early Years resource packThis year BSW will be from 5th - 17th March and schools and organisations all over the country will be running special events to celebrate.
The theme is Discovery and Exploration and the amazing activity packs have just been released.
There are 3 types - early years, primary and secondary, full of ideas across the science curriculum.

You can download yours here:

We have created a special new show for this year celebrating people who have explored science and engineering and have discovered amazing new materials or inventions that affect our everyday lives. We have been doing plenty of research ourselves especially looking for inventions by women often gone unsung.
For example did you know that a woman invented and patented the first windscreen wiper?
Mary Anderson inventor of the windcsreen wiper
 And another women built on that invention by automating it.

We will be telling the story of a rainy day through these and other inventions such as hydrochromic inks ( we have an wonderful colour chage umbrella)

Volunteers will be able to try on our bullet proof vest because Kevlar is another invention by a woman.
Stephanie Kwolek invented  Kevlar while working at DuPont

But it isn't all about the girls - we look at some other smart materials especially super absorbent polymers in  nappies, instant snow and hydrogel balls.

In the activity packs there is an experiment to devise a nappy for an astronaut. We have been using this idea for a long time in our polymers workshop which we have updated to link with the new show. We look at super absorbent polymers such as sodium polyacrylate, thermo moulding polymers, biodegradable polymers and link to the citizen science project The Plastic Tide which you can find here:

We are really pleased with this new show and depending on how well it goes during science week we may incorporate it into our programme on a permanent basis.

Last year we ran a special half price offer for primary schools to encourage them to get involved in BSW. It was a storming success so we have done it again.
There are actually only 5 school days in BSW so we have stretched the dates to include the week before and after so any primary school wanting to book us for this show can have it for half price ( plus travel costs)
The actual BSW week is fully booked but we do have space in the week before and after - they are going quickly of course - so any school wanting to book us needs to get in now!

Thursday, 19 October 2017


We cannot believe how quickly the time has gone - our final session at Brynteg!

For the final week we sorted liquids by pH although we didn't actually use that phrase.
We chatted about acids and alkalis around the home - most of the children knew the word acid and were aware of things like lemon juice and vinegar. We had a closer look at citric acid in sherbet and other sweets.......tarty!
Image result for haribo sweets

I had made a batch of red cabbage indicator ( a good time of year for red cabbage!) and I soaked some art paper in it to make indicator strips.
Image result for red cabbage indicator

We demonstrated what the red cabbage indicator liquid did in acids, neutral and alkali then everyone had a go testing our 6 liquids.

We then had a look at a rainbow of colours given by universal indicator liquid before testing our liquids using paper strips.

Finally we chose our best alkali and used turmeric paper strips to give a deep red.

So our time at Brynteg has finished. We've had a brilliant time and the feedback from staff and pupils has been incredibly positive.

Even more exciting is that Reaching Wider Partnerships has more funding so we will be able to deliver this project to more schools in NEWales.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

FUN at BRYNTEG CP week 3 - Electricity

This week we were sorting materials based on electrical conductivity.

We had taken some of our lights from our show Inside the Rainbow and as the room was darkened it looked a treat when the children arrived.

We looked in detail at the different lights especially the plasma ball and some of the class were able to light up fluorescent light bulbs using the energy from the ball.
We also explored some of our lights that work by "muscle power" our wind up torch and our Faraday torch. 
We then looked at how a complete circuit is needed to make the lights work by making our little ducks light up, our comsic ball and our energy sticks.

Then after everyone having a good experiment with the energy stocks we gave each table a tray of different materials so they could make circuits and test the materials to see if the conducted electricity or not.

The energy sticks light up and make quite a noise so this part of the session was quite lively!
Finally we made a huge circle all holding hands and we saw that we could light up the energy stick using the  whole class.

Monday, 2 October 2017

FUN at BRYNTEG CP week 2 Colour Chaos

Our second week at Ysgol Brynteg near Wrexham

This week we worked with year 3 & 5 in the classroom exploring mixing and separating materials through colour.

First we thought about the impact that colour has on our lives. How food looks so unappetising when grey! How animals use colour for camouflage, enticement and warning.

After a short skill lesson in how to handle a pipette and create regular drops we used simple colour mixing to explore how from the three primary colours so many different colours can be made. Simple yes, but it is easy to forget that younger ones often don't actually know what happens if you mix colours. How lovely to hear an excited WOW! when blue and yellow made a stunning green.

Then we used ordinary felt pens to explore  splitting up colours using paper chromatography

We then used Sharpie permanent markers and alcohol in dropper bottles to split and spread the colour. Some of the colours didn't split but all of them spread in a very pleasant pattern

Finally we made a home made lava lamp using colour and light for effect

Next week we will be sorting materials depending on conductivity

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

FUN at BRYNTEG CP week 1

We have started another project with Reaching Wider Partnerships NW Wales and Communities First
This time we are in a small primary school just outside Wrexham - Brynteg CP.

After an initial visit last term to chat to the head and discuss arrangements we decided on a new format. This time our first visit was a full day with two shows on the morning and two workshops in the afternoon. We are trying to make the very best use of the finding available and this gives us a better cost on transport.

We arrived bright and early to begin to set up. The school's small breakfast club  were tucking into great looking breakfasts before watching a little episode of a film.

Once we were ready the first audience came in - KS1 - all excited and looking forward to some science. The school was in non-uniform and jeans to raise money on Jeans for Genes day which created quite a relaxed atmosphere.

The first experiment was to wake up a sleeping reaction....there were a few suggestions how we might do this....we discovered that shouting didn't work but giving it a good shake did. Amazement! A clear liquid turned either bright pink or blue with just a good shake and even more amazing as we watched it slowly turned back to being clear again!

That was easy and encouraged everyone to volunteer for the rest of the show. Lots of colour changes, lots of surprises and a dramatic dry ice finale!

After a quick reset during break time we were ready for the next show with KS2. These guys were just as amazed at the colour change science but wanted to know how it was all happening. They were also brilliant on their science vocabulary remembering the correct terms for what they were seeing happen before their very eyes.

As ever Helen's transforming mug got a round of applause but so did the Incredible Experiment - a demonstration of indicators and neutralisation which seemed almost magical.
The teachers joined in becoming human light switches by lighting up and putting out fluorescent light bulbs and we even had a go at blowing up one of the pupils.

Our dry ice finale with lots of pops and bangs went down a storm and then Mr Jones shared the good news - years 3 & 5 would be seeing us again because we were going into their classrooms in the afternoon to do some workshops.

A quick lunch and set up in the year 5 classroom for an afternoon of Pretty Amazing Polymers leading on from some of the demonstrations they had seen in our shows and getting up close to the kit!

scientists are making cups using maize
We investigated how slime is made and left some for the class to experiment with during the week.
Everyone had a good play with some thermo molding plastic and then they all got very up close to our hydrogel balls. Each table had a cup full and on the understanding that they cleared up their own mess they were able to test to destruction!
Finally after thinking about going to the toilet in space and what astronauts wear on the journey to and from the space station we experimented with the absorbency of disposable nappies.

Finally we left everyone with some homework - some hydrogel balls to hydrate during the week in as many different and unusual liquids as they could of.

Then it was time to do it all again with the second class.

The afternoon shot past so quickly and everyone really enjoyed being able to say " see you next week"