Fungus Challenge Teams at Irchester

The Lab_13 committee and a team of year 5 students have been battling it out to grow the best fungus.


We had a bag of straw, and we had some mycelium of Oyster Mushroom Fungus. First we poured hot water into the bag of straw (to kill any bacteria), then we let it cool overnight before putting the Mycelium in. Ten we put the bag in a warm place with little sunlight. After 4 weeks, we got the bag of straw out and saw that the fungus had grown all through the straw: there were lots of while bits. We put the fungus in the fridge for 2 days to make it think it was autumn. After that we cut the bag open and put it somewhere warm with a little sunlight.

We each had a different job, it’s now Josh and Aiden’s job to spray it every day. The winning team is the one that grows the biggest fungus. I think ours might win as the year 5s forgot to put theirs in the fridge for two days. They have done it now but we are still two days in front of them.

About a week after being in the fridge, we started to see mushrooms growing from the straw! Last week on Tuesday, both teams got together to compare our mushrooms. The year 5 team had more mushrooms, but they were much smaller and a bit dried out. We only had 3 mushrooms, but they looked big and healthy. We think that the year 5’s put their mushroom somewhere a bit too warm so they dried out. After comparing our fungi, we tasted them! We fried them and compared the tastes of the two fungi.  Out of 12 people, 9 decided to try some, and 7 really liked the Oyster mushrooms. We decided to try and grow some more fungus so we turned the straw over and started again!

By Josh, Abbie and Aiden (year 5)

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CHaOS at Irchester!

On Wednesday year 5 and 6 went to see a group called CHaOS (Cambridge Hands On Science). CHaOS had lots of fun science experiments set up in our school hall with university students to explain them. There was also year 5 and 6 from Bozeat Primary and year 7 from Wollaston Secondary, who arrived in mini-buses, as this was the first event of the new Nene Valley Partnership between the three schools.

Ben’s favourite experiment was the skulls because he likes animals and correctly guessed what some of the skulls were. There was the skull of a cat, a dog, a shark and a fish skull. For another experiment, we held a bicycle wheel on a handle. We span the wheel and if you moved around with it, it felt out of control! If you held the wheel and then turned it right whilst sitting on the spinny chair, you would start to spin right without touching anything else!

Another experiment was some special glasses, called prism glasses. If you tried to high five someone while wearing them, you would completely miss their hand because the glasses moved everything you could see to the side!

After the hands on activities, we in the committee showed the university students some of our own experiments. We did marshmallow hands: which is when you rub your hands together on a piece of wire, and it tricks your nerves to make your hands soft and marshmallow like. Dulcie thought the CHaOS group would know how everything worked already, but they were amazed by our experiments and want to borrow our ideas!

By Dulcie and Ben, Year 5

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Balloon Rigs and Interview Questions

Year 6 were away so today each of the MT year 5s got to bring a guest to the lab with them. This was a good way to introduce new kids in to the lab. 

We spent the first half of the session building balloon rigs…

…which we’ll be testing out next week when we take aerial photos from the courtyard garden! We will post our results to the public lab citizen science project and we’ll be showing the photos to the rest of the school in an assembly before the end of term.

At break-time we did more science busking in the playground. This time we did the slinky trick and soft hands. We were completely surrounded and the tricks were really popular! Pupils said they wished we could do science busking everyday.

Then we discussed applications for next year’s management team and wrote out our questions for the form…

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Irchester Borrowed the Moon!

Last week, some moon rocks arrived into the school! These were real samples collected from the Moon by the Apollo Astronauts almost 50 years ago. They are still owned by NASA, who trusted us to look after them for a week! They also came with lots of different meteorites: space rocks! We borrowed them from the STFC, through their amazing “Borrow the Moon” scheme.

We had to go through an extra protective security check so we could be trusted with them because the meteorites are worth thousands of pounds. The lunar samples are actually priceless, so if we lose them or break them we can’t go back and gets some more moon rocks because it has been almost fifty years since anyone has been to the Moon. We are very lucky to have the moon rocks, and all know how important it is that we look after them. Miss Draper had to make sure nobody opened the case when she wasn’t in the room, even other staff members: so the case has 2 padlocks, and was kept in a locked cupboard!


Miss Draper came round all the classrooms, so everyone could look at all the moon rocks and meteorites. There was a tiny meteorite from Mars, a huge heavy iron meteorite, and some stone meteorites. There was also some Earth rock that is very similar to the moon, and some melted Earth rock and sand: which got melted by the impact of a meteorite! We tested if they were magnetic and only the meteorites were:  the Iron ones were very magnetic (the large campo cielo iron meteorite, and the Udei station iron meteorite) while the stone meteorites were a bit magnetic , so they must have had some iron in them.

The Moon rock was encased in a plastic disk to keep it safe: there were three different types of rock, and three different types of soil (smashed up rock).

