Robo-tastic Assembly!

What a treat! NAO, the humanoid robot visited, along with his “friend” Graeme Lawrie, Head of Science from Sevenoaks School, to entertain and educate the children about robotics, coding and programming. The hall was filled with excitement as the children spotted our special visitor sitting on a table as they entered.  Both staff and children were astounded by what NAO could do. Who would have thought a robot could do Gangnam Style dancing, Tai-chi and could sit when asked! Truly exceptional!

We learned how many hours it takes to program him, and how he has built in sensors around his body and over 50 motors in his joints that enable him to move in a remarkably human-like fashion. Not only that, but he has been programmed to protect himself from falling by putting out his hands when he senses that he is overbalancing. Every move he makes requires a complex set of codes, to not only move the motor, but also to code a counter move to enable him to balance.  Remarkable!

As the children left the hall and throughout the afternoon, they could be heard talking excitedly about the robot and how much they wanted to have one. I am certain they would have come home last night “buzzing”, with much to tell you about the robot at school.

Daniel (Year 5) came up to me immediately and asked, “Mrs Casewell, if I wanted to become a robotics engineer when I am older, what subjects do I need to do?”  I am sure there are many others who have been inspired too.

Year 4, were led in coding workshops in the afternoon and it is hoped that Mr Lawrie will return to work with other classes in the months and years to come. The children now clearly see the link between the coding we do at school, through Scratch and other applications, to the real world of robotic programming.

An enormous thank you to Mr Lawrie and Sevenoaks School! And of course NAO!

K’NEX Challenge 2017

Year 5 and 6 were kept busy in the hall all morning on Tuesday with a K’nex workshop facilitated by Sam from BAE Systems. They were set the challenge to construct a vehicle that would travel the furthest harnessing the power of the wind. In teams of three, the set about designing, building, testing and amending their vehicles until the final test just before lunch. What a vast array of designs there were!

Our winning team, who will be heading off to the final next Tuesday, demonstrated team work, perseverance, resilience and adaptability, being able to construct a vehicle that was stable, travelled the straightest and the furthest! Congratulations!

Planes and Pizza!!

What a fantastic term in year 1 – full of investigation and discovery. Our topic about flight proved to be immense fun as we explored the best material to make a helicopter, based on the principal of how a sycamore seed flies. We were surprised to find that paper flew and spun the best with craft foam a close second. The children also came in enthused after their homework challenge to make  a parachute for a toy, asking ‘what flying thing are we making next?’

1755 1749

We continued with our investigations by designing, making and improving paper kites. Luckily we were blessed with a windy afternoon to carry out our testing, and retesting once we had strengthened our kites with drinking straws. The kites looked really professional and the children were keen to take them home rather than have them displayed in the classroom.

1757 1770 1787

Paper planes were our next challenge! Many of the boys professed to be experts already, however they keenly followed the video instructions to make a dart plane. With our planes decorated and named (Some with hugely creative names like ‘Blaze’ and ‘Sapphire’) we once again went outside to see what our creations would do. After a few trial runs, our planes were flying brilliantly, especially after adding blue tac to balance them.

1834 1837

The children were thrilled to arrive one morning to find a Pizza Shop in the conservatory! Our maths about wholes, halves, quarters, money, and counting in twos, fives and tens was fun and practical, as well as helping our communication skills and manners!

1844 1841 1842 1833 1800 1791

The children are now wondering what might appear in the conservatory next…


This week’s blog is written by our science club members1594.

This week was a wildlife adventure. Firstly, we went to explore in our pond and found, to our surprise, a baby frog and many, many tadpoles. Using our identification charts we also identified water beetles, worm-like creatures and water slaters.

Next, we went on a “mini beast hunt”, in search of invertebrates that live in our school gardens. Beneath the logs, we found millipedes, centipedes and plenty woodlice. We learnt that not every woodlouse is actually a woodlouse; many are pill bugs that can roll up into a tight ball. Woodlice cannot do this, although they can curl up. Isaac was delighted to find a Violet Ground beetle aka “Digby” but soon discovered that other children were not able to identify it in a classification key with the name he had given it. We learnt that, although we can have great fun discovering the living things in the grounds, we need to be responsible and make sure that we put them back where we found them. This was a great experience learning outside in the gorgeous sunshine.

I think science club is great, and more importantly fun!” Laura

“I enjoy science club because there is always something different to explore.” Grace W

I love science club because all the science experiments are cool and you learn something new.” Isabelle

Milo: “It is a great experience.”

Science club is super super amazing!” Amelia

Every week we wait for something new to do.” Grace T

Even though we have only had a turn for three weeks this term, I have learned lots and lots about science and I will be signing for science club next year !” Hannah – Rose






What a fantastic afternoon was had by the remaining 20 Year 6 pupils who attended Walthamstow Hall’s Science Week event! Not only did the pupils enjoy their experience, but so did the adults that accompanied them. Mrs Wood, Head of Science said ” Having the Year 6s  are her and her team’s highlight of the week and we thoroughly enjoy having them.” As always, St John’s pupils behaved impeccably and participated enthusiastically in all the activities.

Firstly, Mrs Boardman  accompanied us to the library where we worked on space poetry and designed our own spaceships. This was followed by several exciting activities in the science block.

In the biology department, we were set a SPACE CHALLENGE, in which we had to count how many beads we could transfer in a minute with and without a thick glove, simulating the challenges faced by astronauts making repairs in space and how  tricky it is to work in thick gloves. Tegan and Ollie were highly adept at this (perhaps future astronauts in the making!).

