Saturday, 13 May 2017

Our Welsh Project Day 3

Off we went to Wales for the third day of our project.
This week we explored colour.
We thought about what it would be like if we lived in a black, white and grey world and how strange that would be.

With year 3 we first learnt a new skill - how to use a pipette to carefully get just one drop at a time where we wanted it to go - not an easy skill.

Then we experimented mixing primary colours to see what other colours we could make. We made a recording sheet to help with remembering what we had done and then began to explore lots of other colour combinations.
After mixing colours we looked at splitting colours up using chromatography.

First we used washable pens on filter paper with water which showed us that lots of colours are mixtures and will split into different and surprising colours as they spread along the paper.
Then we thought about the topic for the term which is China and how China has 5 primary colours - red, yellow, green, white and black. Each colour means something different, represents a different part of China and has good luck, happiness or other fortune connected with it.

Finally we used Sharpie pens to create a design on a small square of material tightly stretched over a beaker. We couldn't use water to spread these colours because Sharpies are permanent  so we carefully used a few drops of alcohol which made incredible rainbows. Everyone used their new pipette skills to drop the alcohol onto the material. It evaporated very quickly so the material was dry almost straight away. Well done year 3 on some great pipette skills!

Year 4 started by exploring chromatography using washable felt pens and water before brushing up on how to use a pipette. They then drew some super designs onto white material stretched over a beaker and dropped alcohol onto the centre to make stunning patterns as the colour spread.

We then looked at how nature uses colour to attract a mate, as camouflage so it doesn't get eaten or as a predator to hide so it can catch lunch or to warn because it is poisonous.

We looked in a bit more detail at the 3 primary colours we use compared to the Chinese 5 and how colours have special significance to Chinese people.
We also were bamboozled by some amazing optical illusions.

Finally we gathered round to watch a demonstration of a homemade lava lamp which we lit up using a small torch. I think there will be quite a few lava lamps happening at home this week!

Next week we will be looking at how scientists use  colour to tell whether a liquid is acid or alkali.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Update on Day 2

Day 2 of our project at Ysgol Bryn Gwalia was all about polymers and we set a task for families to join in at home.
We sent home a small amount of clear hydrogel balls with the instruction to use a liquid to make them grow. Any liquid could be used - the more imaginative the better - and we would see what happened!
The smallest hydrogel balls only take a couple of days to grow so it is easy to take a series of photographs to show this happening.
Here is a set of pictures we took last year.

This week we were able to look at the results of the class homework.
We were very impressed with how many families joined in and how many different liquids were tried.
Some used water and got great results with the balls growing to full size - about 8mm diam - one or two added food colouring to their water - the clear balls took up the colour but in neat food colouring they didn't grow very big. In dilute food colouring they grew well.

Many had used drinks - coke, fanta, lemonade, Vimto - and got quite big balls and some had taken up the colour of the drink.

A couple has used cider vinegar which gave a gold colour but only medium growth.
Milk went off and was very smelly - not recommended!
Cocoa - very imaginative - was a bit smelly too.

We were very impressed with one young man who tried different strengths of food colouring and decided to display his results in clean water so we could all see. The balls in dilute blue grew best and gace a pale shadow of colour but neat colours didn't really grow at all.

We all decided that the balls grew best in pure water. Year 4 thought this could be because drinks have so many other ingredients in them that they stop the balls growing fully.

One total surprise - someone used washing up liquid - not neat because that was too thick - so she diluted it to make a runny liquid. Her balls grew to the same size if not a little bigger than the ones in water. She has sent us away thinking about why!!

( great montage taken by class teacher!)
 year 3 results  and you can see the one with different dilutions of colour on the bottom right

This is an example of a class write up - I love the narrative especially the comments about using vinegar! A great example of observation and thinking through changes - well done.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Our Welsh Project Day 2

The first of our four classroom sessions with Yr3 and 4 at Ysgol Bryn Gwalia Mold, Flintshire.

This session looked at Pretty Amazing Polymers with a nod to the fact that most of our plastics objects seem to come from the Far East - a tenuous link to the term theme of China.

We started by thinking about what life would be like without plastic - and highlighting that oil is a fossil fuel and therefore not limitless. We also thought about the environmental impact of plastic.

By looking at different materials  we saw how corn and other starches are being use in place of plastic from oil.

We then got up close and personal with some of our polymers.

Polycaprolactone - a thermo moulding plastic that transforms from opaque pellets into a soft transparent and amazingly tactile material but as it cools quickly changes back to being opaque and is very strong - you can't easily cut even a thin piece with scissors.

Super absorbent polymers - instant snow and hydrogel balls followed by an exploration of disposable nappies with much fun about AAAs - Astronaut Absorbency Apparel

Finally a hands on experiment to see just how much liquid a nappy can hold before it leaks!

