STEM - Making Learning Fun!
This new page builds on our overarching aim of enabling young people to enjoy their lessons and develop a life-long love for learning. Science, technology, maths and engineering (STEM) activities are central to our curriculum and through this page we showcase some of the ways in which we develop student skills and knowledge in order to encourage the pursuit of exciting careers in these areas.
Grease at Highsted - Creation of the Car
Over the last eight weeks, Highsted students from all year groups (along with the support of the Design & Technology Department) have been working tirelessly to create a car from scratch for the school’s production of ‘Grease’.
The team created the body of the car out of papier-mâché and a wooden support frame, using screws to hold it all together. This took almost 10 litres of glue and 4 litres of red, black and white paint! They made the number plate using a laser cutter and yellow acrylic and a vinyl cutter to make the lettering. Constructing the wheels was also a challenge as the team’s first attempts were too round in shape and had to be re-moulded to ensure the correct wheel curvature. They completed their creations by using silver coloured bowls for the centres of each wheel.
An important task was creating the grill. In 1978 (the era when Grease was released), the grill would have been made out of stainless steel and taken up the majority of the space on the front of the car whereas cars today have much smaller grills. Students utilised a 2D Design computer program to get the measurements of the grill right and then cut it out of cardboard which was then painted a steel grey colour. In the end, this wasn’t used as part of the car’s final design but students had a lot of fun creating it.
Every little detail was carefully and painstakingly put together by the talented team including a bumper (with paint used to create the two different types of bumper needed in the musical – the rusty old one and the transformed new and shiny one), a windscreen and even working lights.
On top of this mammoth job, students also created all the period signs and props used in the production. Students all demonstrated their amazing artistic and problem solving talents and should be incredibly proud of their efforts in the making of the Grease car.
Sixth Form Visit Science Symposium at Sevenoaks School
On the 26 June 2018, key stage five students taking a science subject for A-level had the opportunity to listen to university researchers giving talks about their current research at Sevenoaks School. After a lengthy journey (time not distance) they took their places in a lofty lecture theatre along with students from several other schools in the area.
The first talk discussed the opportunities that are arising from the increasing understanding of the human genome and the influence of the relatively new area of epigenetics on drug discovery and the molecular targeting of small active compounds. This talk was quite in depth but there were many areas mentioned that will be covered by biology A-level students in Year 13.
The second talk was presented by a forensic science lecturer from the University of Kent, Canterbury. This talk focussed on how science from all three disciplines can be brought into developing a crime scene description; with the third describing cutting edge research directed towards understanding how living cells, able to replicate, evolved – the pre-biology origin of life. The final talk described the different types of prion diseases and how researchers are still trying to visualise the erroneous proteins involved. Steps have been made towards this objective but no mechanism is yet understood that shows how these proteins are formed. Prion diseases are involved in the aging process of many people and once the cause can be identified and the mechanism of formation understood, it hopefully will be possible to interfere with the processes and affect a cure.
Listening to scientific talks like these is a valuable opportunity for students at Highsted since it allows them to experience the types of short talks that are available in all university departments on a weekly basis. The day was highly informative and students were inspired by the many career prospects and exciting new developments in science.
Ecology Field Trip
The A-level biologists carried out their required practical at Longbeech North Wood, just to the north of Ashford on Monday 2 July. They arrived by minibus to boiling hot weather and lots of insects. The day began by a walk and talk of the woodland (owned by the Woodland Trust). The South East Area Manager, Clive Steward, described the plans of the Woodland Trust to change the Sweet Chestnut and Larch coppice back to native broad leaved woodland. He also pointed out many of the unique archaeological artefacts at the site that stem back many hundreds of years.
The ecological work began with the collection of data for a Spearman’s Rank correlation, linking tree circumference with tree ring number and hence, tree age. This was followed by a BBQ lunch, cooked over open fires by Ms Coles and Dr Clapp. A range of food was provided – rabbit tikka skewers, bunny burgers and game burgers.
The afternoon temperatures soared even higher resulting in higher than normal lethargy in the students but all worked extremely hard to complete their work. Overall, the trip was a success and students thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
Students Prepare to Battle it Out – Robot Style
This year Highsted students won a place in the Robot Wars Schools’ Competition 2018, being chosen as one of only 22 schools out of the 244 schools who entered the competition. In order to win this place they had to design a robot that could battle it out against other machines in the arena. They have had the opportunity to work the Science & Engineering faculty at Greenwich University in Medway on this project and been inspired to want to achieve the first ever win for a girls’ school.
