30 April 2008

Where in the world? continues.....

This week our news stories happened not only on six out of seven continents (with a tenuous link to the seventh) but also out in space; surely world news worthy of the BBC!

Tanmay gave his story the headline 'Robot Space Truck Docks With ISS' before going on to explain that a huge new space truck has just docked with the International Space Station, delivering supplies of food, water, air, fuel and equipment. He added that when it is empty it would be used as a giant rubbish bin. Azri was intrigued by the idea. 'Why do they need a giant rubbish bin?' he asked. Before we knew what had happened, we were onto the thorny question of bodily functions in space. I don't feel I should go into any more detail here!

Still out there in space, Michelle gave us some background information about Mars and then told us that Scientists in America sent spacecraft to Mars to see if there is water or life. They are still there after four years (even though they were only supposed to work for three months!) She told us that the spacecraft can take photos and send them back to Earth. Joe wondered when the spacecraft left Earth.

Let's begin our earthly travels in Asia, where we learned from Naoya that the Olympic torch relay arrived in Japan on the 26th April and that the person carrying it was the woman who won the marathon at the last Olympics.

Per wanted to pay him a compliment; 'You read it really well,' he said.

We'll stay in Asia for now, but travel a little to the west; to India and the Indian Express newspaper, which reported the following story that Maya interpreted for us. In your body you have a 'body clock'

(an intriguing idea for some; Swati wondered, 'Is it invisible or not?') which tells you when to go to sleep and when to wake up. It doesn't really work properly at this time of year, because at bedtime, even though you are supposed to be asleep, if it is still light you stay awake. In fact, the article explained that scientists have discovered it is actually light which makes you wake up (and so dark that tells you when to go to sleep). Matthew exclaimed, 'So that's why I find it hard to get to sleep!'

Let's head south with Fiona, to the Wilkin's Ice Shelf in Antarctica

(our second continent). She told us that it is breaking up; a piece if ice the size on Connecticut is falling off. That, she went on to say, is about three quarters the size of Switzerland.....'It's so important,' she continued, 'because we are spraying out bad things and we made a hole in the ozone layer and that makes it become hotter and the ice melts and that makes the water rise.' Justin looked worried. 'How are the penguins going to survive?' he wondered.

Which is interesting.....

Joe's story began with a joke. 'What's black and white and warm all over?' Answer: A penguin in a wetsuit. Eh? A wetsuit is what divers wear to keep them warm in the water ('wet' because it lets in a layer of water which your body warms up; that then keeps you warm). Anyway, Pierre the penguin is 25 years old who lives in California (North America, continent number three). He is losing his feathers which means he can't swim - it's too cold. So they made him a wetsuit.

Rekik wondered why he could swim in cold water without feathers, but that a penguin couldn't. Joe explained that penguins feathers are waterproof; that's what keeps the cold water out and so keeps them warm. They don't have fat like we do.

To South America (number 4) now, specifically Brazil. Giulia updated us on the story of the priest who had been trying to break the record for staying up in the air using party balloons.

He had disappeared and now they have found balloons floating in the sea - but so far, no priest.

Matthew W thinks he has probably drowned.....

To Europe (continent number 5) for the next batch of stories. Matthew W and Isabella, coincidentally, had chosen the same story; that of the giant football that is to be seen above the jet d'eau in Geneva.

As Matthew said, 'There is a football balanced on the jet d'eau. It's really cool - it glows in the dark!' Patricia told Matthew, 'I like the picture you found. It looks like the ball is really balanced there'. 'How,' wondered Fiona, 'did that happen?' We discovered, that if you look closely at the photograph, you can just about see the strings (cables) that hold the football-shaped balloon up. We found out that 12 people in the class have already seen it. Isabella told us that they have put the football-balloon there because of the European Cup. She said that when she went to her friends' house (twins!) the balloon was in the lake....

