On a beautiful February morning Spruce and Juniper set off for Milton Keynes train station to travel to The Tower of London. We arrived in glorious sunshine and immediately went in to see the Crown Jewels, they were amazing and more brilliant than you could ever have imagined!
Next we went into The Bloody Tower, so called because it is believed it is in here that the two Princes were murdered by their uncle Richard. It was also where Sir Walter Raleigh and his family were imprisoned for plotting against James I. After lunch we had a short tour by a Yeoman Warden. He told us about all of the prisoners who took a one-way trip into The Tower of London through Traitors’ Gate. He also told us the stories of the seven prisoners who were beheaded on Tower Green. He told us that the saddest tale of all was about Lady Jane Grey, a hapless pawn of her father-in-law to ensure Protestant succession. Lady Jane rules for nine days, she was beheaded on 12th February 1554.
After a walk around The White Tower where we saw the Royal Armoury we headed back to Milton Keynes after a fantastic day out in London.
The tour spent some time explaining and demonstrating working reconstructions of Enigma and Turing-Welchman Bombe machines and the Colossus computer (the world’s first electronic computer) the latter two were used in Bletchley Park during the Second World War. Both of these were instrumental in breaking the Enigma cipher (150 quintillion possible keys) and are credited with shortening the war by months and saving tens of thousands of lives.
The tour continued by moving through the generations of computing from vacuum tubes through transistors and integrated circuits to microprocessors.
All in all it was an ideal blend of history, theory and practical with a large amount of hands on exhibits to engage the children.
After a fun warm-up, the children were transformed into actors. They exuberated confidence as they assumed roles, repeated lines and added their own actions. This continued with group work and culminated in a wonderful mini-performance of The Tempest. This was fully accompanied with props, sound effects, singing and even acrobatics!
A highlight was attending a special effects session. Unfortunately (due to the highly secret tricks of the trade revelations), we were ‘sworn to secrecy.’ However, we can reveal that the following ingredients can be used to create extremely convincing props and fake injuries: porridge, coffee, sugar and lychee! Extra thanks to Samuel and Nes; who were transformed into a one-handed pirate and a beautiful, lilac-haired ethereal lady (respectively).
Mrs Ramsay, Mr Stewart and I hope that these highly memorable experiences will ensure that Hawthorn and Poplar will go on to have a deep love of Shakespeare’s work; a passion which will remain with them throughout their lives.
To launch the new Art Scholars term we went to MK Gallery to see the nationally touring George Stubbs horse artist exhibition. The exquisite drawings and paintings showing incredible anatomical studies, family portraits with pets and prize cattle and horse `portraits` were used to inspire a very strong set of drawings from the group. These studies have formed the basis of a quite demanding animal and mythical creatures compositions from the group this half term.
Chestnut & Sycamore, 13th January National Gallery & Bridget Riley special exhibition at the Haywood gallery Trip report. The children had a smooth train ride into London and down the Northern line to Leicester Square and the National Gallery. There they were taken to look at 3 paintings in some detail, doing inventive and very engaging drawing and thinking exercises in a very well led set of mini-workshops. After lunch they had a scenic walk across the Thames seeing St Pauls and the Shard amongst other buildings on the London skyline, with very good behaviour and sensible movement on the footway before arriving at the Haywood gallery. The very striking and effective Optical art by Bridget Riley certainly got their attention with lots of discussion of "how does that do that?" and quite observant comments about the wide range of visual effects being demonstrated. A straightforward train return on booked seats allowed thinking and conversation about the work with an enjoyable time had by all.