It was really interesting to be able to see the different samples; amazing to touch a rock that had been in space; and an honour to hold a piece of the Moon and Mars!

If you want to Borrow the Moon, go to the STFC website to find out more and apply: Borrow the Moon

By Abbie and Aiden (yr 5)



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Rigs and Rockets

We had a busy session at the lab today!

We started designing camera rigs for balloon mapping. This is a technique used all around the world to map environmental issues such as oil spills, fracking sites and green spaces in cities. With publiclab we are working to try and build rigs for carrying the cameras up into the sky better.

The key properties for the rig are…

  • Materials are readily available and cheap
  • Lightweight
  • Has something to stop the camera swaying

You can read more about our designs in our research note published on their website…

We are going to be testing the rigs public lab have made already as well as coming up with our own ones! This research will feed into the international citizen science project and if it’s successful our designs could be used by balloon mappers all over the world!

In break-time, we took science busking into the playground to show other kids in the school some science tricks. We made alka seltzer rockets and performed the slinky trick.

Here is a write-up of the rockets we made from Kathleen…

We are going to start running science busking sessions in afternoon playtimes once a week because the kids enjoyed it so much!

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Irchester News: Journey to a chick life

This term we have had some very exciting visitors in the lab! Just after the Easter holidays they first appeared: not doing very much! Miss Draper had adopted some chick eggs. When she got them back to school the eggs had to be warm enough for the chicks to grow inside. In order to stay warm, the eggs were put in an incubator at 37.5 degrees. After 2 weeks, year 5 and 6 candled the eggs to see if they were growing. They candled them by shining a bright light through the shell, so they could see the shadows of anything growing inside. Good news, all 11 eggs were fertile with chicks growing inside! We could see the blood vessels, the shadow of the chick, and some of them were even moving and kicking.

After 3 weeks, surprisingly the first chick hatched overnight.  Miss Draper knew it had hatched because a time lapse camera was placed watching the incubator. Sadly, egg number 9 died in the process of hatching and egg number 6 never developed fully so didn’t hatch.

Each child was able to sponsor an egg if they wanted to, there was a choice of 11 eggs. If you sponsored an egg you could suggest a name for that chick, and if your chick hatched first you won a kinder egg.

Luckily, we now have nine healthy chicks, and we chose names at random from all the suggestions. So now we have new names for the chicks which are, Goliath, Jo Jo, Shaniqua, Daisy, Lucy, Fluffy, Sparkle, Michael and Toffee. Goliath was first, and is suiting his name because he is the biggest!

 After 1 week:

They’re a bit bigger and are in a new cage. We have also weighed them. Here are the results: The heaviest is Goliath: 105g, he is also the oldest. The lightest is Jo-Jo:  67g. The youngest chick is Sparkle, she is also the 3rd heaviest. we couldn’t weigh Daisy as she was too skittish and wouldn’t stay on the scales! 

3 weeks: 

thank’s to a very kind donation from a parent, the chicks now have a lovely big run to stretch their legs in! It has a roof over the top,which is very important as Jo-Jo and Lucy can now use their wings enough to jump out!

5 weeks: 

We can start to tell whether the chicks are male or female now, as the male cockerels are growing much bigger red combs than the female hens. We think Lucy, Daisy and Jo Jo are cockerels, the other 6 look like hens.  Though it’s still hard to tell, as they are all different breeds.

6 Weeks:

We have had the chicks for 6 weeks and they are ready to go to their new homes. The chicks will have more space, and be able to go outside. They are going to three different homes with family and friends of the school, we hope they really enjoy their new homes!


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Lab_13 Irchester’s 8th Birthday!

To celebrate the Birthday of Lab_13 Irchester, we always have a special day filled with science exploration. This year, for our 8th Birthday: it is 50 years since the first people walked on the moon, and we will have a very special delivery in school soon, so we themed our day on the future of Moon exploration!

Dulcie and Ben have written about the day:

Recently it was the Lab 13’s birthday and every year group did an experiment to do with the moon. The birthday was about the moon because it was 50 years since the first moon landing.  The Lab 13 committee did an assembly about the moon. We did lots of different things about the moon. We launched a rocket off on a piece of string. Miss Draper also talked about the future of the moon and by 2024 they would have people permanently living on the moon. We also did a quiz about the moon.

Here are some of the experiments we did in class: Year 5 made rockets out of straw and balloons. They attached a balloon to the bottom of a narrow straw. Then cut a bit of thicker straw off, folded the top over and taped it. Then they blew into the straw (which made the balloon blow up).Then put the folded straw on the end of the narrow straw and the “rocket” shot into the air.

Reception made a moon out of shaving cream and made plastic meteorites and threw them at the shaving cream, to look like meteorites hitting the moon.

We also were lucky enough to have a planetarium. That is when you go in a huge inflatable black bubble, and you look up at the top of the bubble and you can see the stars and the solar system.

By Dulcie and Ben Yr 5

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