27 November 2009

A bit of a puzzle…..

Had you ventured into the classroom during the lesson before lunch on Friday, you would have heard an unnatural silence, save for a furious scratching, scribbling sound.  Plus a few tuts and huffs and sighs.

Children were busy sketching a very odd-looking machine.  A complicated and odd-looking machine.  But my goodness, they were doing a fantastic job!

Take a close look at some of their in-process work.


Can you see…..


what it is…..




Well, that might be because it is an unusual and odd-looking machine.  In fact, none of us knew what it was we were sketching.  Instead, we had to look closely at all of its springs and screws and levers and handles and try to think what on earth it might be for.

Here are some of our ideas.

  • A machine for sewing; for weaving; for knitting
  • A machine for drilling holes in wood; in walls; in paper; in fruit
  • A machine for cutting down trees
  • A machine for making drinks; for squeezing fruit; for cutting vegetables; for cutting fruits from plants
  • A food mixer
  • A can opener
  • A pencil sharpener

Look again.  This time at some of the finished work.




At the real thing.


Time I think to come at least part-way clean.  It is a machine for drilling holes.  It is a machine for cutting.  It is a machine that has a similar effect to that of a pencil sharpener.  It is a machine that has something to do with fruit.  Specifically this fruit.


Do you know what it is yet?  We do because once we had finished our sketches, we all got to try it out (and what fun that proved to be!)

And children who bring apples to school for their snack in the coming weeks, will be able to use again.

PS If you are still unsure what the machine does, click on the link to see the machine in use

26 November 2009

Made from plants

I was greeted by a plethora of rustling packages on Thursday morning.  ‘Homework’ the previous week had been to bring something to school that was made from part or parts of a plant; preferably something that no-one else would have though to bring.  Something unusual perhaps.  And goodness; did we have a great selection of things!

Let’s start with Liv.  Her fancy wooden salt and pepper mills were carved from the stem of two different trees.  And by the looks of it, engineered by a French motor manufacturer!


While we are on the topic of stems, Camille’s basket was woven from the stem of another type of plant.  Probably bamboo, though we weren’t quite sure.


Leonor had thought of something quite different, but which was also made from the stem of a plant.  A dollar bill! 


As for her other offering, I think you had better promise not to tell what it was she brought to show us.  I don’t want to give you the wrong idea about what we get up to in the classroom!


None of your cheapo cigars either; this was the finest Cuban!  Needless to say, her father was quite clear that it should be returned intact that same day!  But not before Leonor had explained that cigars are made from the dried leaves of the tobacco plant, which are carefully rolled around and around.


Utsav had some incense sticks; sweetly scented, he told us, with orchid flowers.


Sebastian and Shinnosuke had both brought things made from cotton.  There was some confusion about exactly what part of the cotton plant gives us cotton, but Shinnosuke felt it was something to do with the flower bud.  A bit of research clarified things for us and we now know that cotton is made from the fluffy ‘stuff’ round the seeds.


Shinnosuke had also brought one of these to show us.


A rubber band.  Who can remember where rubber comes from I wonder.

See this bag?


Well, having been told by Sean that it was made of string (that in turn could have been made by twisting together fibres extracted from cotton plants or even coconut palms) he then delved inside, and pulled out this…..


which had been made from strips of the stem of a kind of grass, coiled round and around and around.  And this…..


which was rather similar to Camille’s duck basket in the way it had been made.  And this…..


a wooden frame containing examples of Swiss herbs, all of which are used either in medicine or some form of cooking.  This…..


repellent citronella extracted from a lemon-scented grass-like plant, and which is loathed by pesky mosquitoes.  This…..


‘plastic’ bag that had been made from potato starch.  And, perhaps most interestingly, this…..


chewing gum; flavoured with the leaves of the spearmint plant, but the gum itself extracted, as I later learned, from the stem of the peelu tree. 

However, I left this until last. 


Brought in by Alex, this teeny tiny glass bottle, stoppered to help keep in the enticing scent of Penhaligon’s (no less!) English Fern eau de toilette.  Which part of the fern, I pondered aloud, do you think they squished to get the perfume.

‘The flowers’, was the unanimous response.  Which led me to this.  Ferns are unusual plants, in that they do not have flowers.  This of course (as Sean quickly realised) means that they do not have seeds.  They produce spores instead.  Remember those little dots?  Well, a closer look (under the microscope) at some little dots that we found earlier, lurking on the underside of a fern leaf in a dark damp place in the school garden…..


showed us in more detail the spore cases and the too-small-to-see-with-the-naked-eye spores themselves.


