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Fans of physics

Louise Convisser heads to Ipswich Football Club to sample a primary project linking sports and science

On a sunny afternoon this March more than 400 excited pupils and their teachers converged on Portman Road stadium, home of Ipswich Town Football Club, to be a part of the launch of the club's new science project: Town QUEST (questioning, understanding, enquiring, stimulating and testing). The project has been designed for key stage 1 and 2 children. Its aims are to offer a safe and stimulating environment, make science fun, and show that science is accessible to everybody.

Teacher Hilary Foster from Badwell Ash Primary School, Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, took along 30 Year 3 and 4 children. She says: "The day at Town QUEST was linked to the national curriculum. There was a good balance between activities and computer-based work, but even this was made more exciting for the children by giving them white coats to wear and making them imagine that they were in a real laboratory."

In the laboratory, half the class did physics experiments in small groups or individually, some investigating forces with Newton meters and a friction ramp, which they used to test the speed of toy cars and how different materials affect slipping on shoes.

Well equipped with electrical circuit boards, magnets, a light box and a planetarium, the laboratory offers children the chance to explore traditional experiments, as well as try out software to simulate a trip to the moon.

As a group they investigated some sports science, using stethoscopes and pulse meters to examine what happens to the body when we exercise. As befits a football club, they considered the properties of different footwear and balls, comparing, for instance, a ping-pong ball with a golf ball. They tested bounce and "kickability" - perhaps the best test of all for lively children.

"I was very impressed," says Hilary. "All the apparatus was set out in colour-coded boxes, which let the pupils quickly locate apparatus and begin to investigate independently. There were up to eight different activities happening at the same time. It gave them the opportunity to begin to feel how a proper scientist might feel. It left them feeling that science was exciting, important and accessible to all abilities."

Alex Henry, Town QUEST project co-ordinator, says: "This new, exciting project is aimed at promoting children's excellence and enjoyment in learning. The children were so excited to be at the football club and the buzz continued as they took on their role of scientist."

The principles of Town QUEST and the links between sport and science can be brought into schools. As the children did on the pitch, discuss different sports equipment and the effects of exercise on our bodies. How do studs in football boots help? Why do we feel hungry after exercise?

Town QUEST takes place every Wednesday and Thursday during term time.

Tel: 01473 400545 Email: alexandra. (look under Club then Community)

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