On a dreary day in November, Cedar and Birch set off for a Trip to the Roald Dahl Museum in Aylesbury and enriched their learning by attending two well organised workshops in which they experienced the wonderfully scrumptious world of this amazingly inspiring author. The morning workshop consisted in hands-on activities in the Gallery, our children showed scrumdiddlyumptios excitement throughout, where they explored Fantastic Mr Fox's Den, Mrs Trunchbull's Library contained a huge surprise as children discovered the terrible Chokie Room...we were totally sure that we heard a noise coming from it! We tried on a selection of costumes and the favourite was the one worn by Oscar who took on the part of Charlie, owner of the Chocolate Factory and Lola who got to impersonate Augustus Gloop!! Cedar and Birch also managed to shrink just like Mike TV, and to the delight of the adults...they resume their physical features only after being gobbled up by the Enormous Crocodile. In the afternoon we had a lesson on the interesting life of Roald Dahl and learnt that he had been a very brave RAF pilot during World War 2. This was followed by a very creative workshop based on Matilda so we created tripolicious bags using our creative skills as well as a myriad of sequins, felt shapes and fabric pens. The results were truly glumptious along with being enthused and keen to take up creative writing.
The trip to Oxford Castle was a huge success and we have had some very positive feedback from children and parents, alike! We travelled to the centre of Oxford, to find the castle nestled quite inconspicuously, in its contrastingly modern surroundings: the brand new Westgate Centre, situated just feet away from the ancient building that once acted as the epicentre of defence against the Vikings, for the entire city. Of course, in comparison to the settlement that sat on the Cherwell and the Thames in 1009, the Oxford that we see nowadays is a far reaching and comprehensive infrastructure. In a city which lives and breathes its historical gravitas, the remaining sections of the motte and bailey castle are hidden gems, which provide yet another angle to the depth of Oxford's history.
On arrival, we were whisked into a tour of the castle and prison. The children ascended all 101 steps of St George's Tower. Built in a clockwork spiral (or as the children pointed out, more of a helix) the tower was cleverly designed to prevent Vikings from swinging their swords in attack, as they climbed it. Around two thirds of the way up, we discovered a room in which King James imprisoned parliamentary sympathisers, during the civil war of 1642. At the top, the view was astounding and the children spent some time absorbing the beauty of the great city.
Subsequently, we toured the prison, learning about the dismal and desperate lives of the prisoners who were incarcerated there, during Victorian times. Some of the children carried out demonstrations of the punishments that would have befallen those, unlucky enough to be caught stealing something insignificant or being charged with owning a 'saucy mouth'. This was, of course, as equally shocking as it was entertaining; I'm sure we all learnt something that we will never forget, that day! //// In the afternoon, the children took part in creative writing and drama activities, which explored the story of Prince Stephen and Empress Matilda. They had the opportunity to dress-up and act out the tale, which was refreshing in that it ended with a diplomatic compromise and peace: Stephen taking the throne and Matilda striking a deal, which guaranteed a place on the throne, for her son. The children planned and acted-out scenes from the story in small groups, with plenty of ad-libbing and sound effects to bring the performance to life.
The children also had the opportunity to climb the mound and stand at the top, observing the city from yet another great height. They could see first-hand, the importance of the higher ground in order spot and prepare for an attack. Many of them practised their archery skills using imaginary bows and arrows and set off on impromptu battles of their own, in high spirits. Speaking of spirits, we were also terrorised by a phantom shoulder-tapper, throughout our time at the castle. Most of us assumed it was Mr Stewart, until we were made aware that the castle is likely haunted. The mystery has not been solved, even now!
A superb time was had by all. Thank you, Oxford Castle!
On Wednesday the 23rd October, Chestnut and Sycamore travelled to the Raptor Foundation near Huntingdon to learn about birds of prey. They were accompanied by Miss McCall, Mr Bay and Mr Pendry, who were all highly impressed by the children’s behaviour and representation of the school.
After a brief introduction, the two classes separated for different activities, swapping over after lunch. One group visited the reptile house where different prey species of the birds were housed (not as future snacks!). The children were able to get hands on with tortoises and geckos and also enjoyed seeing meerkats up close. They were told about the advances in medical treatments, using synthetic snake venom, and other important research going on with these species. They also heard how litter is particularly dangerous to animals that cannot bring it back up after it is swallowed.
