A ladder and a rocket stove

Year 5 children made their own ladder at Forest School today, using rope and rungs.  The ladder was hung almost horizontally, so once completed the children had to work hard to balance on it as they climbed, so that it wouldn’t flip over.

Mr Rumbold also brought along a rocket stove.  He explained that even today, 50% of the world’s population still cook every day on an open fire, which can cause respiratory and other issues.  For this reason, a man called Dr. Larry Winiarski began developing a rocket stove in 1980.  Rocket stoves emit 70% less smoke and use 60% less fuel than an open fire, so are also much more efficient.

Some den building also took place today.  Finlay explained that he and his friends “made a big den on one tree and it was a big success.  We all balanced sticks together and made rooms.  It even had a door, and we used a coat to make a roof in case it rained.  It was literally amazing!”

Other children used the opportunity to read quietly while sitting in a tree!

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Nasty Nymphs in Mighty Oaks!

As part of our science learning in Mighty Oaks, we have been looking at the lifestages of different animals. This week we were looking at the lifestages of different insects.

Most insects (around 88%) go through a complete metamorphosis, meaning that they look completely different at each of their four lifestages, from egg to larva, to pupa, to adult.

Complete metamorphosis. Source: Arizona State University

The remaining 12% of insects go through an incomplete metamorphosis, meaning that they have only three lifestages: egg; nymph; adult.

The nymph stage is where the insect is growing continually into its adult form. Some winged insects will begin developing their wings at this stage.

In order to demonstrate this, we headed down to our school pond to see if we could find some dragonfly nymphs.

Epiprocta, Dragonfly nymph. Photo: David Paul, source: Museums Victoria

The class used nets to carefully search for dragonfly nymphs, which live on the bottom of ponds, feeding on other small animals such as tadpoles. We found many nymphs and took them back to the class to make careful observations.

Dragonfly nymphs, while small, are very aggressive predators, and were allegedly the inspiration behind the ‘Xenomorph’ in the ‘Aliens’ sci-fi films. You can see why in the image of a dragonfly nymph feeding below:

Dragonfly nymph jaw. Photo: KQED Science

The lower part of their jaw (called a labium) is like a long, hinged arm that is usually folded under the head. When they encounter their prey, they extend the labium to grab or impale the creature to draw it back to their mouth. 

Please enjoy the pictures from our lesson below:

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Please note: all nymphs and other creatures were returned safely to the pond after the lesson!

Black History Month

Black History Month is a time set aside each October to celebrate the achievements of black men and women in the past and today. To mark this month, the house captains and their vice captains have delivered house assemblies to highlight the achievements of people of black heritage.

The first Black History Month in the UK took place in 1987 to highlight the important – often forgotten – contributions that black people have made, and continue to make, to our country.

The house and vice captains presented information about important figures from black history, including: civil rights activist Rosa Parks; gold medal-winning Olympian Jesse Owens; nurse & public health advocate Mary Seacole and the first black woman to be elected to parliament – Diane Abbott.

To find out more about Black History Month visit www.blackhistorymonth.org.uk

You can download and view the house and vice captains’ powerpoint here:

Brook Black History Month assembly

The 4th of October also marked National Poetry day, so please enjoy this recital of the poem ‘Still I Rise’ by celebrated poet Maya Angelou:

Year 5 Forest School

Our Year 5 pupils have had a busy but fun time in the woods today.  After lighting the fire they went in the scramble net, some of them had a go at whittling a knife, they did circus tricks and played “pine cones and sticks” (Forest School style noughts and crosses).

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Stunning start for Mighty Oaks ‘Build a Beast’ topic

Mighty Oaks class kicked off their topic ‘Build a Beast’ this term by investigating the incredible world of insects, both in our school and in the Amazon Rainforest – our area of study for this term.

The class were challenged to create their own ‘Assassin Bug’ models, based on the Amazonian insect shown below, which has some rather gruesome feeding habits!

(Erbessus sp Reduviidae)
Credit: Arthur Anker

The Assassin bug has developed a long, piercing proboscis – a sucking, tubular mouthpart. It uses this to stab unsuspecting prey, before injecting digestive enzymes, which liquefy the insides, which the insect can then suck back up through its proboscis. Lovely!

This gallery shows off some of the models created by Mighty Oaks. Note the excellent representations of that terrifying proboscis!

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During science, the class then headed outside armed with a new piece of scientific equipment for the class – pooters. Used to collect insects for observation, pooters have two plastic tubes, and the user creates suction to collect insects in a small chamber. In order to avoid any unwanted snacking on bugs (yuck!), one end of the tube is covered in fabric, so collected insects are not inhaled by unwary year 5/6s!

The children were able to collect some excellent samples of local invertebrates, and were very careful in their handling of their specimens. We will be investigating the life stages of different animal classes in science this term, and this activity gave children a chance to begin thinking about what life stage their specimens were in.

A gallery of some of the captured specimens is included below. Can you identify the species and lifestage?


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Year 5 and 6 trip to Swattenden

On the morning of June 13th, year 5 and 6 set off on their way to Swattenden for their end of year residential. Swattenden, which is near Cranbrook, is run by Kent Outdoor Education. The centre hosts groups of children from across the country (and even some from continental Europe) for residential and day trips. Swattenden House (the mansion on site) was built in 1860. The centre was previously the site of Swattenden Secondary School for Boys, which moved to Angley School (now The High Weald Academy) in 1972. It then became the “Swattenden Centre” in 1976, occupying a 27 acre site.

