Tarsan the National Park Panda goes fishing!

S2 pupils from Vale of Leven Academy were on a field trip to Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park to learn more about the Powan, as part of their Powan in the Classroom project being run by the Loch Lomond Fisheries Trust which involves schools incubating Powan eggs in a safe environment in the classrooms and releasing healthy juvenile Powan into Loch Lomond.  The schools therefore contribute to the survival of the Powan population. The pupils were out on site with National Park staff learning more about predator-prey relationships, habitat and threats to this important species. They brought Tarsan, the National Park Panda along with them to investigate the invertebrates found in Luss Water.



So much friction!

Our learning context this term is ‘transport’.

As part of the planning process for our learning context, we came up with some questions we needed answered. One of our questions was ‘how do cars travel on different surfaces; how can they sometimes skid and sometimes not skid?‘.

In order to help us answer this, we looked at a PowerPoint presentation all about something called ‘friction‘. Friction is a force between two surfaces. 

We learned that the more friction there is between the two things, the slower the object may move. So if a car was travelling on the road, there is more friction than if it was travelling on the ice. The car would be more likely to slip on the ice as there is less friction.

To test this out, we took a car and a ramp around the school. Before hand though we made predictions about which surface would produce the least friction with the car.

Santa ready to learn about friction.

We let the car travel down the ramp onto different surfaces. The first surface we tested was tarmac outside. The car traveled 5 of one of the children’s feet from the ramp.


The second surface we tested was the carpet in the corridor. The car traveled 6 feet in length.

The final surface was the wooden floor in the dinner hall. The car traveled a whole 10 feet!


Those of us who had predicted there would be the least friction between the car and the wooden floor were right! (Which was actually most of us).

As a final test, Miss Yarrow got us to test the amount of friction between the wooden floor and our shoes. We kept our shoes on and tried to skid on the ground. We couldn’t move very far. Some of us even made burn marks where the rubber on our shoes was too hot because of the friction. After this, we took our shoes off and tried the same thing but in our socks. We traveled further in our socks, showing that there was less friction between them and the wooden floor.

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We all enjoyed learning about friction in this active way and we think Santa learned a lot too. The test we did made it easier to understand why cars can travel better on different surfaces.

Sparkle the Panda goes hunting for germs!

Our new visitor Sparkle the Panda has been learning lots of things as part of primary 2’s science lessons.

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This week we have been discovering where germs live and that the proper name for them is bacteria. There are some good bacteria and some bad bacteria. We have to wash our hands before we eat otherwise bad bacteria might get into our stomachs and make us sick.

To investigate where the bacteria are we used a special gel. We rubbed it all over our hands and then washed them. Then we put our hands under an ultraviolet light (this is a type of light that looks a bit purple but is also invisible.) The light showed up where the bacteria were on our hands still.

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Primary 2 and Sparkle the Panda learned that we need to make sure we wash our hands well.

Finn-Finn joins the STEM Learning Team

Dundee Science Centre has recently welcomed a new member to their STEM Learning Team, Finn-Finn the Panda!

Finn-Finn has joined us to explore the STEM world across the North East Scotland region and learn lots of amazing scientific facts along the way.

Finn-Finn investigates Tim Peake's Principia mission to the International Space Station
Finn-Finn is inspired by Tim Peake’s Principia mission to the International Space Station

When Finn-Finn arrived he explained that he was born to do this and has always appreciated science. His roots are as exciting as his mission, while being born in China his name originates from the Norwegian Finn-Finn – literally translating to Find-Find. Well Finn-Finn will certainly find a lot of interesting discoveries in Dundee.

Finn-Finn was very excited to discover that Dundee Science Centre has been celebrating the launch of the UK’s first European Space Agency astronaut, Tim Peake, on his Principia mission to the International Space Station.

Tim Peake is the first British European Space Agency Astronaut
Tim Peake is the first British European Space Agency Astronaut

Tim will be carrying out many experiments while in space; growing some rocket plants (get it? rocket!), creating some new recipes for space food, while investigating how we could sleep in space. Finn-Finn hopes Tim might grow some bamboo in space for a tasty treat, but questions if it would taste different if grown in zero-gravity

Dundee Science Centre and Finn-Finn will be following Tim’s progress and celebrating his return to Earth later in 2016.

In the meantime Finn-Finn will begin his own astronaut training… He seems keen enough!

Finn-Finn joins the Dundee Science Centre STEM Learning Team and looks forward to his new adventures investigating STEM
Finn-Finn joins the Dundee Science Centre STEM Learning Team and looks forward to his new adventures investigating STEM

Finn-Finn recommends to other Panda reporters to look at the resources about space science from Principia and Destination Space for ideas.