The other group went to the education centre where they studied the pellets of local Barn owls in order to ascertain their diet composition. This involved dissecting the pellets with tweezers and fingers, matching the bones that they found to an identification chart. This was followed by an opportunity to meet and greet two owls (a small African eagle owl called Lola and a British Tawny owl named Topaz). The children were delighted to be able to stroke these two magnificent creatures.
Between these two activities, the children watched a performance by different species of raptor with several getting much closer to the birds than they anticipated as they flew past. They were told about the birds’ habitats and the dangers posed to them by mankind.
The staff at the centre were amazed at the children’s knowledge and understanding of the issues that they were covering. In fact, our tour guide Elliot stated that he had to adjust his presentation to a level three years older than he anticipated, such was the knowledge displayed by the children.
Every one of us enjoyed the experience immensely and have been left with wonderful memories and feeling inspired for the future.
Miss McCall & Mr Pendry
The two groups had an eventful trip into London Euston after signal failure delays, but all had seats and we travelled across to the Tate Britain gallery quite easily. The children started by looking at a series of Henry Moore figure related sculptures and drawings, with some very good rendering of shape and texture in their sketchbooks.
After a brief gallery explore they then went to the William Blake exhibition where they carried out a series of detailed drawn studies of selected paintings as well as a careful look at the very large range of William Blake engravings. Several members of the public commented positively both on their work focus and the quality of the drawings in progress!
Beech and Holly had a fantastic first trip to the National Space Centre in Leicester. When we arrived we saw a real life rocket. It was enormous and the children were very impressed. We were invited inside to explore different aspects of space and travel. In the Tranquillity Base we explored the inside of a moon buggy and took it in turns to drive a hover chair. We also had a go at measuring our heights, weights and bone density to see if we could also be astronauts. In the solar system section we found a tiny-tarium. In the tiny-tarium we met Astronaut George who took us around the solar system. We had to answer his questions about the different planets by pressing the buttons around the walls. The children discovered that not all planets have water, air and friends. We also used our sense of touch to feel different types of rocks they have found on the earth, the moon and in space. In this section we also saw a model rover robot which could be steered with a remote control.
In our packed lunch we had sandwiches, yogurt, fruit and raisins. After lunch, we were fortunate enough to then go to the big planetarium where we discovered the history of light travel from Earth and were blown away by how many people it took to land men on the moon. At the end of the day we met some of the Space Centre staff who showed us how to make our own alien slime which we could take home with us. We had had so much fun on the trip that a lot of the children fell asleep on the coach trip back to school. What an exciting adventure!
Miss Ascough & Mrs Maulkerson
On Friday the 11th October, Hawthorn and Poplar travelled to Newmarket, the home of British horseracing. The children were accompanied by Mr Thorne, Ms Archer and Mr Pendry around the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art.
Once inside they took part in a three stage workshop that focused on the digestive system. The children got to meet retired thoroughbred racehorses and observe their movement as they were told about the feeding habits of horses. This was followed by an activity organising the digestive system organs of a horse, which is slightly different to that found in a human being.
The children also visited an interactive gallery which taught them about the size and weight of a racehorse's organs and skeleton, as well as the careful selective breeding that goes into the creation of a champion.
Lastly the children took part in a mock surgery, identifying cuddly organs that they pulled out of the patient.
The children impressed the staff with their understanding of the topic and prior knowledge.
Larch and Rowan excitedly set off to the rainforest, well The Living Rainforest! We visited The Living Rainforest to support the work that we have been doing in geography. Guided by members of staff from The Grove and the centre, Larch and Rowan explored parts of the rainforest.
The children thoroughly enjoyed listening to our guides share information about the environment and the animals that live in the rainforest. The children impressed the guides with their knowledge of the rainforest, were able to answer lots of questions and ask relevant questions.
We were introduced to a water dragon, a salmon pink bird eating spider, an armadillo, a snake called Lenny and hidden in the top of the trees we spotted a sleeping sloth. We were very proud of the children, as they represented the school extremely well and were polite and well-behaved for the duration. What a lovely day!
Mrs Okwuadigbo & Mrs Vass