Trip to the Musem

P1/2/3 had a fantastic trip to the Museum of Islay Life in Port Charlotte looking at how people lived 100 years ago.  Jenny Minto showed them the old box bed, an griddle that hung over the fire to make oatcakes and bannocks and all the things that would have been familiar sights in schools 100 years ago.  Everyone was fascinated by the old belt that teachers used to use! Thank you Jenny.

Trip to the Museum

P1/2/3 had a wonderful trip to the Museum of Islay Life in Port Charlotte to find out what life was like 100 years ago.  They were fascinated by the chamber pot and the fact that people had to go outside to the toilet! P1/2/3 have been learning about school long ago.  They have discovered that there used to be many more schools in Islay and that teachers were much stricter! We saw the old teachers high desk and the wooden child’s desk at the museum together with the ink pots and slates that children would have used a century ago.  This is part of island-wide history learning associated with the WW1 commemorations.  We also found out about a schoolgirl from Port Ellen that gave an her account of what happened in the village following the sinking of the Tuscania.  Old log books have given a poignant insight into that time. Thanks to Jenny Minto for a great visit.

February Diary

Renewables Engineering Islay – February Diary


We’ve had a really busy few weeks ….


Wind Turbine Building

P4/5 and Kate Brown have been busy investigating wind power, moving from pinwheels to desk turbines and finally to designing floating wind turbines…perfect for an island location.  This was a fun and busy time in the classroom.  Children planned their models, thinking carefully about the design criteria and materials available.  They then decided which of their ideas were best and worked in pairs or independently to build their models.  They used their Engineering Habits of Mind to guide them and repeatedly tested, altered and improved their turbines as they went along.  Testing was done in the rowing boat in the Nursery area as it was full of rainwater.  Many models toppled over or sank but the best ideas are going to be improved further and entered into a competition.  We’ll keep you posted….

Dearbhla reported My design was very hard to make because you had to get the exact measurements.  We needed to work well in a team together. I think we need to understand where our power comes from and grown ups need to know that too.

Morgan said I enjoyed making my turbine because we got to make little models from the junk box and my model was big but it took quite a while to get the base done.  The playdough on the base was not effective.

KNEX Renewables

P6/7 and Jo Clark have been improving their engineering skills by building with the new KNEX we purchased.  Working in groups and pairs, employing teamwork skills and applying engineering habits of mind, they have built wind turbines, water wheels, solar vehicles and paddle powered cars.  P1/2/3 were given a demonstration and explanation of how they worked. Ellen said We made a wind turbine and it was made out of KNEX and when you spun the wheels one of the coils would turn into a smaller wheel and go into a generator.  The generator was connected to a wire which then turned a roundabout. I loved doing that and I am going to ask my mum if I can get KNEX at home.

CPD Event for Teachers

As part of our commitment to extend our project out form our own school Maggie Harrison and Maureen MacDonald have been in discussions with Headteachers from the other cluster primary schools to organize some shared engineering challenges.  Maggie is part of the SSERC Primary Cluster Programme and is one of three mentors on Islay and Jura who have organized a series of CPD events for teachers to improve confidence in STEM teaching.  It has provided the perfect opportunity to include some further CPD linked to our Rolls-Royce project so she shared a SSERC presentation on Engineering Thinking to cluster colleagues. Great fun was had by all. Comments from colleagues included Excellent, engaging and great fun.  Easy to apply ideas. Team Port Ellen won the best designed chair for Baby Bear!


Offsetting our Carbon Footprint

P6/7 with Jo Clark have been finding out about ways to offset our carbon footprint and improve the environment.  They discovered a search engine called Ecosia which uses revenue from it’s search ads to plant trees.  It is a social business who believe that trees have the power to make the world a better place for everyone.  Their mission is to plant one billion new trees by 2020…so far they have planted over 20 million! Did you know that every time you search the internet you produce CO2 emissions? We have put Ecosia on all the school computers and ipads so that we can research in a more environmentally friendly way and we hope all readers of this blog will use Ecosia too!