.....which brings me to today's 'breaking news'.....Hot off this morning's press (Geneva's '20 minutes', cutting below) we have the headline, 'Un ballon qui n'aime pas le vent' with a photo of the jet d'eau surrounded by spray - and the balloon having been blown down by the wind!

Staying in this part of the world (Europe) let's now head south to Lyon where Lyon football team have played against Caen.

Justin told us that even though the score was a draw, it isn't bad news for Lyon because they have 72 points and the other ones only have 68. He told Swati that Lyon is in France.

Evie's story is an interesting one. In an article all about plastic (the Materials unit again raises its ugly head!) she discovered that in Notting Hill (which is in London, which is in the UK, which is in Europe.....) there is a Christmas tree made out of recycled plastic. Justin was puzzled. 'Did they just do it to get in the newspaper?' he asked. We think they might have done!

Actually the FT article, 'Plastic: The elephant in the room' looked at the usefulness of plastic compared with its environmental impact and concluded that not having plastic would be potentially more environmentally damaging.....

Still in the UK, and a bit of 'royal' controversy from Chris. He told us that the King of England (we corrected him here; he was talking about a future king) borrowed an army helicopter to go somewhere and landed in his girlfriend's garden. Isabella saw this on the news; she said Prince William (for that is who we are talking about) wanted to surprise his girlfriend. Chris went on to say that people are cross with him because he took the helicopter and he didn't even pay!

According to the Newsround article he brought in, the Ministry of Defence said his trip was part of a training exercise. But some people are angry because they think it is a waste of money and not a proper way to use military equipment. What do you think?

Azri's news was of a further increase in the price of oil; this led to some interesting thoughts being shared. Joe wondered if it would lead to fewer people driving their cars and Max concurred; he said that not as lot of people would go to the gas station.

We agreed that we would ask our parents what they thought would be some of the effects of the price of oil going up.

And finally, a story with a family connection. Per told us that his cousins live on a farm in Queensland, Australia (our 6th continent). They saw a huge python wrap itself round a kangaroo to strangle it and then the python swallowed it. All. Up. Of course this announcement caused a near uproar as everyone spoke at once (Was it a kangaroo or a wallaby? What colour was the python, How on earth did it do it?) Per explained that he had forgotten to bring the photos but that he would show them to us the next day.

Now, please do not scroll down if you are of a nervous disposition. Because, possibly for the first time, we are about to broadcast these very disturbing photographs. Of a python squeezing and then swallowing a whole kangaroo. All. Up.

You have been warned.....

PS Did you notice which continent was 'missing'? The tenuous link is to Africa . Pierre the Penguin is an African penguin (even though his home is in North America).

29 April 2008

Now I know I promised that the unit on Materials was finally over; well, I guess I lied! Inadvertently, of course.....

It was perhaps Rekik who listened the most carefully on the day that I suggested we had 'crisp-eating' for homework.  He made it his personal goal to provided us with one empty crisp bag for each person in the class.  And 24 school-days later (yep, that's a bag of crisps each day!) he (with a bit of help from his friends) achieved his goal.

Which meant that today was the day we finally found out what material crisp bags are made of.  To begin with, we thought back to the 'sticky' problem Patricia had when trying to identify what material her sweet wrapper was made from (see an earlier post). 

Having thought carefully, Joe was confident that crisp bags are made from plastic.  Max agreed with him.  Tanmay wasn't so sure.  He suggested they might be made from paper; Matthew Duke thought this too.  And then Danah said they might be made from foil with Swati adding that foil is metal, and that she too thought they might be made from metal.

This time, the test we planned would involve the bags being put into a hot oven.  Evie told us that paper would burn in the oven.  Per thought that metal would melt, but when Fiona told us that her dad uses foil to cover potatoes when he cooks them in the oven, Per changed his mind; Joe said it would probably just get hot.  Rekik thought that plastic would melt.  We also found out that when plastic is made it is often stretched during the process and that if it is then heated afterwards, it 'relaxes' or shrinks to a 'more comfortable', smaller shape.

