Last Saturday was Bedales Pre-prep, Dunannie’s STEM themed Open Morning. Five of our Block 5 students – Rhiannon Griffith, Milo Whittle, Ben Bradberry, Mabel Watson and Athena Lucas – filled their lab coat pockets full of chocolates (the one and only time they will be allowed to put food in a lab coat!) and headed down to Dunannie to help the children with their science experiments.
There was an amazing range of experiments on offer, from making lava lamps using immiscible liquids and building circuits to power buzzers, to programming the Beebot robots to move and light up on command and looking at field line patterns using magnets. The students were tasked with judging each exhibit on presentation and also the scientific knowledge of the children manning the experiment. They also fielded questions from prospective parents about what studying at Bedales was like and the excellent opportunities on offer for students interested in pursuing science. I thought Milo was maybe a bit harsh giving one small six-year-old five out of ten for scientific knowledge – he did award a lot of chocolate though!
Over the past few weeks, in collaboration with a group of Block 3 Outdoor Work students and the Sustainability Group, we have begun the huge task of cataloguing the school’s biodiversity.
We started with the Lake, where we discovered 28 different species of freshwater animals, including water boatmen, dragonfly and damselfly nymphs, whirlgig beetles and flatworms. A walk around the centre of the site revealed 38 species of tree and 19 birds, such as the green woodpecker and nuthatch. The use of a moth trap also showed there were 14 moth species in the wildlife garden behind the Science department, which is remarkable, considering it is late in the year.
Biologists in 6.1 travelled to the Apollo Theatre in London to hear a series of lectures by some of the country’s leading scientists as part of A Level Biology Live.
First was 2009 Nobel Prize winner and President of the Royal Society, Professor Sir Venki Ramakrishnan (pictured above), whose many scientific contributions include his work on the atomic structure of ribosomes. Ribosomes exist in their millions in every cell, and are the site where genetic information is read to synthesise proteins from amino acids. He began work on ribosomes in the late 1970s and eventually discovered their complex three-dimensional structure in 2000, with the aid of X-ray crystallography.
Next, Professor Robert Winston – who was the Bedales Eckersley Lecture speaker in 2013 – spoke about manipulating human reproduction, from his work in vitro fertilisation, through to regenerative medicine such as stem cell research and epigenetics, which may turn out to be the most important biological development in the years to come. However, he warned that manipulating the human will always be dangerous, uncertain and unpredictable.
Last Wednesday there was a 3i/science lecture given by Dr Tim Mason on the subject of Edward Jenner and the development of vaccines.
As with all of Dr Mason’s lectures, this was a rich mix of social history and scientific information and it traced the early origins of the Variola viruses and the evidence for early smallpox outbreaks worldwide.
Benjamin Jesty and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu played important roles in the work that eventually led to Edward Jenner trying out his vaccine on James Phipps. Dr Mason took us right up to the present day, where the smallpox is eradicated worldwide, with only a few samples safely (we hope!) held in labs.
This was a really well attended event and we are once again grateful to Dr Mason for such an excellent evening.
The next evening, 6.1 Biologists visited St Swithun’s, where there was a ‘Meet the Scientist’ evening. Students heard an inspiring talk by a young physicist who described her scientific journey from Cyprus to Germany to England and the trials and tribulations of working on new projects in new countries.
Afterwards, there was the opportunity to meet and hold discussions with a range of scientists – including a surgeon, marine ecologists, neurologist and more – to find out about their own work and hear about their own journeys. It was a useful and stimulating event that introduced students to a range of new opportunities.