Saving Polar Bears

In P1/2/3 with Maggie Harrison, the children have been very concerned about the plight of polar bears as the ice is melting due to global warming.  We have had some very interesting discussions and the children have decided that they would like to adopt a polar bear.  They are on a mission to sell ‘Popcorn for Polar Bears.’ It was Katie’s idea;  I think saving polar bears important because they will all die if they can’t get food  and the babies can’t swim so far if the ice melts.


Large Scale Engineering in Pre-School

Children in nursery have been using some Quadro to design and build some large scale structures during Joint Sessions with P1/2; first a tent for teddy complete with tarpaulin that had to be tested to check that it was waterproof; then a hide to watch birds for the Great Schools Birdwatch. One of our dads, who works for the RSPB, was on hand for a bit of expert advice! Alison Logan is now involving the children in decision making about the sorts of building materials they would like us to buy to develop their skills further.

We have not had any outgoings this month and have £4369 remaining in our budget.

How we get electricity

P1/2/3 have been learning where electricity comes from.  We watched video clips of how power is generated  in a power station by burning coal and oil to make steam which then turns the huge turbines.  We built models to show that we understood how power gets from the power stations to our homes and why we should never play near electricity pylons.  It also struck home that this is what causes emissions that cause global warming, linked to our Who will Save us? topic.

Learning where electricity comes from

P1/2/3 are learning about electricity this term.  They are building on the work they did about energy in the first term and finding out about all the ways that they use electricity, how to use electricity safely and where electricity comes from.  They watched video clips from power stations and saw a model made of spoons that turned using the power of steam. This helped them to understand what was happening on a larger scale.  They decided to make models to show how electricity gets from power stations into their homes.

RSPB Visitor

During a recent joint session with P1/2 and Pre-5 children we were delighted to welcome David Wood in to talk to the children.  This coincided with Springwatch and we all watched part of the programme showing the golden eagles on Islay.  The children were shown the model of the eagle to demonstrate the wingspan and then  some of the Primary 1 children made their own scaled eagle.

David then helped the children to build a hide in preparation for taking part in the Big School Birdwatch.

January Diary

Renewables Engineering Islay – January


The new term started on the 8th January and the new year has started with wild and windy weather here in Islay.  A perfect opportunity to see wind power in action….


Renewables Visits

Last week Primary 6/7 with Jo Clark went on a renewables trip around the Island with George Dean from the Islay Energy Trust to find out more about how our island is helping fight global warming.  They visited the community wind turbine, the biomass generator at Dunlossit house, the Solar panels at the Gaelic College and a micro hydro electric scheme at Ballygrant quarry.  Here they got to see renewable feats of engineering in their local environment.  A few days later Kate Brown and Primary 4/5 had the opportunity to do the same trip.

Robyn and Phoenix wrote We went inside the wind turbine.  it was very noisy. Mr. Dean showed us how fast the blades were going. It was going very fast for a small wind turbine. Mr. Dean talked about wind turbines and how much it cost (the wind turbine cost £1.2 million) and how it works. We learned the satellite on the wind turbine sends the information about how much electricity is produced to the company in Germany. Millie and Charlet Rose told us that The wind turbine stopped spinning at one point when we were there and the kilowatts went to zero. The wind turbine can adjust it’s blade depending on the direction of the wind and can shut down if it gets too windy.

Both classes got such a lot of learning from their visits and it helped them to understand that a sustainable energy solution can be a mix of different types of renewable energies. George Dean spoke to P4/5 about the history of the Islay Community turbine and all the considerations that were taken into account when siting the turbine.  The class enjoyed a debate about whether a wind turbine should be built at the Ard, in Port Ellen however children didn’t want one in their own back yard.

BP Ultimate STEM Challenge Competition

Inspired by their visit to the micro hydroelectric scheme, one group of Primary 7s decided to build and test their own hydro electric generator from KNEX for the BP Ultimate STEM challenge competition.  They produced a video which can be viewed on the school website at Lauren said It was a good experience to learn about all the different energy sources.  It was really challenging to build our turbine and we had detailed plans.  We did lots of testing to see which combination produced the most energy.


