Making toothpaste

Tonight was the first session of the year 5/6 STEM Club for the Autumn term. I was very pleased to welcome back our STEM ambassadors Freddie, Georgina and Evie who have all agreed to be ambassadors for another year. Their contributions last year included helping the younger pupils at STEM Club, promoting STEM events in assemblies, representing Brandesburton School at a cluster STEM summit, running the pop-up science shop and helping with British Science Week. Thank-you for all you did, you certainly made my job easier!

This term the STEM Club is following the Crest Award Scheme. When the pupils have completed eight activities from a wide choice, their efforts will be recognised by a certificate and badge. Tonight’s activity was making, testing and improving toothpaste. The pupils worked in small groups with a baseline ‘recipe’ and prepared their toothpaste. They then had to test its efficiency by using it with a toothbrush to try and remove permanent marker pen and also shoe polish from a tile. After that, they needed to make adjustments to their ingredients to try and improve their toothpaste. They also had the choice of adding red, blue or yellow colouring and lemon or mint flavouring. (Although they weren’t allowed to taste the toothpaste, the flavouring enhanced the smell.) They then gave both their toothpaste formulas marks out of ten for effective cleaning, smell, appearance and texture.

The pupils worked really well collaboratively and showed great communication skills. They positively demonstrated aspects of our school ‘toolkit for life’. They all enjoyed this week’s activity and the opportunity to be real scientists.

Fab final session!

Last Wednesday we beat the rain to hold a combined parents/carers and y1/2 STEM Club session. We were also very appreciate of one pupil’s grandparents who had to take two buses to get to us.
First of all we held a family scavenger hunt in the school grounds. This was similar to the one the pupils did last week but with a few surprise additions! Mrs Irvin put her creative hat on and made us a dragonfly, caterpillar, butterfly and snail all on sticks that were then hidden ‘in plain sight’ to bring an extra challenge to the scavenger hunt.

After that, we all moved into the Wildlife Garden where Mr Mallison had been carefully watching over our fire pit fire. Marshmallows on sticks were handed out and the children toasted them in small groups and then sandwiched them between two chocolate biscuits to create S’mores treats. The adults enjoyed these too! Mrs Gell, our fab school cook, had also made buttered jacket potatoes for an extra delicious treat.

It really was an amazing end to our y1/2 STEM Club sessions as we have focussed very much on using our outdoor spaces and Wildlife Garden and addressing environmental issues.

Scavenger Hunt

This week saw the pupils at STEM Club searching the school grounds in small groups, eager to tick off items on their list. Hardest to spot were butterfly, caterpillar and snail whereas everyone managed to find a spider web, rough bark and a yellow flower, amongst others. The pupils were also tasked with using the IPads to photograph their finds rather than just tick them off. Top scoring team was Leo, Rupert and Patrick who managed to evidence an impressive 17 items out of 24 on their list.
Look out for next week’s blog post on our final STEM Club session of the year where we are going to have S’mores around our fire pit in our wildlife garden.

Blast off!

This week at STEM Club saw the children making balloon rockets. Working co-operatively in small groups, the children had to inflate their balloon and attach it to a drinking straw that had been fed onto a length of string tied between two chairs. As they released the end of their balloon, they whooshed across the string at a super speed! The children then had to vary the length of string and inflation of the balloon in order to see what impact this had on the performance of their balloon rockets.

We are engineers!

This week we were embracing the E of STEM by completing two engineering challenges. Firstly, in groups of four, the y1 and 2 pupils faced the spaghetti marshmallow challenge. The pupils had the same amount of spaghetti sticks and marshmallows and they had to see which group could complete the tallest tower.
The different strategies used and amounts of collaborative working were great to see. Some groups broke their spaghetti sticks up, some kept them whole. Some used individual sticks, some grouped them together for extra strength. Some groups broke up their marshmallows to make them go further and some kept them whole. All groups showed determination and resilience.
Unfortunately we had voted to work outside and it was extremely hot and our marshmallows started to melt resulting in incredibly sticky hands! We decided which group had created the tallest tower and after that we retreated inside to wash our hands and completed separate challenge in the hall.
This time each group had to complete their tower using just three sheets of newspaper and some masking tape. Again everyone tried really hard and I was super impressed by the levels of co-operation. The STEM ambassadors Evie, Freddie and Georgina were on hand to support and guide the younger pupils which again was lovely to see.

