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Enjoying the applause



South East Asia's terrible earthquake and tsunami had repercussions in many English schools, but few with the expertise of Hailey Hall school in Hertfordshire, where students have a long-term interest in seismology.

Science teacher Stewart Bullen has been using a home-made seismometer at Hailey Hall, a 60-pupil school for boys with emotional and behavioural difficulties, to study the path, pattern and extent of earthquakes with students for the past 10 years.

Now the Royal Society has awarded the school a pound;1,000 grant to work with physicist Chris Chapman to design a seismometer and electronic data recording equipment that could be mass-produced for earth science work in schools. Hailey Hall would then be the launch pad for a new seismology network for UK schools.

The motivating effect of such real-life science on Hailey Hall students, many of whom have chequered educational careers, is huge, says Bullen.

They talk about P and S waves (primary and secondary)and epicentres in far-flung parts of the world.

"I find there's incredible interest, scientific and human, from kids across the school," says Bullen.

"It's so spontaneous: you will come into school in the morning and find there has been an earthquake overnight. There will be a group of lads who will come up to me and say, 'We have had an earthquake.' I say, 'What can you tell me about it?' It's handing over some responsibility for their learning to them."

* A full account of Hailey Hall's seismology work will appear in TES Teacher magazine on February 18.

Interviews by Karen Gold

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