Energy Use in School

Continuing our learning about energy in Term1, Kate Brown’s class (P4/5) are continuing to try and persuade us all to use less energy.  The Lights-Off Christmas Disco with glow sticks was a roaring success and children thought that it was the best disco ever! Next on the agenda is the use of plastic!  Primary 6/7 have finally managed to complete the school’s carbon footprint.  We found out that the school produces 61 tonnes of CO2 a year, and 55 tonnes of that is through energy use.  The children suggested turning down the heating, turning off lights and computers on charge might help with this. Jo Clark has been in further discussions with George Read about energy meters that are suitable for monitoring energy use on this scale.  Much of our heating system is automated but we have decided that to reduce our energy consumption in the long term we need to look at the temperature in the school.


Who will Save Us?

Meanwhile, in P1/2/3 with Maggie Harrison, the children have learned in a simple way about global warming and some of the reasons for the build up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  They were fascinated to learn that lots of gas comes from cows’ bottoms!  They thought about some of the possible solutions and Katie suggested that we eat vegetables instead of lots of meat.  So P1/2/3 are looking like they are right on trend.  The children worked in groups or with a partner to come up with ways to share their learning and explain to other children about global warming and what they could do to help.  They came up with puppet shows, film (animation) and story books which they have read and performed to the children in nursery.

Engineering in Pre-School

Children in nursery are still being encouraged to think like Rosie Revere Engineer and solve problems for themselves.  Alison Logan says that the latest mission was to clear the outside boat of ice and water.  Problem solving tasks are continuing to be incorporated into the joint sessions with P1/2/3.

We are hoping to have some local engineers in to talk to the children and Maureen MacDonald is going to get in touch with local contacts.  She is also in the process of formulating a new vision for Port Ellen – making sure that our Eco-Schools work and STEM activities have a high profile in taking the school forward.



Date Purchases Cost
20th December Mechanical Workshop Class Pack £100.00
Energy Storage Circuit (Pk30) £19.95
Solar Bag £19.99
Solar Module £26.85
Simple Machines £24.95
Assorted fans, propeller blades £13.55
Solar Panels £16.25
P & P £4.95
16th January Hire of 16 seater minibus, 2 trips £240.00
Total Expenses £466.49
Remaining Money £4411.75

December Diary

Panto fever has hit Port Ellen as we have been preparing for our whole school pantomime which takes place every two years.  We have also been organising the Christmas Fair, our main fundraiser, and P1/2/3 are preparing for their Nativity. Meanwhile, our Rolls-Royce journey continues….

Statoil Young Imagineers Finalist

As a result of our engineering project, we had a finalist in the national Young Imagineers competition run by Statoil.  Sarah, from P6/7, invented a device that would save sheep stuck on their backs by making a scary sound and getting them to turn over.  Her device was made into a prototype and she had to present it at the final in London at the Science Museum.  Everyone is very proud of her achievement. Sarah says she is much more confident now about talking about engineering after presenting in front of a large audience, and she is inspired to take up engineering when she grows up.



Switch Off Fortnight

Continuing their learning about energy in Term1, Kate Brown’s class (P4/5) decided to try and encourage everyone to use less energy in school and at home. The children were quite shocked at how much electricity an electric shower uses and from looking at energy use they decided to make others understand this and think about saving energy, electricity in particular. So they joined the National “Switch Off Fortnight” and made information posters for the local community and home. This campaign was so successful that this week they are keen to spend part of the Christmas Disco without lights and use alternative sources instead…..glow sticks are at the ready!


Introducing Renewables

This month Primary 6/7 have been working hard on researching renewable and non renewable sources of energy with Jo Clark.  They wanted to know what energy sources are used in Scotland and the implications for the environment.  Using One note they researched online and then used the notes to create posters, blogs and Sways.  They debated in class the various types of energy source and chose the ones they thought were best, and wrote a discursive essay on renewable energy.  In maths they looked at data produced by the Scottish Government on Energy use in Scotland and then analysed, interpreted and drew conclusions from it as part of a holistic assessment. Finally, they came up with pledges of what they could do themselves to reduce energy consumption.

