Watt about Alexander²?

img_1072Attempting to make a catchy title, which includes 3 famous Scottish scientists (James Watt, Alexander Graham Bell and Alexander Flemming). 

Chemistry and Physics are for boys, Biology is for girls. That’s how I felt about science in high school and therefore I just never went for the science subjects when I was picking my choices for 5th year. I didn’t understand any of my science lessons in high school, despite having amazing science classes in primary or secondary school. So when I saw that I had science AND maths in the same day I thought I was going to have a really horrible day. However, it actually turned out to be exciting and engaging (in maths and science) and even from today’s workshops it makes me want to read more and engage more with my ‘inner geek’. Before my lecture today with Richard, we were to design a ‘mini-teach’ lesson and present it to our groups and our friends around the class. I went for the lava lamp idea (which I thought was really original, then went on Richards email to the class and discovered it was in a video link he had sent).

When looking up on how to do the lava lamp, I thought this would be great for any age of the primary school, from P1-P7, as you can change the lesson plan and success criteria to suit the needs of the children.

First of all, I decided this would be a good opportunity to write up a ‘practice’ lesson plan and see how I would get on. I wrote down what I would need, which is:

  • Water (probably quite a bit if my whole class were to do this)
  • Oil (I have read you can pretty much use any oil, I used baby oil)
  • Asprin (I also read that Alka-Seltzer works best)
  • A bottle/clear glass
  • A funnel (with children it’s probably recommended, I didn’t however)
  • Food colouring (I suppose it can be optional, but I liked the colour)

How was I going to do this? I wrote down my steps:

  • Fill a glass/bottle quarter of the way up with (coloured) water
  • Add oil until the bottle/glass is full
  • Add the asprin
  • You have a lava lamp

Or so I thought.

img_1075You wouldn’t believe the amount of times I tried this to make sure it was perfect. I wanted a great experiment with lots of research behind it and something that would also be entertaining. As you can see to the left however, it didn’t work at all. Which, in a way, I’m glad it didn’t.

When I was putting the oil in, it came out the bottle at quite a speed (one of those squeezy bottles) and when I was doing this, it mixed with the food colouring from the water, therefore turning the oil red and you couldn’t see any reaction at all. Next time, I will know to use a different oil and not be so violent!

**(I am not sure if I am doing this right).**

Learning Intentions

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We are learning why certain liquids don’t mix and why they don’t mix.

We are learning how to be safe with experiments and what happens when reactions happen.

We are learning how to dispose of water and oils in a safe and eco-friendly way

Success Criteria

I am able to identify how to reuse materials in a safe way

I am able to tell the difference between oil and water and why they don’t mix

I am able to learn in a safe way?


Assessment Methods

If this was done in groups or pairs, then I would have a group discussion in the end and ask the pairs together. The pair may feel they can say if they don’t understand as it is not just one child not understanding and may have more confidence in saying this. Another way I would maybe do this is by having maybe 2/3 questions at the end about if they understood why the asprin reacted the way it did etc and ask everyone to do a ‘thumbs up/down’ approach.


To begin with, the children could predict if the oil and water will mix together and why they think that. What will the food colour do in the water, what will the tablet do in the water. They could predict results and record what actually happened (starting to collect data, group work) etc.

Whilst the experiment is going on, I would explain why the oil and water don’t mix, and this is because substances which don’t dissolve into each other don’t mix (maybe a bit too complicated?) I could explain that the oil floats on the water as it is less dense. That the aspirin tablets react in the water and why they don’t react in the oil, explain the process of the bubbles forming carbon dioxide gas and that because the aspirin doesn’t dissolve in oil, it can’t react in oil.

Afterwards we could discuss how we could get rid of the waste responsibly and pop it in the flowers/plants (assuming I have some imaginary plants).

Before the experiment, we could go on youtube and watch a bigger version of this experiment being done, or how an actual lava lamp works (with a light etc). There could be predictions, what the steps may be on a board or worksheet, assign jobs to students to hand out the materials.

Afterwards, we could talk about what we found out and if it was a surprise or if it’s what we expected. We could draw a picture about what we saw, write about what we found out, maybe some related activity to who created the lava lamp, where they came from, about that country etc.


Finally, to summarise this whole experiment and lesson plan. The photo here is my failed experiment featuring a successful lava lamp in a bottle.


Maths…Before and After

Maths and I have a love-hate relationship. I love maths, but apparently maths hates me as I seem to be quite rubbish at it. Throughout my time at primary school I loved maths, and I think this was down to me having great teachers who taught me well. I was good at maths, I enjoyed maths so there didn’t seem to be an issue. However, when I got to high school things took a turn (I say turn, I actually mean a horrific accident and not only was it a turn but I was driving on the opposite side of the road). I had the same maths teacher throughout my first 4 years at high school. All ‘Ms K’ would do is a morning problem solving question, and then two periods (about 45 mins each?) of just sitting working through a textbook – and if you didn’t finish that chapter, then you went home and finished it. From then on, I hated maths. I hated going to maths, doing maths, thinking about maths, my maths exam in fourth year made me worry even more as I was stressed about something I really disliked.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel however. In my 6th year, I decided to give maths another shot. I spoke to various maths teachers throughout the department and they thought I would be able to cope in Higher Maths. How wrong they were. I walked in and walked straight back out. I was scared, I remember ‘Mr M’ writing on the board and it literally looked like another language. I went into Intermediate 2 Maths, and had ‘Mr C’. Mr C made me love maths again.

What Mr C did made me want to come to class. He spoke to me, he explained what I was doing wrong and even though it was still straight out a textbook work, I was starting to love it again. Loving the idea that there is (near enough) always one correct answer. I could go to the back of the book, check my answers and getting all of them right made me want to keep going home and working for hours on my work. I achieved an Intermediate 2 A and was thrilled.

So, I never achieved the grades for University, took a year gap to work and then went back to college. Remembering how much I loved maths made me pick higher maths, assuming that everything would be like Mr Cs class. Turns out it wasn’t. My college lecturer was like Ms K. She was silent, no help and if I was stuck, I was disrupting the classroom and she ‘didn’t have enough teaching time to help me’. I failed higher maths and again have a bad relationship with mathematics.

After todays workshop, I couldn’t get my head round the idea of talking and doing and recording maths. I have never been in a maths classroom where talking was even acceptable! Honestly, I still can’t get my head around how you can’t be silent in a maths lesson. I was trying to imagine what this would look like and techniques and ideas to teach maths and talk but I honestly have no idea how to go about doing this. In the workshop today I do feel better about my relationship with maths, and I know it will improve. I know I am quite good at maths (despite failing higher). However, it’s the teaching maths that frightens me the most, in case I’m not Mr C and I turn out to be Ms K.

Social Studies Audit

Social Studies is one of my favourite areas as it is about working with people and the communications between individuals with each other. In High School, I received a B in Modern Studies, a D in Geography and went on into college where I achieved two A’s in Philosophy and Psychology and a B in History. All of the social subjects interest me very much as they are all different ways to study the world, for example History is studying people in the past and events and why they happened, Modern Studies is about current affairs and what is happening in our society today, Geography about the impact we are having on the environment and why the world is the way it is. Whilst Philosophy and Psychology are studying peoples beliefs and the way the brain and body think.

It is so important to understand the past, present and future and I think that History, Modern Studies and Geography are so vital to every person to have a basic knowledge of.