Gillespie news: Space Camp!

Gillespie School’s first ever scientific spectacular Space Camp


At Gillespie School we are hosting our first ever Space Camp. The Lab_13 committee with the help of teachers will be managing the night. The first Space Camp will be exclusive to Y6, then other classes will also get the chance to participate. The main activity for the night we hope will be stargazing if the weather is good. The other activities we will be hosting are astronaut training exercises, the science of space and the art of space. We will be sleeping over in school until the next morning. The next day we will be sharing our experience of Space Camp in our weekly sharing assembly.

The think I am looking forward to most is sleeping over in school! And the astronaut exercises because I know they need to exercise a lot to maintain their strength in space because of the gravity. When we were in Y5 we learnt about the ISS and about how astronauts need to exercise to maintain their bone strength. I want to learn new exercises as I only know a few.

Y6 responded enthusiastically when our teacher told us the news about Space Camp!

Written by Leila Y6

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Chicks Update and Photos from Irchester

The chicks hatched on the 30th of June and the 1st of July. Of the 18 eggs we had, unfortunately 9 of them didn’t hatch, but nine did and are doing great, and very noisy! They always chirp to each to each other (except when they all fall asleep under their “electric chicken” heater). They are all different colours: 2 yellow ones, 3 black ones, 2 grey ones, a dark reddish-brown one and a ginger one. Some of them really like to be held and stroked, others prefer to run around! Most of the younger children have had a chance to come and hold the chicks, all the older ones will get a chance this week too.

We have done a few experiments on the chicks while they’re in the lab. One was to put wood shavings on only one side of the enclosure to see what side the chicks prefer.  The results are that at first the chicks stayed on the paper (probably because it was what they were used to) but then all moved to the wood shavings. This showed that they like the wood shavings more, so we have now covered the whole floor with them. The chicks have also started to scratch and dig through the shavings, looking for food.


Experimenting to see what colour the chicks prefer. 


Science Club watching the chicks navigate (and destroy) their maze

We did another experiment to see what kind of shiny things they prefer, and what colour they like to stand on most. We also did an intelligence test by hiding food inside a plastic cup. They found the food pretty quickly, but then kept pecking the cup even when it was empty. We have also been weighing them every day to see how fast they are growing. Today on day 10, the heaviest one is double the weight of the lightest one!

In Science club, they made a maze to see if they could find their way to the food in the middle. Unfortunately our walls weren’t high enough, so the chick kept jumping over them!

The year 2’s came in to make some scientific diagrams and fact files about the chicks, and the Year 6’s came in with their Foundation stage buddies to look at the life cycle of a chick, and have a go at holding one. The chicks are even starting to use their wings to fly on top of their heater to get their reward: food!


Everyone resting after a tiring day with year 4 and 5

We candled the eggs that didn’t hatch to see what happened: most of them didn’t really have anything inside, so either the egg never started to grow into a chick, or it stopped growing and died very early. Unfortunately two eggs looked like they were almost ready to hatch, but must have died just before.

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Incubating eggs at Irchester

This week’s labs blog is about the chick eggs that have been in the lab for almost three weeks!  We got 18 chicken eggs from Mini Meadows Farm in Northampton. There are three different breeds of eggs, all different colours. When they hatch the chicks will be different colours as well. The three main breeds we have are Rhode Island Red, Cream Leg Bar and Salmon Faverolles: The eggs are dark brown, light brown and light blue, and some are spotty. We are not sure what the spotty ones are, they might be another breed. We are keeping them all in an incubator to keep them warm, and turn them regularly just like a mother chicken would.

After 10 days we had to candle the eggs to see if they were alive or not.  Candling is where you have a special light which you put the egg on. It shines right through the shell so we can see a shadow if the chick is alive and growing, and it doesn’t show anything then the egg was probably not fertilised and will never grow into a chick. Year 4 candled them and out of 18 eggs, 13 are definitely alive and 5 of them we are not sure about. We could tell that they were alive because we could see the blood veins, a shadow and some of them were even moving!

On Tuesday we had to take the incubator off the turner, so it stops rocking the eggs. Now we have to keep the incubator closed so the humidity (the amount of water in the air) stays high: the chicks need it to hatch. They are supposed to hatch tomorrow and we are really excited! We asked children to sponsor and name the eggs: whichever one hatches first wins a prize!


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Taking two Lab_13 experiments to South End Juniors!

Last week we went to South End Junior School to teach the year 4s and year 5s how to do some experiments! On Tuesday we met the year 4s, and told them all about exothermic and endothermic reactions. We used yeast and hydrogen peroxide for the exothermic experiment: it bubbled up and got warmer. Then we used bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar for the endothermic experiment: it fizzed and got colder! We asked the year 4’s which reaction they thought happened inside their bodies to keep them warm: every class got it right and said Exothermic. The children were very enthusiastic about the experiments and wanted to know more.


The other experiment we did was extracting DNA with Year 5. They did it themselves and really enjoyed it. First we asked the classes if they knew what DNA does: lots of them knew it makes us all different and who we are, but they didn’t know that is also the instructions that make us grow into humans, all living things have different instructions in their DNA. But lots of the DNA is the same: did you know that half our DNA is the same as in a cabbage!  We extracted the DNA from peas, using a pestle and mortar, alcohol, salty water and washing up liquid.  This was to crush up the peas, then break up the pea cells to get the DNA out of them. Adding the ethanol made a cloudy layer appear: this is the DNA!