Meanwhile, in P4/5 with Kate Brown, the children have been learning about wind power as there is a tall wind turbine outside the village. The children know that wind is sustainable and they made their own pinwheels to record the wind direction/wind strength associated with the speed of the wheel which led to discussions about what happens to wind turbines when there is no wind, and how strong winds here in Islay can be used to generate electricity. They then worked in groups to complete the Wind Turbine Challenge from the STEM website. The aim was to create a fair test to try to make a turbine that could raise a cup from the floor using a hairdryer. Charlet said, “Our group all had roles and Rhuraidh was the engineer. He designed a turbine but the rest of us felt there was not enough detail to make the model and so Caitidh, our artist, added more. Then we used card for the blades and a pencil for the shaft. At first we taped the shaft to the desk but it wouldn’t go round so we fixed that problem by putting card over the pencil loosely so it could turn. Sadly, our Turbine only lifted the cup a little bit but did manage when we gave it a bit of a hand.  Next time we would change the size and shape of the blades and also use stronger wind power

Next term George Dean will be helping us to organise visits to the Islay wind turbine and other sites that generate or use renewable energy on Islay.

Learning how Energy impacts on the Environment

In P1/2/3 Maggie Harrison has been using a story called Who will Save Us? to introduce the concept of global warming.  All the children have been really engaged with learning all about the Antarctic and the penguins who live there and then how global warming might cause the ice to melt and affect not only penguins but other animals and people in different parts of the world too.  Iona made this fantastic poster and she said that she ‘didn’t like the bad gas getting stuck in the earth’s blanket and that we should save the penguins and polar bears!’

Engineering in Pre-School

Joint sessions of structured play have started with the nursery and P1/2 – these will continue on a weekly basis from now until the end of the session. Maggie Harrison and Alison Logan are working together to plan how to incorporate the development of engineering thinking into these, although with new giant wooden blocks and the KNEX purchased the children are building some amazing structures.

Maureen MacDonald and Maggie Harrison have had meetings with Headteachers from the other primary schools in Islay and Jura to see how they can be involved in our Rolls-Royce project next term.  Following the school being awarded a Digital Schools Award, the first school in Argyll & Bute to do so, Jo Clark was also interviewed with regards to a national website wanting to develop engineering skills across schools in the UK for the 2018 Year of Engineering.

November Diary


Renewables Engineering Islay – November Diary


Mentor Visit

We were all delighted to welcome Neil Chattle from Rolls-Royce to the school at the end of October. He spent time getting to know the team and having a tour of the school. He gave a presentation to the children in the afternoon and they had an opportunity to see some of the materials and parts that make up a Rolls-Royce jet engine.  We were all amazed that the cooling mechanism allows the engine to operate above it’s melting point and that it would be capable of preventing an ice cube melting in a hot oven!  Clever engineering indeed!  Neil introduced the children to the Bloodhound SSC.  Working in teams, the children then built model Bloodhounds powered by balloons and had a great afternoon trying to refine them to make them go faster.  Coincidentally, Neil’s visit was the day before the first public test run of the Bloodhound in Newquay, Cornwall… the whole school watched as the car made 210mph.  We will follow Bloodhound’s progress with interest.


Children as Leaders

Following leadership training, P6/7 children have been encouraged to set up clubs for younger pupils so we now have a KNEX Club and a Lego Club, in addition to the usual football, table tennis and dance clubs.  Maureen MacDonald, Headteacher, encourages us to promote leadership at all levels within the school. The clubs have been really well attended and we used some of the funding to purchase new KNEX and Lego material for them. Dearbhla says that ‘KNEX club is really fun because you make something new every time and I am learning new skills to make cubes that are really tricky.’ Donald, who runs the Lego Club said that “We are encouraging children to use their imagination and be creative with the Lego.” Charlie is promoting teamwork by asking children to build small components of bigger models.