Exploring Our Sense of Taste

Today we taught Santa about our sense of taste.

We had already looked briefly at our 5 senses; taste, touch, hearing, sight, smell but this week we chose to focus on our sense of taste and look at it in a bit more depth.

We talked about the different taste sections on our tongues and showed Santa where these are. (We wondered if Panda’s have the same sense of taste as us)?

Once we had revised our prior learning, Miss Yarrow brought out different types of foods.

We explored one type of food at a time. The first food we tried was dark chocolate. We were a bit surprised at the taste of the chocolate; it tasted nothing like milk chocolate. Only a few of us actually enjoyed the taste. Most of us didn’t like it. After trying it, we all voted for what taste we thought it had. Miss Yarrow recored our results in a Pictograph on the whiteboard. We counted with her to make sure she got it right. Most of us thought that the chocolate was bitterimage-02-11-15-08-00-2image-02-11-15-08-00-5

image-02-11-15-08-00-4Next, we tried fizzy strawberry laces. Unlike the chocolate, most of us really enjoyed the laces. When we voted for the taste, we learned that different people have different tastes; some of us thought the laces were really sour and others thought they were really sweet.

image-02-11-15-08-00-8After the laces we tried some crisps. Miss Yarrow didn’t tell us what flavour they were to start with, because she thought the flavour would give the taste away! Most of us enjoyed the crisps too and the result with the highest number of votes was ‘salty‘. After we had voted, Miss Yarrow told us that the crips were ‘ready salted’ flavour, so we had been correct in our votes.


image-02-11-15-08-00-11The next food was lemon. Miss Yarrow laughed at some of the faces we pulled when we ate the lemon. Our pictograph results showed that most of us thought the lemon was sour, but some of us also thought it was bitter.


image-02-11-15-08-01-1image-02-11-15-08-01-2image-02-11-15-08-01-5image-02-11-15-08-01-6The final food to try was pineapple. It was so juicy! Most of us really enjoyed the pineapple and the majority of us thought that the pineapple was sweetimage-02-11-15-08-01-9To test our learning, Miss Yarrow asked us to name the 4 different types of taste on our tongue. She was impressed with our understanding.

As a wee extra treat and challenge, Miss Yarrow gave us some popcorn. She explained that the popcorn had 2 flavours; sweet and salty. Our challenge was to eat one piece of popcorn at a time and see if we could tell if it was salty or sweet. We were to discuss our ideas with our shoulder partner (but also just enjoy the popcorn at the same time). image-02-11-15-08-01-12Santa had fun learning all about our sense of taste but we felt a bit bad that he couldn’t enjoy the food as well.

Pumpkin Science with Santa the Panda

We decided to show Santa a pumpkin today because it is Halloween tomorrow.

We passed the pumpkin around our circle and all gave an adjective to describe what the pumpkin looked or felt like.


After that, Miss Yarrow revealed a tub of water and said that we were going to do some pumpkin science as well. She asked us to predict if we thought the pumpkin would float or sink? Most of us thought the pumpkin would float. We tested to see if our predictions were accurate; the pumpkin bobbed on the top of the water, which meant that it was floating! (If it had sunk, it would have dropped to the bottom of the basin). Miss Yarrow told us that there was a scientific word for floating and that word is buoyancy and we can say that things are more or less dense than other things. So, instead of saying that the pumpkin floated in the water, we could say that the pumpkin was buoyant  in or less dense than water.



We discussed why this might be the case. One of us suggested that its because there isn’t ‘stuff’ filling up the inside and that there’s space in it. Miss Yarrow explained that was in fact correct, and that because pumpkins are hollow, they have air in them, which makes them float/less dense. It didn’t matter that the pumpkin felt heavy to us (boats are heavy but they float in the ocean).

Next, Miss Yarrow asked us to ‘gut’ our pumpkin. We loved getting messy and taking the pumpkins insides, out. We got rid of the flesh and kept the seeds for our next experiment. We made new predictions about whether the  seeds would be more or less dense than water. This time, most of us thought they would be more dense and that they would sink. We believed this because we thought that the insides were full up this time and not hollow. However, when we tested them, they all stayed floating on the surface too.





We each took a pumpkin seed home with us to remind us of today’s learning.

Santa was impressed with our topical science. He learned a lot about pumpkins and buoyancy!

Wild Flower Planting

This week we were invited by a lady called Kathy from land services to sow wild flower seeds with her, the local wildlife rangers and some members of the local church; we were excited to take her up on the offer.

We explained to Kathy that Santa always comes with us when we do anything ‘sciencey’. She was happy to let Santa come along with us to help us sow the wild flower seeds.

