Merry Christmas!

UntitledWow – it’s Christmas already! What a busy term we’ve had in Lab_13 Irchester – we’ve opened “Lab_13 goes Wild” our foundation stage forest school, celebrated our Gold PSQM Award with a whole school gold science day and at the ThinkTank Awards,  our Guest Scientist in Residence month,  competed in the Pi Wars Raspberry Pi competition and been awarded STAR CLUB status from Code Club International,  Miss Hogan worked at the Abu Dhabi Science Festival and we’ve worked at the Society of Biology in Cambridge. We’ve had over 70 teachers from other schools come to our training sessions, had visitors from all over the UK and further away (like Australia!) and finished off the term with an amazing super fantastic Fire & Ice Science Extravaganza! That’s not including the nearly 100 children’s questions that we’ve answered! Phew! Here’s to an even bigger and better New Year!

Merry Christmas to all of our friends!

Love, Lab_13 Irchester

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#ScienceGrrl Science of Christmas facts #4

For Christmas, the ScienceGrrl Oxford (and Irchester!) Chapter have decided to celebrate girls in STEM at Christmas and give you 12 days of surprising Christmasssy science facts! Here is #ScienceGrrl #12days fact No. 4 from @DrJoVian

How-to-see-great-comet-ison-2013-cover-1 In the Nativity, the Three Wise Men find the baby Jesus by following the brightest star in the sky on the 24th of December, the Star of Bethlehem.

Due to the research and studies of astrophysics scientists, such as Caroline Herschel – a comet hunter,  we now think that the Star of Bethlehem Image-of-mystery-of-xmas-starcould have actually been a comet!

Some people over at XKCD have some more ideas about the possibility of the 3 wise men following a moving comet and what might have happened!   

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#ScienceGrrl Science of Christmas facts #3

For Christmas, the ScienceGrrl Oxford (and Irchester!) Chapter have decided to celebrate girls in STEM at Christmas and give you 12 days of surprising Christmasssy science facts! Here is #ScienceGrrl #12days fact No. 3 from @sarahbearchell

beanstalkncastleDo you remember at the end of the Christmas Pantomime Jack and The Beanstalk, Jack’s mum cuts down the beanstalk and the Giant tumbles to his death? Have you ever wondered how big that beanstalk was?

The simple answer is that it would need to have a trunk of 40m diameter, that’s the same as about 115 eight year old children holding hands in a big circle. Jack’s mum really was a strong Grrl!

Do you want to know how I calculated this? Then read on……

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#ScienceGrrl Science of Christmas facts #2

For Christmas, the ScienceGrrl Oxford (and Irchester!) Chapter have decided to celebrate girls in STEM at Christmas and give you 12 days of surprising Christmasssy science facts! Here is #ScienceGrrl #12days fact No. 2 from @drnatashajsmith 

We think Mistletoe is the romantic plant of the festive season and is all about love but actually there is some interesting science behind mistletoe too!

mistletoeberriesAll that lovely Mistletoe we see full of bright pearly white berries? Yep – all female plants! Mistletoe has separate male and female plants – and if yours is a male it won’t have any berries. Even some female plants don’t have berries if they grow in isolation, away from other (male) mistletoe plants.

Sadly, the word “mistletoe” itself isn’t very romantic either. Several hundred years ago, some people observed that mistletoe tended to grow where birds had left their droppings. “Mistal” is an Anglo-Saxon word that means “dung” and “tan” means “twig,” so mistletoe actually means “dung on a twig.” But actually this is not the Mistletoes’ dispersal method of choice as actually the seed is very sticky and attaches to feathers and beaks of birds and fur of passing animals in order to be moved to a new place. 

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#ScienceGrrl Science of Christmas facts #1

For Christmas, the ScienceGrrl Oxford (and Irchester!) Chapter have decided to celebrate girls in STEM at Christmas and give you 12 days of surprising Christmasssy science facts! Here is #ScienceGrrl #12days fact No. 1

santa-reindeerReindeer and caribou are the only deer  where males and females grow antlers. Males use their antlers for social dominance while females normally use their antlers for protecting precious food resources.

Like other deer, reindeer shed their antlers annually. Males drop their antlers after the mating season usually by the start of December. Normally, the females keep their antlers until a week or so after calving. Females lose their antlers in spring, growing them back in time for winter when they need their antlers to compete with other females over holes they dig in the snow to reach lichens and to provide food for their offspring.

So what does that mean for Santa?  It means, that we can assume that as all the reindeer we see pulling Santa’s sleigh in December have beautiful velvety antlers then they are probably all females and probably all pregnant! In fact, even their names could seem more fitting for girl reindeer – Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen. Look’s like we’re going to have to change “him”s to “her”s in Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer!

For more science facts about Christmas follow #12days and #sciencegrrl on twitter!

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Guest Scientist in Residence – Carole Bugby

Our Guest Scientist in Residence on Friday 21st and Monday 24th November was Mrs Carol Bugby. Carol was a science technician at a local secondary school for many years and is always doing fun science experiments with her grandchildren. Carol has recently been appointed as Governor at Irchester School where she has a special input in school science and Lab_13. Luca, Carol’s grandson, took this opportunity to give Carol a real life experience as a scientist in residence. Carole worked with the children on “The Science of Salt”.

Picture1While Miss Hogan was away we had different guest scientists in residence who came to do different experiments with the children. We are going to tell you what happened when some children went into the lab with Mrs Bugby. Mrs Bugby session was all to do witht he science of salt!

First of all, we had a competition to see who could pick out the ice cube only with salt and string from a beaker of water. Mason won because he had a tactic of getting the ice cube out by putting two teaspoons of salt on. It started to melt because of the heat in the room. Then he slowly poured some salt onto the ice cube, which made the melted ice form back around the string and he could pick it up.
We all tried it and it was fun!

Picture3We also tried to float an egg on water, which was quite hard. You had a glass of water and you poured some Sodium Chloride into the glass to make sure it didn’t mix in with the water. The egg slowly floated up to the surface of water. Also, we put some sodium into a bowl of water and it reacted by racing around banging on the sides with sparks flying out of it. It was awesome!


We learnt that the scientific name for salt was Sodium Chloride and that the average amount for a child in year 4,5 and 6 is 5g of salt a day. If you don’t have enough salt you might get heart disease, cancer and poor muscle function. We also learnt why too much salt is bad for you. At the end of our experiments, we made a poster about all the facts we found out and listed the salt content of some common foods!

Luca, Bethany and Molly

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Dr. Natasha Smith – ScienceGrrl Geoscientist Interview

Madison, one of our ex-Lab_13 committee members has become very interested in geology this year and was especially excited about the subject of volcanology and geosciences after a brilliant visit from our guest scientist in residence Dr. David Bailey @geooutreach. Madison wanted to speak to a real geoscientist about their work and how to forge a career in the area and got interview Dr. Natasha Smith, a ScienceGrrl from Oxford!

 Hi! I’m Madison and I’m a year six pupil. I’m 10 years old and I’ve been interested in geology for a while and I am inspired by UK geoscience. Would you mind if I interviewed you on this?


Dear Madison,

Thank you for your questions, scientists like it when school children take an interest in what we do! I will try to answer them as best as I can.

  1. Have you been interested in volcanology/geoscience all your life?

unnamed (2)Yes, I think so! I grew up in Cornwall, a place that has some really beautiful landscapes and very cool rocks. I used to play on the beaches with my big brother, and I wanted to know how the cliffs and caves were formed, why some of the rocks were folded into shapes, and why the tin mines were there. Behind my house, there was a castle on a hill built into the rocks- we loved playing up there!

The rest of the interview is here

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