After-School Clubs

We have started an after-school club for children from P4-7, supervised by Jo Clark.  Again there has been lots of interest in this and we are lucky to have the support of two senior pupils from Islay High School – Young STEM Ambassadors – to help us.  It’s great to have these young women to be positive role models for girls in the primary school. They have been giving children open-ended problem solving tasks where children have had to work together to solve a problem. Last week they were engineering a carrier to transport a ping pong ball down a zip-wire.

Tomorrow’s Engineers Week

Throughout the school we are continuing to promote engineering and develop engineering habits of mind.  As a school we engaged with Tomorrow’s Engineers Week. Jo Clark and P6/7 found out about sustainable engineering and the 6Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refuse, Rethink and Repair – to appreciate that the environment needs to be considered alongside any engineering solution and that any design needs to be both efficient and sustainable in terms of the environment. Matthew Campbell says ‘We had to  rank the 6Rs in order – I thought that reuse was the best one because things can be used many times are best for the environment.” They were tasked with building a “Helping Hand Grabber’ which had to have a reach of 1m.  In Kate Brown’s P4/5 class the children looked at different types of bridge design.  They then worked in groups to build some fantastic bridges.  Already Kate could see progress in her children from the initial bridges that were built on the baseline build.  In P1/2/3 Maggie Harrison invited parents in to join their children doing an engineering challenge – design and build a chair for baby bear, who had cruelly had his chair ruined when Goldilocks visited.  Alison Logan and all the children in the Nursery have been making the most of the new resources we have bought for them – Kids KNEX and stories like Rosie Revere, Engineer.  This week we are starting our joint sessions – structured play for pre-5 children and P1 and P2 together.  Maggie and Alison will be working together on this; once the children are settled into this new routine this will be an ideal opportunity to share practice in developing engineering skills.

Thinking about Energy

Meanwhile the whole school are continuing to think about how we use energy in our school and in our lives.  Our new Eco-monitors are being vigilant about switching off lights and George Dean from the Islay Energy Trust is going to get the school some energy meters. The Islay Energy Trust is a community-owned charity. Its aims are to develop and operate renewable energy projects for the benefit of the community, and to reduce the island’s carbon footprint. George will be supporting us with this project, organizing site visits for children and putting us in contact with different renewables companies that are looking to operate locally. P4/5 are busy organizing activities for Switch Off fortnight – more news to follow.  In all the classes we have started looking at the effect that our energy use has on the planet and this will be our focus for the rest of this term. Maureen MacDonald and Maggie Harrison have met the Parent Council and are promoting the project more widely in the community.


A Chair for Baby Bear

As part of Tomorrow’s Engineers week mums, dads and grans came in to help P1/2/3 with an engineering challenge.  The problem was that Goldilocks had broken Baby Bear’s chair and so when Mummy Bear made him some more porridge there was nowhere for him to sit. A great afternoon was had by all and we had some interesting designs.  At the end of the afternoon Baby Bear tested out all the chairs; they had to stay standing for 10 seconds. Thanks to everyone who came along to help us.

Port Ellen welcomes our Rolls-Royce Science Prize mentor

We were delighted to welcome Neil Chattle, our mentor for the Rolls-Royce Science Prize, to Port Ellen on Wednesday.  Children enjoyed listening to a presentation about Rolls-Royce and Neil’s career as an engineer with the company.  They got a chance to handle some pieces of jet engines and we were all amazed how lightweight some of the components were and how the cooling systems within the engines would be able to stop ice cubes from melting in a hot oven! We were then introduced to the Bloodhound, a supersonic car powered by a Rolls-Royce engine, and got to work in teams to build a model Bloodhound powered by balloons.  Neil said that he’d never seen balloon models go so far!

Engineering Bridges

A big part of our Rolls-Royce Science Prize project this year is developing engineering skills and encouraging children to think like engineers.  Our first challenge was to build a bridge with a span of 30cm that could support a plastic cup which would then have weights added. To make it even more tricky there was a strict time limit!  In P1/2/3 the winning bridge held 20 marbles!!