Next, in Chemistry, we explored the use of UV light, treated fabrics for space suits and tested to see if they were fire retardant. The highlight for most was the simulation of The Big Bang, using exploding eggs filled with hydrogen. WHAT A BANG!!!  Pupils in year 6, in a recent survey, requested the opportunity to explode and ignite things. They were not disappointed!!

Next, in Physics we were asked “Why do stars twinkle?” and with the use of lazers and steam we learned why. This was followed by the making of a telescope each and  we plotted named stars on an enormous star map using the latest software.

Every year, I think Wally Hall can’t do better and each year surpasses the last. Every little detail planned and delivered expertly. Thank you to them for their wonderful generosity in providing our pupils with such enriching science opportunities.


Once in a life time opportunity

IMG_2453“Once in lifetime opportunity” These were the words Mrs Wood, Head of Science at Walthamstow Hall announced as 6 lucky science ambassadors arrived at the lab.  The children were told that they were some of the few really privileged people to be able to hold moon rock and meteorite samples which Walthamstow had managed to borrow. 4.5 billion years old many of the samples were. Can you imagine that? The children were escorted around by teaching staff and sixth form students who explained the specimens to them, and showed them how to use the magnifying glasses. Some of the pieces were most peculiar especially Libyan Desert Glass which looked like quartz but felt like plastic.The Henbury Meteorite fragment was amazing. So heavy!

We held a  meteor fragment formed 150 million years before earth and were told that we were holding the oldest thing ever discovered.Amazing! As always, our ambassadors behaved impeccably and were interested and enthusiastic, representing St John’s beautifully.  Sadly, that was the last of our special lunchtime visits, however next week Year 6 are heading over to Walthamstow Hall to take part in some of their science week activities. Watch this space to read all about it.

Year 3/4 Science Club Term 5

PicCollage (5)Space Mission: STEM Challenge.

To get us thinking like NASA engineers, we started the session by watching a video of the Curiosity rover, that was deployed to MARS, being engineered and the problems presented for the engineering team. We then set about trying to solve the problem: how do we get our own spaceships to land without the aliens bouncing out of their ship? Shock absorbers! That’s how. The children got into groups and began designing. Planning, testing, adapting ideas (some “magpied” from others), evaluating and retesting were key skills developed in this session. All groups successfully landed their spaceships, with Grace’s group being able to drop theirs from over 1m. Pipe cleaners and springs, we discovered, make excellent shock absorbers.   Well done science clubbers! Next week: something different.

Lucky 6 attend Walthamstow Hall Lunchtime Science Club

PicCollage (4)Yesterday, our Year 4 and 5 Science Ambassadors walked to Wally Hall to join their Lunchtime Science Club. There was much excitement as we headed to the labs following the twit-twoo sounds that were filling the corridors. To our surprise we entered a darkened lab to find  a group of KS3 girls all ready in lab coats and we began the investigation. What did this owl have for dinner? Eagerly, we set about investigating owl pellets, carefully pulling them apart to find tiny little bones which we then had to identify using ID charts. Despite, the difference in ages, our St John’s pupils behaved  impeccably, working like scientists taking the task very seriously. Some of us were fortunate to find entire skulls inside the pellets. Daniel found two tiny vole bones and was able to place the ball within the socket to make a working joint. Wally Hall, as always, made  this session extra special by allowing us to take the bones home, along with the ID charts and  further information about owls. Isaac enjoyed the session so much that  he announced that he was going to buy some of his own owl pellets to continue his learning at home.

Despite this club being during the children’s lunch hour, there were no complaints. In fact, they are all looking forward to next week and have asked for further sessions. Matthew said, “I loved it. I would rather do this than play. This is much more fun!”  I am so grateful to the wonderful science team at Walthamstow Hall, who when the initial idea of us joining their club was suggested, saw the valuable learning experiences it would provide for both their pupils and ours and made it happen. The best part for me was seeing the children’s level of engagement and enthusiasm and their excitement as they returned to school eager to share their learning with others, including Mrs Quirk.



Primary Engineering Award Competition Update

Many children have been asking about the engineering competition we entered as part of STEM week. I have been in touch with the team of judges. They have informed me that there will be 2 entries per year group shortlisted to go through to the next round of judging (hopefully within the next 3 weeks). We should hear very soon who these fabulously creative pupils are and their entries will then be judged by “big-wigs from academia and industry” at UCL (to quote directly). We will receive news soon I hope and I will share this once I have the information. The certificates should arrive for participating pupils before the end of the academic year (I am told). So, fingers crossed, it may be your design that is chosen.


wriggly workshop

To end our learning about animals Year 1 were treated to a visit from a Zoolab animal expert today. We were all really excited to find out what we were going to meet…

During our learning session we touched Simba, the giant African lands snail. We learned that it had two noses, teeth on its tongue and could grow up to the size of a football! We correctly worked out that it was a  herbivore.


Next we met Dory, a beautiful Madagascan hissing cockroach. Maxwell said that it was ‘smooth and bumpy’ as it had its armour on the outside, rather than bones on the inside. We were amazed to find out that it was fire-proof and would survive in ice for up to two months. It would also live without its head for ten days du to having two brains, one in its head and one  in its bottom!


Our third visitor was a creature that had a sting in its tail and luckily stayed in the tank, an Asian forest scorpion called Olaf. We were not allowed to touch it in case it pinched our finger with its enormous claws.


Our final one was a furry mammal called Blueberry. She was a beautiful grey rat who was incredibly tame. Despite having a bad reputation we learned that they are actually very clean animals, using their paws to wash all over four times each hour.


It was great to see these animals up close and to apply our scientific knowledge from last term.


This term our new topic is called ‘Up, Up and Away’, and is about flying and materials. We have lots of exciting investigations to complete involving paper planes, kites and helicopters.