Bubbles, bubbles everywhere

This week at STEM Club, we investigated different bubble mixtures to see if more water or less water with washing up liquid produced the best bubbles. We also tried a mixture with a secret ingredient (glycerin!) which made the bubbles last much longer.

The children also had fun experimenting with different objects to make their bubbles including colanders, air-hoc balls, spatulas, cookie cutters and string! They were also able to try and make giant bubbles using hoops joined together with string that were carefully dipped into the bubble mixture in a tuff tray.

The weather was very kind to us and we had a fun hour enjoying our outdoor learning. Some pupils also had a try at leaf and bark rubbings and really enjoyed it. We hope to try and do some more rubbings at our next session.

Bug hotels, butterfly feeders and seed bombs!

It’s been a busy few weeks at after school STEM Club for year one and two. Unfortunately we had some technological issues which have prevented me from updating the blog so here is a round up of what we have been up to during the last three sessions before half-term.

We gathered lots of materials form our school community in order to create some additional small scale bug hotels in our wildlife garden. The children were really creative with their designs, ably guided by the STEM Ambassador pupils. The bug hotels will provide additional shelter for the minibeasts that live in our garden.

The following week we were trying to support the eco environment by making butterfly feeders. The children had great fun making these and adding the sugar solution to the centres. We had enough resources left over to make up additional kits for other pupils to make their own butterfly feeder over the half-term break too. Hopefully the butterflies will be very much in evidence in Brandesburton and the surrounding areas.

In our last session we learnt about how important bees are to our environment and briefly looked at a simple version of pollination. We watched a video clip that encouraged us all to do ‘the Waggle Dance’ just like the bees do when they are visiting different flowers. We also had time for a story about how a poorly bee was rescued and we discussed how the children could do this (with an adult) if they came across a very tired bee. Our practical activity for this week was making seed bombs. When the seed bombs are thrown or scattered in a suitable area, wild flowers should spring up that will provide additional sources of nectar for the bees.

Bird feeder success

This week our year 1 and 2 STEM Club pupils were once again out in the Wildlife Garden. Today we were making bird feeders. The first task was to gather some sticks that would serve as the perches for the birds to land on. Next everyone got a cardboard tube to poke holes into the bottom of to push the sticks through. This bit proved quite tricky! After that came the messy bit – the children had to coat the outside of their tube with lard without getting it all over themselves – quite a skill! Then they rolled their tubes in birdseed and added some string to hang them up with. Hopefully they will be really successful in attracting birds to the children’s gardens.

Our lunchtime ‘bug and bird’ club was also in full swing this week. Year two pupils went on a hunt for minibeasts using the lunchtime science bags which contain magnifying glasses, binoculars, tweezers, bug containers and scavenger hunt lists. Also popular was bird colouring, using the bird book to help them identify and colour the birds correctly.

First session of the y1/2 STEM Club

What brilliant weather we had to start off our block of outdoor learning at the y1/2 after-school STEM Club. This half-term we will be aiming to make the most of our school Wildlife Garden after its recent refurbishment. It was a good opportunity to check on the seeds that were sown and the bulbs and trees that were planted as part of our Community Planting Morning back in March. We also topped up the bird bath, birds feeders and bird table at the same time.

This week we briefly discussed what an invertebrate was before the children, ably supervised by the STEM Ambassadors, set off on their own minibeast hunts. We made use of some of the resources contained in the science lunchtime bags that Key Stage One have access to over the Summer term. The resources include lenses, containers, larger magnifying glasses and binoculars. After a great time searching under logs and rocks and in the bug hotels, the children were able to catch some different creatures for a short while to observe them

We also had a go at worm charming by banging sticks against some metal forks stuck into the soil. This created the vibrations that make the worms think it is raining and it brings them to the surface. It certainly worked for us and the children were fascinated by this. All of the children had a great time and can’t wait for next week’s session.