New Islay Timeline Panels Unveiled

Last session Port Ellen took part in the Scottish Diaspora project – a national project which produced a series of hand-sewn tapestry panels showing the movement of people into and out of Scotland over it’s long history.  Twenty pupils from Port Ellen worked together with Mrs Hazel Onions to produce a panel depicting the arrival of Mesolithic hunter-gatherers on Islay and this was put on display in St. Giles cathedral in Edinburgh. Just before the summer the whole school then worked on a timeline for Islay using appliqué techniques rather than stitching.  We had an amazing day with lots of support from the Islay Quilters, parents, grannies and community members.  Over the school holidays the quilters have finished the panels off for us, ready to hang and be enjoyed by everyone – here is the finished display, which was unveiled at our Farmer’s Feast.  We’d like to say another HUGE thank you to all of those who were involved in this project, producing a lasting and meaningful display which we hope at some point will be moved out of the school to be enjoyed more widely in the community.

October Diary

Renewables Engineering Islay

Our project for the Rolls-Royce Science Prize aims to build children’s understanding and experience of engineering within the context of renewable energy. Living on a small island means that children have a limited experience of different jobs  and we want to promote engineering.  We feel that developing Engineering Habits of Mind as a way of tackling problems will not only apply to engineering tasks but many other learning experiences that children encounter. The renewables context for the project comes from our amazing natural environment. Islay is surrounded by sea and subject to regular strong winds. It is home to the Limpet Wave Station – a prototype wave turbine and there are plans to use the strong tidal currents to  power an array of underwater turbines in the future. We also have our first community wind turbine.


What is an Engineer?

In this first phase of the project we have tried to establish some baselines so that we can measure the impact of our project at the end of the year.  In all classes, children were asked ‘What is an engineer?’  The results of this were fascinating; nearly all of the children in P1/2/3 thought that engineers ‘fixed cars’ while children in P6/7 almost all children saw engineers as wearing hard hats, steel capped boots and having tool belts.  Many children also saw engineers as being ‘only boys.’ P6/7 have started to research different fields in engineering such as chemical and biomedical engineering.


Assessing our Engineering Skills.

Since developing Engineering Habits of Mind underpins our project we have used a Do you think like and Engineer? self-assessment tool with children to see how they felt about their skills at the outset.  The resource we used was developed by the Royal Academy of Engineering for schools participating in the ‘Thinking like an Engineer’ project during 2014-2016. Staff also decided that we should try and assess the children’s engineering skills in a practical task at the beginning and end of the project – we decided on a bridge to span a 30cm gap and support a plastic cup into which weights would be dropped. This was also the first session where we used the video camera, which made us all nervous! It was interesting to compare notes at the end of the day – almost all children had just gone for a wad of straws taped together with Sellotape.  However, one boy in P1/2/3 had visited a bridge and remembered details of how the structure was supported.  He then built his bridge single-handedly and put on some railings to stop the cup falling off – this was really unexpected.

In all the classes, staff are talking to the children about engineering and how engineers work and all opportunities are being taken to encourage thinking like engineers. Jo Clark has encouraged P6/7 to create design boards for the Young Imagineers competition run by Statoil.  They had to come up with an engineering idea that could solve a problem for the future, and lots of great ideas were generated. 3 were chosen by the class to enter for the competition; Sarah’s Scaredy Sheep device stops sheep getting stuck on their backs by barking like a dog, Rebecca has designed a device that uses static electricity from clothes to repell rain from your glasses and Lauren has invented a device that knows when the inside of your car gets too hot and sends an alarm to your key.

In the Early Learning and Childcare Centre Alison Logan and Katie Bonar have been making the most of their new equipment. The children have been working together to build bridges and ramps, problem solving to make sure that the structures were sufficiently wide and long for everyone to fit across.  They have also been problem solving to bail out the boat in the outdoor area.  Using lengths of bamboo, they have engineered a solution where bailed water can flow down and be collected at the other end.


Thinking about Energy

The first phase of our project has been Thinking about Energy, how important it is to our lives and how we use it. In P6/7 with Jo Clark, children have been working on a farming topic in which they calculated their own carbon footprint and looked at the carbon footprint involved in food production and transport.  They cooked their own low carbon footprint foods for a buffet for pensioners in the local community for Harvest.  They have started work on the School’s Carbon footprint and will complete this next term.