So group by group we went downstairs to the oven and put in a tray of crisp bags.  We crowded round the glass door (well, it was pretty exciting) and watched.....and before our very eyes, the crisp bags shrank - to less than half their original size.


Back in the classroom we did a quick survey.  What are crisp bags made from?  How many people think it's paper (a couple of uncertain hands raised; but lowered again when Evie reminds us that paper would 'get on fire' if it went in the oven).  How many think they are made from metal?  No hands raised.  From plastic?  A veritable forest of arms.

PS For anyone who cares about these things, this Blog was posted using Windows Live Writer.

25 April 2008

An interesting investigation into shape

We had another look at the school grounds this morning; the focus this time was the boundary fence. What shape, we wondered, is the space taken up by the school and the playground?

Armed with a pristine sheet of A4 attached to a clipboard; and with a pencil tightly gripped, we set off for an expedition round the perimeter of the school; heading first for the place where the fence at the front of the school turns a corner.....

.....to run along the boundary between our soccer field and the tennis club next door.

We marked a blob on the paper to show that corner. We would mark all the corners with blobs and draw lines to show the fence between the blobs (or corners).

We needed to remember two things to stop us from getting in a muddle.
  • First we should always face in the same direction to draw each line

    (we were able to use the

    sun to help us)
  • Second, we should always keep our clipboard in the 'tummy place' (we marked the side of the paper where our tummy would touch it if we were holding the clipboard the right way round).

After that it was plain sailing (well, almost!)
.....look carefully at the direction the fence follows; face up; hold the clipboard in the 'tummy place'; draw the line; mark the next blob where the fence turns a corner - and run to the next corner.

.....look carefully at the next bit of fence; face up; hold the clipboard in the 'tummy place'; draw the line; mark the next blob - and so on.

We followed the fence right the way round the perimeter of the school (allowing a bit of poetic licence in the complicated part where cars drive in and out) and do you know what? We ended up back where we started. We had made a joined-up shape of some sort.
But what shape had we drawn?

A chorus of "It looks like a boot," rang out. Ah yes, but there is a proper name for the shape; we don't have to say 'it looks like a....'

Back to the classroom. Let's count the sides. Hmmm.....nine.

Think. We know that a shape with 3 sides is called a triangle; one with 4 is a rectangle (or a square; a trapezium; a parallelogram.....)

We know that a shape with 5 sides is a pentagon and one with 6 is a hexagon.

We learned that in fact any shape with 5 sides is called a pentagon. Any shape with 6 is a hexagon.

Any shape with 8 sides is an octagon (not an octopus)

and we learned that one with 7 is a heptagon.

And after we had thought about what the Swiss/French word for ninety is (nonante) we were able to work out that a nine-sided shape might be called a nonagon (it is!)
One with 10 sides is a decagon
(think and the decathlon).

So our 'boot-like' nine-sided shape is a nonagon. Now you know!

Oh and P.S. I just can't resist telling you about a few more polygons (that's what 2-dimensional shapes with straight sides are called) I have discovered. There is the pentadecagon which has 15 sides; the pentacontagon which has 50 sides; the octacontagon which has 80 sides; and my almost favourite, the chiliagon, which has 1,000 sides.

My favourite? A polygon with ten duotrigintillion sides
(ten duotrigintillion - also known as a googol - would be written like this: 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
It has the rather splendid name of a googolgon. I can't quite imagine what it would look like; although a circle springs to mind!

And finally.....
Apparently, the name Google is a play on the word googol, chosen because of the 'hugeness' of the number it represents (all those zeros). According to the Google website, Google's use of the term reflects the company's mission to organize the immense, seemingly infinite amount of information available on the web.
And you can't say fairer than that!

24 April 2008

What can we see from our school?

This is the entrance to our school.

It is on a quiet road on the edge of a small city.
Our school has a fence all the way around it marking the boundary.

This morning we went out with our clip-boards to see what we could see (a little like the bear who climbed over the mountain, perhaps) from the boundaries of our school.

