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Science - Parents go pop

Balloon-powered racing cars step conflict up a gear

Balloon-powered racing cars step conflict up a gear

The general consensus was that Ryan started it - but the usual view is that Ryan starts most things. And while there was only anecdotal evidence to support this view, Sam's mum had no doubts. This was the fourth time in a fortnight she had been to see me: Ryan was bullying her son and something needed to be done.

Sam's mum brought Sam's dad with her to the meeting. This was the first time they had spoken to each other in six months, which indicated a serious resolve to get the matter sorted out. The miracle of Ryan's dad being there was an even better omen. He was 13 the last time he had been to school of his own free will.

The situation was that both children had been spoken to several times, were seated away from each other in class, were monitored in the playground and had regular meetings with our learning mentor. Yet despite all this, Sam's mum had irrefutable evidence that Ryan was still bullying her son and threatening him with extreme violence should he "grass him up". The evidence took the form of a crumpled note that someone must have written on Ryan's behalf because, for one thing, it was legible and, for another, every expletive was correctly spelled.

That's when I had the light-bulb moment. Actually, it was more like the Blackpool illuminations. "What about a Lads and Dads Club?" I cried. "If you dads brought your boys to our club, you could show them how to interact positively with each other in an environment that demands cooperation and team work." It truly was an amazing idea: this way I could sort out both school and neighbourhood problems in one go, and even squeeze some science into the equation.

Lads and Dads Club was making balloon-powered racing cars and it wasn't long before the two men, and their boys, were busily engaged with each other, offering design advice, sharing masking tape and jointly constructing axle assemblies.

By the time the cars were lined up on the starting grid some friendly rivalry was evident, but it was only after several false starts that this turned to accusations of malpractice. By the time the race got under way, the pit crews were revved up to screaming point as the testosterone-fuelled atmosphere became dangerously overheated. When the chequered flag came down, all hell broke loose.

We are still awaiting official confirmation of the results, but the general view is that while Ryan's dad's car was first over the line, it was Sam's dad who threw the first punch.

Steve Eddison is a key stage 2 teacher at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield

WHAT ELSE?

Inspire pupils to make their own balloon-powered car by showing an instructional video from Steve Spangler Science. bit.lyBalloonCar

If you would like to set up your own science club, check out TESGA's case study of a school Stem club. bit.lystemClub.

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