Kate Brown’s P4/5 class have been looking at the energy they use in school and at home.  The devised questionnaires to find out how many different electrical items children had at home and made tables and graphs to show their results.  The class then looked at the energy use of different appliances and were amazed how much energy was used by their showers.  Next term they are going to engage with the community to encourage energy saving and will hopefully be getting hold of some energy meters to look more closely at what we use in school.

P1/2/3 with Maggie Harrison have been finding out what makes their toys work.  As well as looking at forces they have been finding out about toys that produce movement, sound, light and heat and thinking about how energy is needed to make them go.  Linked to their transport topic, they have also thought about what powers different vehicles and designed their own cars and boats.  They have started to Think like Engineers, working in teams on engineering challenges.

We have enlisted the help of George Read from the Islay Energy Trust. Our team also includes Maureen MacDonald, Head Teacher. Maureen began her career at Port Ellen as a class teacher, was promoted to Head Teacher in 2008 and in 2016 became shared HT of Port Ellen and Bowmore Primary Schools.  Having worked with Education Scotland as an Associate Assessor, Maureen has been a member of various teams engaging in evaluative and professional dialogue.  This experience has been invaluable and has influenced practice within the school.  Community involvement and parental engagement feature highly in the work that Maureen does. She has conducted the school Gaelic Choir for many years, achieving national success and helping to raise the profile of Port Ellen Primary School.  During the October holiday the choir have been competing, and winning, at the National Mod!

Moving forward into the next phase of our project. we are looking forward to our first visit from our mentor, Neil Chattle, just after the October break.


Learning about Energy



P1/2/3 have been learning all about energy.  They have explored lots of different toys, old and new, to see what they do and thought about what makes them go.  They have discovered that toys can move, make sounds and light and that all of this is produced by putting energy into the toys – from electricity, by pushing, pulling and twisting.  The children were amazed to see the liquid move when it was heated with your hand. Learning about energy is part of our Rolls-Royce Science Prize project for this year.



Curious about Cars

As part of our Transport topic, P1/2/3 wanted to find out all about cars, how they worked and what made cars go faster.  So they wrote to Dugald McKerral and went on a trip to the garage.  They saw a car up on the hydraulic ramp and could see the wheel axels and the chassis that they had learned about in class.  Lots of interesting questions were asked and we are going back to class to find out more about pistons. This learning ties in really well with the Rolls-Royce Science Prize.

Boat Building

As part of our Transport topic, P1/2/3 have been learning about boats, what makes them float and then designing and building their own.  We have also learned that engineers design boats and more about the design process – tying in well with our Rolls-Royce Science Prize project for the year.

Investigating wheels


As part of our transport topic, P1/2/3 wanted to find out about wheels.  They found lots of tyres out in the garden and checked out wheels on cars in the car park and bikes in school.  They found out that wheels are attached to axels and have written to Mr MacKerrell at the garage to see if they can find out more about how cars work.

What is an Engineer?

P1/2/3 have been wondering about engineering and what engineers do?  Evie (P1) thinks that engineers ‘fix cars’ and are ‘always men but sometimes ladies’ while Iona in P2 thinks engineers can be ‘boys and girls’ and that engineers make boats.

We asked these questions as part of a baseline assessment for the Rolls-Royce Science Prize. We will be asking children to revisit these ideas at the end of the project and see how their views have changed.

Space Ambassador Visits P4/5


P4/5 had a special visitor on Friday as part of National Science Week – Laura. Thomas, a Space Ambassador from the European Space Program.  This was a follow up to the work they had done with the rocket seeds last year as part of the Tim Peake Project.  She talked to the children about the materials needed for spacecraft to withstand the conditions in space.  The children tested different materials – checking them for temperature, electrical conductivity, bounce, weight and strength.  She also answered lots of questions from the children on space and gravity and got to see them test their lunar modules.  It was a great learning experience and fun was had by all.