Rocket science

3rd March 2006 at 00:00
This year I took up the post as head of science at Latymer Prep School in London. I hoped to run a Science Week, and, coincidentally, shortly after I arrived the head of English suggested that the annual Book and Poetry Week be combined with another subject area if possible.

The genre of literature this year would be science fiction. Science Fact - Science Fiction Week, as it came to be known, was launched with a poster competition. The interpretation of "A3 poster" resulted in some extraordinary 3D models, including one which was solar powered and contained a tape recorded message from deep space.

Year 3 created acrostic and shape poems on the theme; Year 4 were learning about Anglo Saxon kennings (a metaphoric name for something, for example "a storm of swords" would be a battle) and created poems to do with aspects of space; and Year 6 used the stimulus of The Marrog by RC Sciven.

Year 5 created metaphor poems, investigated travel guides in order to create a travel brochure to a far-flung planet and looked at science fiction writing in order to write an extended story in the form of a small booklet.

In science, every child in the school made and launched a rocket. Each rocket was made from a single sheet of A4 paper and was sent flying by stomping on an empty 2 litre drinks bottle. Some rockets cleared a three- storey school building while others flew nearly 100 metres. This cost-effective science activity was one learned during a workshop presented by SETPOINT called "Things that Fly".

Each year group also examined a different area of science which, years ago, would have seemed like science fiction: materials that fluoresce (glow in the dark), magnets that behave in unexpected ways and, the all-time favourite, a glow-in-the dark Cartesian diver who the children affectionately named Squidgy.

As Science Fact - Science Fiction Week gained momentum we arranged theme-based assemblies and quizzes. The music from Star Wars was heard in the corridors. The Art Club surprised us when their mixed media Galaxies and Space Stations appeared on display. Children also dressed up as science fiction characters, past, present and future.

This themed week ticked many academic boxes. The head of English wanted to see more cross-curricular links and I wanted to raise the profile of science. We both achieved our goals but, as you can see, captured the students' imaginations as well.

* For more information on SETPOINTS go to www.setnet.org.uk Nancy Bilderbeck

Science subject leader and Amanda Sullivan, English subject leader, both of Latymer Prep School, 36 Upper Mall, London, W6 9TA

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