The day before we went, Miss Yarrow wanted to check our understanding of how plants grow. We shared all the facts that we knew about how to plant seeds, what they need to grow and how to look after them. We also listened to an interactive story online. The information from the story matched what we had already told Miss Yarrow, so she thought that we were definitely ready to sow some seeds. Santa learned a lot from us too!

On Monday morning some Kathy and some kind parent helpers came down to the school to walk up with us to Gartmorn Dam. Luckily, it was a lovely morning for us.

When we got to the dam, some adults had already prepared the soil so that it was ready for us to sow the seeds. We split into different groups and teamed up with some adults. Each group was given a tub that had a sand and wild flower seed mix in it. Our job was to ‘shake, shake, shake’ the tub so that the seeds and sand spread across all of the soil. Santa helped us out too!

Once the tubs were empty, we were given some extra poppy seeds to sprinkle across the soil as well.

image-28-09-15-09-08-1 image-28-09-15-09-08-3 image-28-09-15-09-08-4 image-28-09-15-09-08-6 image-28-09-15-09-08-7 image-28-09-15-09-08-8 image-28-09-15-09-08-9-2 image-28-09-15-09-08-10-2image-28-09-15-09-08-11One group was very excited to have found a worm when they were sowing their seeds. They think the worm popped up because of all the stomping around the ground (it must have thought it was raining).

image-28-09-15-09-08-12 Before we left, we were given some packets of wild flower seeds for us to sow in the school, as well as some little minibeast hotels to build. The countryside ranger said that some of the minibeasts might have started hibernating already, so we are going to hang onto the hotels and build them in the spring time.

We had great fun with everyone and can’t wait for the flowers to grow. We are excited to have helped make a new habitat area for the wildlife up at the dam (especially for the bees).

Thanks to Kathy for inviting us up and to all the adults that made our morning fun! Keep an eye out in the Alloa Advertiser for us and Santa. We got lots of pictures taken by the photographer!

Citizen Science…OPAL Earthworm Survey

The day after our bird dance and water experiment, Miss Yarrow told us all about citizen science. She explained that scientists are too busy to do all the research that they need to do, all themselves, so they need children like us to help them.

It was our job to carry out a survey from OPAL, that would let us see how many and what kind of worms were living areas of the school ground.

We had to follow the instructions carefully, to make sure that we dug the right size of ditch.  We worked as two teams (so we had two ditches). Next we searched through the soil and turf to see if we could find any worms.


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The first group found 20 worms over all and the second group found 18. There was way more worms underground compared to the day before when we had to wait for them to surface.

It started pouring down, so we weren’t able to sort and classify our worms outdoors, but we used the photographs we had taken to discuss our findings once we were back inside. There were lots of different worms; some long, some short, some fat, some thin, some dark and some lighter. We think there was different species in the ditches.

Miss Yarrow has filled in our results and will send them off to the scientists at OPAL. Santa was pleased that we were responsible citizens and he liked that we care about science in Scotland.

Worm Experiment!

As well as learning about birds last week, we wanted to learn about worms too.

To start off with, Miss Yarrow read us a story called ‘Diary of a Worm’. Santa enjoyed hearing all about what the worm got up to with us.



We then talked about the new information that the book had taught it us, as well as sharing the things we remembered from our mini-beast week.

After reading the book, we decided to do an experiment outside. Our experiment was to test the best way to find worms.  We had learned that the worms don’t like it when it rains because it fills their tunnels up and we discovered that birds do a funny dance to trick that worms into thinking that it is raining. So, to do our experiment, we first split into 2 groups. One of the groups was to use water to try and get the worms to come up and the other group was to do a bird dance. We got to choose which group to be part of. Luckily, the groups were even to keep the experiment fair.

Before we went out, we made predictions about which method we thought would be the best. 15 of us thought that the water would bring the most worms up and 8 of us thought that the dancing would work best, because birds usually get lots of worms that way. Miss Yarrow liked that we were using our knowledge and problem solving to think of reasons for our predictions.

We went outside onto 2 bits of grass close by each other. We waited until both groups were ready to begin. When it was time, one group started dancing and the other poured water (but stayed still like statues). Miss Yarrow and Mrs Beveridge timed us, and when it was time to stop, we had to carefully search the grass for any worms. Santa had a go with both groups so that he could see everything that was going on.

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Unfortunately, it wasn’t the best day for worm finding! Between the two groups, we only managed to find one worm, and that was from the water group.


We decided that the ground must have been far too dry where the dancers were. We had previously learned that worms breathe through their skin and that if they are too dry they might not survive, so we thought that was why they weren’t being tricked  by us!

It didn’t matter that our predictions weren’t accurate, we enjoyed having a go at guessing and had fun doing our experiment. Santa had fun too!