We asked ourselves - Near our school are there.....
· places where people live?
· places where people shop?
· places where people work?
· places where people 'play'?

This is what we found:
Next to the soccer field at one side of our school, there is a place where people can relax, have a cup of coffee or a meal.

It is part of the tennis club (a place where people 'play'), where there are outdoor courts as well as indoor courts.....plus somewhere to park your car.

A little further round, in the grounds of the United Nations (UN) we spotted this beautiful house (only we are not quite sure yet whether it is a place where people live or a place where people work) behind which, we spotted Lake Geneva (a place we know people 'play').

On a bit more and still we are looking into the grounds of the UN (a place where people work). We saw a greenhouse, which made us think that people at the UN like to keep their gardens looking nice. Round a bit more and on the side of the school opposite where we started, we spotted one of the gate-houses of the UN (which has impressive electronic security). And in the distance we spotted a crane at work, which made us realise that something is changing in our local area.

On some more and now we are at the front of the school. Here we can see a field (with no cows in sight) and beyond, the offices of the ILO, the OMS (or WHO) and, as indicated by their famous flag, the US mission, all of which are places where people work.

So to summarise; we have places where people work and places where people 'play' near our school. We may have places where people live but, so far at least, we have seen no places where people shop.....But of course we are only just beginning our exploration of Our Local Area. Who knows what we might discover when we leave the school grounds?

23 April 2008

A funny thing happened.....but was it possibly too much of a co-incidence ?

This morning I had a quiet chat with Dangi. You see, when I was on the Internet checking the facts for yesterday's news stories, I did a search for frog/bag of spinach. The story I came up with took place in the Goldcoast of Australia, whereas Dangi's notes showed that the frog was found in Bath, England. The type of frog was also a little different (an eastern dwarf tree frog rather than a European tree frog). As you might imagine, I though it a little odd that such important details could be so different.

Anyway I asked Dangi to re-check his facts, and agreed that I would check mine again too. We would get together afterwards to compare notes.

So I went off and did some more 'research' and curiously enough, this time when I did my Internet search for frog/bag of spinach I found not one 'froggie-with-a-bag-of-spinach-problem', but two. It would appear that we were both right; yes, a family in Bath, England did find a green European tree frog nestling inside a bag of spinach. And yes, a few days later, an eastern dwarf tree frog was discovered in Australia, still alive inside a bag of spinach that had been kept in the refrigerator.

The two frogs had both been 'christened' Popeye (but perhaps, given the spinach connection, not so surprising).

Under the title 'Weird Intercontinental Frog Salad Synchronicity' (which put simply just means two strange things, to do with frogs and salad, happening at the same time) this is what I read:

As found by Dangi: Bath, England (5 days ago): A British family got more than they bargained for when they opened a bag of prepackaged spinach and out jumped a tiny green tree frog. It was named "Popeye" after the spinach-loving cartoon character. Popeye survived the incident unharmed and is due to be re-released into the wild.

As later discovered by me: Gold Coast, Queensland (1 day ago): An Australian woman got more than she bargained for when she opened a bag of prepackaged spinach and out jumped a tiny green tree frog. It was named "Popeye" after the spinach-loving cartoon character. Popeye survived the incident unharmed and is due to be re-released into the wild.

The article went on to suggest that it was more than a co-incidence.....
I wonder. Do you believe in the co-incidence of two green tree frogs being found in a bag of spinach on two separate continents (Australasia and Europe) within a couple of days of each other - or do you think perhaps that's too much of a co-incidence?

I am not sure what kind of frog it is lurking in amongst the 'spinach' leaves, but for the record, the photo in the earlier post is of an eastern dwarf tree frog (err.....at least I think it is!)

And by way of a final (yes, really!) addendum; I am reliably informed that the Spanish for spinach is espinaca. Canonigos (as printed on the label on the bag) are some other kind of edible leaf (probably what we call 'lamb's lettuce' in English). So the photograph of the frog in a bag of spinach ? Possibly not spinach at all! Curiouser and curiouser - as they say.