This first session helped us all to get to know each other and how the Science2U team works in a classroom.
Next time - exploring colour - so chromatography and lava lamps!

Friday, 28 April 2017

Our Welsh Project Day 1

We have a new and very exciting project!We are working with Communities 1st and Reaching Wider Partnerships North and Mid Wales to deliver a more sustained science intervention to primary schools in NE Wales.

Usually we arrive at a school, do a couple of shows and a couple of class sized workshops and leave. Apart from sending out our newsletter that is probably all the contact we have with most schools. A few book us again  and occasionally we have run science clubs but our actual impact on the school is limited.
We know schools enjoy what we do and we also know how inspiring a visit can be especially for the staff.
So when we were approached by Reaching Wider Partnerships  to really get involved with  a school we were thrilled.
After much discussion it was decided that a half  day of shows for the whole school followed by 4 half days with two classes would be affordable on the funding budget.

Our first school Ysgol Bryn Gwalia is in Mold. It is a medium sized school with a demographic that fits the funding criteria and a very enthusiastic staff who jumped at the chance to have us in.

Our first visit was for two shows - one for each key stage. We decided our show "I Wasn't Expecting That!" was probably the most exciting and as an introduction to Science2U very appropriate!

Everyone at the school was so welcoming and accommodating. We needed to arrive at the start of lunchtime to set up in the hall and to be honest we expected a bit of resistance from the dinner staff because usually the military precision needed to get a whole school through lunches in the set time is a well oiled machine that really doesn't need us interfering.
But they had set us aside a space and some tables and were brilliant - well done ladies!

We started with KS1 who were a little nervous of what we were going to do and arrived with huge eyes taking in all the equipment. They soon got the idea that this was going to be fun and we had lots of hands shooting up to volunteer.

They really joined in especially when we tried to blow up the headteacher - he was such a good sport.

The fireworks went down a treat especially the iron filings sparklers and Helen's fireball got a huge cheer.

Sadly it was over all too soon but the staff had taken lots of photos and before the next show had even started Twitter was alive with pictures!

KS2 arrived very excited - they had picked up the atmosphere from the younger ones and were ready to go.
We had a few extra treats for them including the whoosh bottle and popping lids off cans with dry ice.
Again lots of volunteers and some really super images plus some videos!!


A dry ice finale left everyone very happy and years 3 & 4 extremely thrilled that they were going to be the classes we work with over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017


Everyone loves something free and  teachers are no exception!

We have discovered that ordinary marketing doesn't really work in schools. The best way to get ourselves known is by word of mouth recommendation and by actually seeing us work. So schools who see us at the Big Bang NW know exactly what they will get!

A few years ago we ran an offer in primary schools where the host invited their cluster of primaries to an after school twlight to meet us.
It was really great to see tired faces light up....but was that the chocolate biscuits??

The format is fun, lightweight and certainly not a meeting!!
hands on ideas; have a go yourself science; do try this at home
that is the thinking behind our Meet The Team evenings.

We think that any local primary school happy to host a session and invite their cluster deserves a thank you from us so we will come to your school and do a half day of shows - two shows for FREE.
There is a choice of shows:
All About You
looking at being healthy and clean

Inside the Rainbow
an extravaganza of light

exploring colour all around us

Into the Future
amazing inventions and scientists

Get A Move On
using toys and gadgets to discover forces

We already have a few dates in the diary so grab yours. The thank you shows can be booked anytime this calendar year so you could earn yourself a treat for next school year!

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Out the Other Side - a review of Science Week 2017

Wow! I hope you had a good science week - we certainly did!

Our BSW started early because there were just too many schools to fit into one week.
We decided that as this year the BSW theme was Changes and we had such a great programme that fitted we would create a 50% discount offer for anyone booking the shows and workshops during the two weeks we had set aside as science week.

As soon as we published the details the phone went mad and our email account was red hot with schools asking for information and securing a date.

We publicised the offer on this blog and gave a good rundown of what schools could expect on their day. We had plenty of info on the website and we kept pushing it on Twitter.
Our friends and supporters passed the news around and soon we were down to the last few dates left.

One school even took advantage of the offer by booking us for two days!

All the schools apart from one were new to us - which is great news for us because the more contacts we have the better.

Our first school was Florence Melly primary school North Liverpool and we were there for two days. Our first morning we set up in the large sports hall for two shows. All Change for KS2 and Amazing Science for KS1. We had a great time especially blowing up a teacher and creating fire balls of milk powder. The teachers took some super images:

Day two was full of workshops - we set up in the sports hall and the classes came to us.