We really enjoyed getting to be the “teacher” for a lesson, and going to another school to show them the kind of things we do in the lab is great!

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Lab_13 Irchester’s 5th Birthday Party!

To celebrate Lab_13 Irchester turning a fantastic 5 years old, we had an amazing day; the Wonderful World of Science!  It was a Birthday party that lasted all day, and everyone in the school could come! We had three different zones for Chemistry, Biology and Physics, and all of year 4 and year 6, as well as the Committee helped run it. All the children in the school got to come round to see and do all the experiments, and parents were invited to come round in the afternoon. They all seemed very impressed!


The teachers loved being the ones to play for once!

First let’s talk about the Biology zone, here there was a competition to make a model wild life garden, with good habitats like a pond, flowers, long grass and trees. We gave away packs of wildflower seeds for people to plant and grow in their model gardens! One of the governors Mrs Bugby came it to dissect some hearts and eyeballs for us, lots of children got to hold them! Mr Blakie, one of the parents came in with loads of invertebrates (spiders and insects and other bugs) and showed them to all the children, telling us all about them. There was a giant stick insect, much much bigger than ours! Mrs Venn also came in with her pet snake called Jaffa.

In the Physics Zone, there were two competitions: one to see who could fire a straw rocket the furthest, and one to make the best CD spinner. There were lots of things that looked like magic tricks: waterproof cloth, floating magnets, super strong newspaper and flashing balls: but they could all be explained with Physics! At the end of each session, Miss Draper fired a giant version of our straw rockets, and we used one of the conducting balls to see if the electricity could go through everyone in the room to make the ball light up: and it worked!

Chemistry was the messy zone! We could make our own lava lamp out of water, oil and fizzy tablets, and make crystals out of sugar, salt, or something called Alum. There is a competition now to see who can grow the best crystal at home! Some Year Fours showed us a great trick where it looks like water is turning into wine: but actually the water and wine just swap places in the two glasses. The messiest experiment was the Cornflour Slime: if you put your hand in it slowly it feels like a slimy liquid, but if you hit it, the cornflour doesn’t splash; it goes really hard like a solid!


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Agape Academy Activity of the Week

The activity of the week at Agape Academy was about the Heart and it’s function. It was demonstrated by SMC member Enocksticia Opoku and special guest from class 6, Widad Ali.

Check out our AWESOME video:

To start, we made an introduction by saying the hearts main function is to circulate blood through the body. Our activity was to use clay dough to create a model of the heart and its four chambers and four main blood vessels.

We explained the heart that the heart has four chambers, the upper chambers are called atria and we have two – a right and left atria; and the bottom chambers are called ventricles and we have two of these as well – right and left ventricles. There are four main blood vessels connected to the heart.

The deoxygenated blood passes through the vena cava and enters the left atrium and after that the left atrium sends it out into the left ventricle. It then gets pumped up into the pulmonary artery which leads to the lungs for oxygenation.

The oxygenated blood is sent via the pulmonary vein into the right atrium and then to the right ventricle which pumps it strongly out of the aorta and into the body to be used for lots of different things, but mostly respiration.

Widad Ali made the advice that we should minimise the amount of oily food we eat, such as fried rice, chicken, porks etc, to avoid the blood being choked in our heart and its blood vessels which could cause a heart attack.

Thank you!

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Rocket Science results are in!

We have just submitted our results for the very exciting Rocket Science Experiment with the RHS!

It all started back is April, when we were sent two packets of seeds: one of them had been in space! We got the seeds from astronaut Tim Peake, who looked after them on the space station, then sent them back down to Earth. We were very confused when we were told they were rocket seeds: space rockets don’t grow from seeds! But then we discovered that rocket is also a type of plant, a salad leaf which humans can eat.

We planted both packets of seeds and measured them to see how well they would grow. Either the blue packet trays or the red packet trays might have grown differently, because they experienced micro-gravity while being in space. All of year 2, and groups from year 3, 4 and 5 and science club helped do the measurements. We also set up a time lapse camera, and have made a film of the seeds growing over the whole 5 weeks, you can see it here:


planting carefully

year 2 planting carefully

Now that we have finished and taken all our results, we have given them to the UK space agency, where the results will be looked at and used by real scientists.They will use our results to see if seeds can be grown after being in space, so we can send people to Mars one day. It takes over a year to get to Mars, so the astronauts will need to be able to grow fresh food for the journey, and once they arrive on Mars. Would you like to know what we discovered?


Our Results!

The Red and Blue seeds were very similar in how they grew, but there were some differences! The red trays have grown slightly better, with 90% of the plants alive at the end of the experiment, while only 89% of the blue plants were still alive.  The red plants also had more leaves: with an average of 4.6 leaves on the red plants, but only 4.3 on the blue ones.

We think the BLUE ones have been in space, because they have not grown as well. Being in space is not what plants are used to: getting knocked around in the rocket, floating in microgravity, maybe a different amount of oxygen and the extra radiation could all have damaged the seeds to make them not grow quite as well. We will find out once all the results are in whether we are right! Both sets of seeds did grow really well, so we can recommend that astronauts take rocket seeds with them to Mars as they will grow fine after being in space.

The one problem is that we can’t eat the rocket that has grown, because it could have mutated while being in space: we need more research to find out if they are safe!


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