The team comprises of: Tolu Oseni, Alexandra Godawski, Kiruthigaa Arunan, Abigail Pike, Aimee Watt and Jessica Wiesmath. All the students on the robot building team are in Year 10 and have been working on this project as part of Highsted’s focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in the curriculum to raise the profile of careers in Engineering and Design. Each student was awarded a trophy to recognise their excellent designs – which are now on display at Highsted.
The robot showdown starts in September and the school look forward to seeing the students’ robot in action. Visit the link below to learn more about the competition and how to purchase tickets:
Big Bang Fair: 27 June 2018
On a sunny and warm June day, 37 students from Years 7 & 8 boarded a bus for a STEM adventure in Sussex. The activities on offer were spread out over ten different locations within the main Sussex showground.
There the girls watched several exciting and interactive shows such as: engineering from the cradle to the grave, which showed us how science has enabled us to see into the womb; trap urine in nappies; secure children when travelling; and develop crumple zones and cryogenic freezing techniques for humans for the future.
The magic of science wowed with a display of chemistry and physics; with big bangs and flying saucers; and a very large saw being played with a violin bow, to demonstrate sound and resonance.
Around the site, tents and buildings housed more than 100 representatives from universities to industry and more; with interactive challenges from British Airways to Hadlow Agricultural College. Some of the most exciting displays seen were the non-Newtonian fluids on the speaker, a 27kg Boa Constrictor, Archimedes’ screw, metallic felt tip pens to make circuits and programme actions with different colours, and various live animals.
Overall, the site was an incredible display of innovation and the students agreed that they had all had a brilliant time.
Cambridge Chemistry Challenge: 22 June
This year at Highsted, 12 science students took part in the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge on the 22 June. There were a total of 7951 entries this year across the country and from these, 63% achieved specific awards: 54 students won Roentgenium Awards (scoring 49 points or more), 644 students won Gold Awards (30-48 points), 1418 students won Silver Awards (22-29 points) and 2901 students won Copper Awards (14-21 points).
At Highsted, Erica Ogbomo, Charley-Mae Owen, Khivani Patel, Khusbu Patel and Laura Stokes all achieved the Copper Award; Heather Wilson gained a Silver Award and Rosie Millns achieved the Gold Award, scoring in the top 5% of all entries. The school is incredibly proud of these students’ achievements – well done to everyone who took part!
UKMT Junior Mathematics Challenge
All Year 8 pupils sat the UKMT Junior Mathematics Challenge on 27 April during a warm Period 4 lesson. The event took place in the hall and involved pupils answering 25 multiple choice questions. The catch? It’s in the name. The questions required some creative thinking from the pupils and in most cases some extensive problem solving. Couple this with the risk of penalty deductions for incorrect answers or guessing and pupils had to be very accurate and thoughtful about their work.
Shortly after, Highsted received the results: 17 students received a Bronze Award (requiring 49-60 points), 12 students received a Silver Award (requiring 61-74 points) and one outstanding student received a Gold Award (requiring over 75 points) – Elena Ingram.
Elena also qualified for the Pink Kangaroo. This is an additional, harder challenge that pupils sit should they exceed a certain threshold in the main challenge. This means that she scored over 82 points in the initial challenge. Elena (and the school) are awaiting the results of the Pink Kangaroo challenge with anticipation.
Mad Science Saturday 2018
On Saturday 24 February, budding scientists visited Highsted to participate in a day of fantastic activities. Forty-one pupils from 15 different primary schools took part in the science spectacular, watching exciting demonstrations and completing a range of challenges.
The day started with a history of fire, fuels and explosives as told by ‘Mad Scientist’ Mr Stanley. Following this were a series tasks for pupils to get involved in such as: experimenting with solid carbon dioxide using bubbles and dry ice; measuring cockroaches; testing the acidity of household chemicals such as vinegar and toothpaste; making rainbow towers using different densities of sugar solutions; observing tarantulas under a microscope; and creating electric circuits.
All students thoroughly enjoyed the day, happily sharing their thoughts and reactions, “All of the stations were so unique and covered a different aspect of science,” and “The people running the stations were so nice and friendly – thank you!”
Star Wars, Deep Africa & Mario Kart – a Super STEM Event
On Tuesday 23 January, Highsted held a special Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Event (STEM) to develop student skills and encourage the pursuit of future careers in these subjects. The day involved the whole of Year 7 who were participating in a range of activities, across three themed classrooms, run by STEM Ambassadors from Canterbury Christ Church University.