 The next school was Bidston Village CPS on the Wirral and we were eagerly waiting for a delivery of dry ice to the school very early in the morning. The van pulled in after us so a surprised delivery man laughingly handed over the ice as we pounced on him!
Many thanks to Chillistick for their very reliable service throughout this busy time.

The day went really well - the school was friendly and welcoming and although it was our first time with them we felt right at home.
In the afternoon we were with year 2 and year 5 making bath bombs. Year 2 did very well following instructions step by step and everyone got a good quality bath bomb to take home.

Next up we were off across the countryside to a very pretty school St Thomas of Canterbury. We were not able to do our flames and fire bit here so we added extra amazing smart materials and plenty of dry ice using the popping lids as a finale. Huge fun.
We had an extra session with Early Years sharing some of our smart materials like the colour change straws and thermal paper and then we had alot of fun with the rainbow glasses.

Then we were in Runcorn so a hop skip and jump for Helen. Victoria Rd is an old school that has been beautifully redesigned inside especially the foyer. We pulled into the school yard to unpack and then I took the car off site to find a parking space. I think Helen thought I'd gone home because I had to wander quite a distance down the road and round the corner until I found a space!
The children were very excited and we had such a good time - again we couldn't do fire but it really didn't matter we had such good material to share. As this was the last day we would be using dry ice we were able to have a fantastic dry ice finale and the school took video of it all!!

We spent the afternoon with years 3 and 4 who were very excited after our morning show! We really enjoyed being with this school and hope to go back soon!

Our final day was with our friends at Summerhill Maghull for a totally different show. This school chose to do  Into the Future which looks at inventions and discoveries that we use everyday.
From nappies to torches to lasers to books with a good look at toys for the younger ones. We love this show because as we find out about the latest discovery we try to add it in. In the afternoon we worked with years 3 and 4 looking at Pretty Amazing Polymers from slime through polymorph to an investigation to see just how much liquid a disposable nappy can hold. A great time for everyone.

So this has been our most successful BSW ever. We took more bookings than ever before and met many more new schools. Helen kept a rough tally and we think we have shared science with more than 1500 pupils through 10 shows and 14 workshops and made over 400 bath bombs.
Now time for a lie down.......


Saturday, 4 March 2017

Getting Ready for British Science Week

In case you haven't heard - and where have you been??
British Science Week takes place  10th - 18th March.

This past week we have been collecting our resources for our BSW events - my postman always asks me what I've bought this time - he loves my job!!
Parcels have been arriving sometimes with chemicals, sometimes weird things - like 500g of hydrogel balls, sometimes everyday but we will not be using it that way!

We have 150 baby nappies - toddler size - for a workshop on 17th.

We also have 2000 paper mini muffin cases and 100s of tubes of bubble gum fragranced oil for bath bombs not to mention 15kg of bicarbonate of soda!!

I shall be making up 5 litres of PVA this weekend for slime.

Helen has just been to buy 2 litres of vinegar because we plan to do our giant freaky hand demo which was such a hit at Big BangNW last summer

One of the things I love about social media is the fact that so many schools especially primary schools have now got really active Twitter accounts and use them to share the excitement of whatever they are getting up to.
For example on World Book Day my feed was crammed with pictures of 100s of children and teachers dressed up.
Lots of the schools we visit then follow us so as a courtesy we follow back and this means we get a glimpse into their everyday world.

Right now schools and organisations are gearing up for British Science Week. In fact many schools have already started - we are out this week in schools and we are fully booked for the main week.
I am loving seeing the ideas, experiments and events that schools have planned.

AllAboutSTEM worked with Birkenhead School to run a mini BigBangNearMe for uniformed organisations last week. They filmed and photographed the activities and shared them on Twitter so we saw some very excited cubs and brownies having a go at experiments and watching a science show but what I was really impressed with was that the school pupils were doing the experiments - what a great way to inspire the next generation!! Well done!

Just today I've been out in the garden with my hubby going through a demonstration called Lilac Flame  (using potassium permanganate and glycerine to apparently spontaneously combust and produce copious smoke and a lilac coloured mini volcano)
Our neighbours know we are science mad and were laughing at us but hubby is doing this demo as part of a lecture and needed to see quite how violent (or not) it would be so that he can do an accurate risk assessment for the university he is visiting.
this isn't a picture of him doing it....we were outside and there was much more smoke than flame!

There will be talks, debates, science parties and of course lots of demonstrations especially on Thursday 16th when teachers and technicians are encouraged to share in DEMO DAY. We will be out in school doing our All Change show that day which will have lots of demos and we plan to teach the staff of that school how to do a demo - they don't know it yet!
this is the anti gravity bottle demo which we will be teaching staff

I do hope your school is able to take part and that you have a great time.