Our lead instructor (Karl) met us off the coach and escorted us to our accommodation. We were placed in the old stables – thankfully refurbished with all mod-cons – and the children were arranged into groups of two or three. The children were a bit shocked to learn that they would be making their own beds, and many learnt a useful life skill which they could well put to use at home! Once bags were dropped off, it was time for lunch, catered for by the excellent on-site kitchen staff. Children enjoyed a good meal of pasta, salads and banana sponge for dessert before heading off for their first activity.

While Mr Shilling and Mr Stanley’s group were kitted out with buoyancy aids, Mrs Sharp’s group made their way to the low assault course, where they tackled tyre challenges, tunnels, climbing walls, tarzan swings and scramble nets. Some very dirty knees and elbows ensued! Meanwhile, Mr Shilling and Mr Stanley’s group were ready to begin their raft-building. They worked very well together as teams, communicating clearly and allowing everyone to try out ideas. Once the rafts were finished, they launched them into the pond to test out their sea-worthiness! Most voyages passed without incident, until Katie took a dive into the murky depths. Haydn, not wanting her to feel left out, soon followed. Some very wet children made their way back to shower and change, before the groups swapped activities. Mr Stanley stayed with the rafters to ensure everyone in Mrs Sharp’s group was able to cross safely, while Mr Shilling took his group to the low assault course. Mrs Sharp’s group were equally successful in using teamwork to construct their rafts, and their voyages passed without incident. Not wanting the other group to feel alone in their sogginess, Francesca, Fraiser and Alonso took a brief dip too.

Dinner on the first night included a selection of pies (of both the cottage and pastry variety) and many children tried (and enjoyed) something new. Dessert was a delicious sticky chocolate pudding or banoffee pie, which Mr Shilling was particularly taken with. After dinner, the children had an hour of free time where they could use the facilities of the common room or take part in supervised activities outside. We had booked an extra evening activity with an instructor (Gary – a highly amusing fellow). Gary showed us how to play ‘flag raiders’ on one of the fields, and several high-energy rounds (star players including Emma B, Leo and Kady) were played before hot chocolate and time for a pre-bedtime story. Once we had caught up with Bilbo Baggins’ adventures in ‘The Hobbit’, it was time for bed at 21:40, with lights out at 22:00. Despite the many hours of physical exertion, some children were not as exhausted as Mr Stanley had schemed; however, by the time Miss Lawson, Mrs Sharp, Mr Shilling and Mr Stanley retired for the evening, all children had managed to settle down for the night.

Children were unceremoniously roused from their beds at 7:00 by the adults – just time for a shower and change before heading off to breakfast at 8:00. A delicious choice of cooked breakfast, cereals and toast with jam was provided, and the children (particularly Fergus!) ensured that they were fuelled up for the day ahead. Activities were spread over 4 sessions, including the greatly-anticipated high zipline, ‘nightline’, tri-crane, archery, den-building and ‘jacob’s ladder’ – a challenging high harness climb. All children braved the nerve-wracking climb up to the zipwire platform, which was handily located in the lofty heights of a mighty oak tree. Grace R played a very helpful role ferrying the zipwire back and forth after her group members had slid down, and despite initially thinking they couldn’t do it, both Louise and Tiffany were seen zooming down happily. Once their groups were safely back down, all the adult group leaders took a turn – much to the amusement of all the children when Mrs Sharp was left dangling in her harness!

Lunch on Thursday was pizza and salad, with cookies for dessert. However, due to mysterious circumstances, the supply of cookies ran prematurely short, and some children (and adults *cough* Mr Shilling *cough*) had to be placated with ice cream instead. Dinner included a traditional roast, with choices of pork chops or chicken and dessert was a delicious apple crumble with custard. Once dinner was over, the group made their way back to the common room, where they made thank you cards for members of staff in preparation for their departure on Friday afternoon. Children were given some free time with supervised activities before more of The Hobbit and bedtime for some very tired (but happy) children.

The final day dawned bright and sunny (unlike some children!) and before too long, bags were packed ready for departure. A few activities remained to be completed, with Charlie C making short work of ‘jacob’s ladder’, May performing a spectacular (but unintentional) flip on ‘entrapment’, Rosie leading Mrs Sharp a merry dance through the woods in ‘nightline’ and an unfortunate incident with Grace Y and a broken banana that Mr Stanley had been keeping for a snack (not that Mr Stanley holds a grudge…!)

All too soon it was time for our final meal before departure. After a lunch of pasta and salad, the children said their farewells to the instructors and prepared for our return to school. It was wonderful to see all the children challenging themselves, gaining confidence and achieving things they never believed they could. Many children told the adults and instructors how they had overcome their nerves or persevered with a challenging task, and everyone learnt and developed important skills, which they can apply to their schooling next year. Miss Lawson, Mr Stanley, Mr Shilling and Mrs Sharp were all very proud of the children, who were commended by centre staff for their impeccable behaviour and positive attitudes towards the challenges.

Well done to all Mighty Oaks children; thank you to Miss Lawson, Mr Stanley, Mrs Sharp and Mr Shilling for all their help; thank you to Mrs Fearon and Mrs Raeburn for doing so much admin and organising and thank you to parents for your continued support in ensuring that our residential trips can be run in such a successful way.

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