Which begs the question; how on earth do they at Penhaligon’s, make a scent from English Fern if it has no sweet-smelling flowers to squish?  Opinion amongst us was that they probably squish the leaves.  After all, squished mint leaves and squished rosemary leaves (as we remembered) smell delicious.  Why not squished fern leaves?

New plants from old

Just take a look at this sad-looking specimen.


It, along with a dozen or so similar plants, was ‘rescued’ from a rather neglected one-time ‘display’.  What, we wondered, had gone wrong.  The crisp brown flowers and the withered buds, not to mention the dusty soil that was as-dry-as-the-proverbial-bone pointed towards them not having been watered for a very long time.

But never mind.  Class 2i to the rescue!  Our job?  To give the plants a ‘hair-cut’, snipping off the crispy flowers and those withered buds…..


(just the crispy flowers and those withered buds mind)…..


being careful to keep our fingers…..


safely tucked out of the way.


You see, we needed to stop the poor plants from wasting precious energy trying to keep themselves covered in blooms, when actually they ought to be conserving their strength for the cold weather that is on its way (and incidentally, as I type this I am looking out at freshly snow-dusted pine trees).


The newly-trimmed plants were then tucked into some of our friable well-dug soil…..


and most-importantly, watered in.  There to over-winter.  And recuperate.

But, that was not all.  There were also trimmings from the rosemary bushes.  Far too much for Sunday’s roast lamb!  No, we were going to have a go at making (more) new plants from old.

First, grip a sprig of rosemary firmly in your hands.


Using your thumb, scrape off the leaves on the lower part of the stem.


Toss these into the bucket…..


later to be dumped onto the compost heap.  Next, snip the stem with a diagonal cut.


Finally, poke it into a pot of our famous soil…..


trickle on a dribble or two of water…..


and fingers crossed until spring!

23 November 2009

Some ‘did you knows’

Once a week our silent reading time is dedicated to trying to find out something new about our current unit of inquiry; either by reading alone or by looking at a book with a friend.  We then join together to share aloud what we have found out.  Here is a selection of some of our recent ‘did you knows’.

“Did you know,” began Leo, “that some dead trees can have a new plant growing on them?”


Can was eager to share this.  “Did you know that every year a tree adds a new part to the trunk; a ring?  If you count the rings you can tell the age of the tree.”


According to Sebastian, “The tallest trees on Earth are giant redwood.”  Did you know that they can grow up to 120 metres high?

Still on the topic of trees, Paulina shared this.  “Did you know that if you cut down a tree there is sticky stuff inside?” 


Actually, some trees have sweet sticky stuff that you can collect and then pour onto your breakfast bacon.  And some have white sticky stuff that is bouncy and can be used to make balls and tyres.


“Did you know,” wondered Taylor, “that Venus fly traps have tiny hairs inside?”  When a fly touches the hair, it makes the ‘trap’ shut fast and the fly gets stuck inside.

Did you know that lotus seeds can float?


That ferns are one of the oldest plants and that they have been around since before the time of the dinosaurs?  And that they have ‘little dots’ on the undersides of their leaves?


Some of the ‘did you knows’ really got us thinking.  For example, did you know that not only do cactuses have flowers…..


but that there are some that have flowers that only bloom at night

cactus flower

Now why might that be do you think?  We thought it might be something to do with the habits of the insect that pollinates the plant.  What do you think?

21 November 2009

Hidden amongst the trees…..

At art time on Friday, we donned boots and warm jackets rather than the usual smocks and aprons.  And we went outside in search of some good sticky mud.  Oh; and a tree.  Hmmm - I wonder why…..

The mud had to be at just the right consistency; not dry and crumbly, nor too clay-like.  It needed to be just sticky enough – to stick.

To stick, having been thrown at (and yes, today it was OK to throw mud!)…..


or pressed onto…..


the trunk of a specially chosen tree.  Next we trekked round the school grounds in search of fallen leaves, seeds, bits of bark, petals and berries, with which to decorate our mud.

We’re not going to tell you whereabouts to find our work; which in any case may no longer be there (especially if the heavy weekend rain that is forecast has done its worst).  But next time you are in amongst the trees, keep your eyes open. 


You never know…..


quite what…..


hidden treasures…..