Activity One was themed around ‘Star Wars’ and involved students battling the ‘Dark Side’ by engaging in decoding riddles and breaking codes to work out where the evil Empire’s forces were. Some of the games involved calculating how far ships would have to fly to reach their destinations, others involved giant ‘Top Trumps’ style carts featuring the planets in the solar system – where students had to choose from values such as temperature, distance from the Sun and size to beat each other and claim more cards for themselves. The team with the most points at the end was given the opportunity to ‘destroy the Death Star’ – popping a balloon (all completed to the rousing tune of John Williams’ main theme to Star Wars.)
In the second room, students were taken to ‘Deepest Africa’ to take part in various puzzles and team building activities. Their challenge was to unlock the treasure chest found by African explorers by finding the correct sequence of numbers and letters to break the lock. Puzzles involved: using ropes to lift a small box from ‘the swamp’ without dropping it or getting wet; creating a bridge strong enough to hold the weight of ‘Trevor’ the wooden tortoise – leading to some ingenious ideas and quite a few creative disagreements; calculating how many bricks it would take to build a seven storey-high Ziggurat; and deciphering clues from a cryptic map. Each puzzle rewarded students with a box containing a riddle which they had to solve or face a forfeit – completing the next puzzle blindfolded! The organisers had really set the scene, decked out in full Safari gear and decorating the classroom with crumbling maps, dusty tomes and snakes in jars.
The final room took students to the virtual world of ‘Mario Kart’ where they had to design and create a ‘Kart’ and race their vehicular creations against each other in an assault course. To do this, students had to earn golden coins to buy car parts by solving problems and completing tasks such as: creating lava lamps, solving mathematical problems, and playing a logic game. Each group of four had to be assigned a character from the Mario series and an added twist was that each character was limited in what they were allowed to achieve. Only the ‘Yoshi’ team member could buy car parts; ‘Mario’ had to build the car; ‘Peach’ was the master puzzle solver; and only ‘Luigi’ could dabble in all three. This meant teams had to work strategically to ensure they completed their Kart on time to reach the race track. Race winners received trophies in true Mario Kart style.
Through teamwork and resilience, all students were able to complete the tasks and had great fun in the process. The event was a huge success and an excellent way to get students thinking about and applying their skills and knowledge of science, technology, maths and engineering. Later this year, students from Years 7, 8 and 9 will all have further opportunities to engage in STEM activities including a trip to the Discovery Park in Sandwich, Kent for a ‘Big Bang Event’, experiencing a mobile planetarium and attending a careers fair – all aimed at developing aspirations and inspiring them for the future.
Discovery Park – Year 7 Science Explorers
On Friday 9 March, Year 7 students at Highsted visited the Discovery Park in Sandwich to attend The Big Bang Event and experience a day of hands-on science activities. The day was divided up into a series of talks from representatives, opportunities to visit stalls promoting various aspects of science and the chance to participate in scientific workshops.
Highsted students were able to participate in a number of activities, including riding a bike to see how much energy they could generate – would it be enough to power an entire house? They also got up close to hissing cockroaches; tested out a 3D printer; learnt how to make glow bands; used virtual reality headsets to control a robot; and conducted experiments to identify various chemical samples, to name but a few!
There was also the chance to meet with representatives from the army and the ambulance services, to explore the practical uses for science in society and the world of work – such as bomb disposal and CPR, and students were able to talk with university representatives to discuss scientific careers and higher educational study. Later in the day, they attended a talk with Greg Foot, TV presenter for Deep Ocean Lab, who was able to share his experiences of examining life under the sea, at a depth of more than 200 metres below the surface.
The day was a great success and students all thoroughly enjoyed their trip into the world of science.
Mobile Planetarium – Year 8 see the stars!
On Wednesday 14 March, the University of Kent visited Highsted with their mobile planetarium, aiming to encourage Year 8 students to explore astrophysics and develop an enthusiasm for science. The students are currently studying their ‘Space’ module for physics so the visit enabled them to see the structure and wonder of space on a larger scale.
Representatives from the university set up a huge black dome in the school hall – with only a narrow entrance leading to the skyscape within. Each group of students entered the dome and were treated to a fantastic display, showcasing different areas of the night sky, celestial bodies and beautiful constellations.
The experience was highly informative and the students loved the opportunity to see the stars up close.