The trip to Oxford Castle was a huge success and we have had some very positive feedback from children and parents, alike! We travelled to the centre of Oxford, to find the castle nestled quite inconspicuously, in its contrastingly modern surroundings: the brand new Westgate Centre, situated just feet away from the ancient building that once acted as the epicentre of defence against the Vikings, for the entire city. Of course, in comparison to the settlement that sat on the Cherwell and the Thames in 1009, the Oxford that we see nowadays is a far reaching and comprehensive infrastructure. In a city which lives and breathes its historical gravitas, the remaining sections of the motte and bailey castle are hidden gems, which provide yet another angle to the depth of Oxford's history.
On arrival, we were whisked into a tour of the castle and prison. The children ascended all 101 steps of St George's Tower. Built in a clockwork spiral (or as the children pointed out, more of a helix) the tower was cleverly designed to prevent Vikings from swinging their swords in attack, as they climbed it. Around two thirds of the way up, we discovered a room in which King James imprisoned parliamentary sympathisers, during the civil war of 1642. At the top, the view was astounding and the children spent some time absorbing the beauty of the great city.
Subsequently, we toured the prison, learning about the dismal and desperate lives of the prisoners who were incarcerated there, during Victorian times. Some of the children carried out demonstrations of the punishments that would have befallen those, unlucky enough to be caught stealing something insignificant or being charged with owning a 'saucy mouth'. This was, of course, as equally shocking as it was entertaining; I'm sure we all learnt something that we will never forget, that day! //// In the afternoon, the children took part in creative writing and drama activities, which explored the story of Prince Stephen and Empress Matilda. They had the opportunity to dress-up and act out the tale, which was refreshing in that it ended with a diplomatic compromise and peace: Stephen taking the throne and Matilda striking a deal, which guaranteed a place on the throne, for her son. The children planned and acted-out scenes from the story in small groups, with plenty of ad-libbing and sound effects to bring the performance to life.
The children also had the opportunity to climb the mound and stand at the top, observing the city from yet another great height. They could see first-hand, the importance of the higher ground in order spot and prepare for an attack. Many of them practised their archery skills using imaginary bows and arrows and set off on impromptu battles of their own, in high spirits. Speaking of spirits, we were also terrorised by a phantom shoulder-tapper, throughout our time at the castle. Most of us assumed it was Mr Stewart, until we were made aware that the castle is likely haunted. The mystery has not been solved, even now!
A superb time was had by all. Thank you, Oxford Castle!
On Wednesday the 23rd October, Chestnut and Sycamore travelled to the Raptor Foundation near Huntingdon to learn about birds of prey. They were accompanied by Miss McCall, Mr Bay and Mr Pendry, who were all highly impressed by the children’s behaviour and representation of the school.
After a brief introduction, the two classes separated for different activities, swapping over after lunch. One group visited the reptile house where different prey species of the birds were housed (not as future snacks!). The children were able to get hands on with tortoises and geckos and also enjoyed seeing meerkats up close. They were told about the advances in medical treatments, using synthetic snake venom, and other important research going on with these species. They also heard how litter is particularly dangerous to animals that cannot bring it back up after it is swallowed.
The other group went to the education centre where they studied the pellets of local Barn owls in order to ascertain their diet composition. This involved dissecting the pellets with tweezers and fingers, matching the bones that they found to an identification chart. This was followed by an opportunity to meet and greet two owls (a small African eagle owl called Lola and a British Tawny owl named Topaz). The children were delighted to be able to stroke these two magnificent creatures.
Between these two activities, the children watched a performance by different species of raptor with several getting much closer to the birds than they anticipated as they flew past. They were told about the birds’ habitats and the dangers posed to them by mankind.
The staff at the centre were amazed at the children’s knowledge and understanding of the issues that they were covering. In fact, our tour guide Elliot stated that he had to adjust his presentation to a level three years older than he anticipated, such was the knowledge displayed by the children.
Every one of us enjoyed the experience immensely and have been left with wonderful memories and feeling inspired for the future.
Miss McCall & Mr Pendry
The two groups had an eventful trip into London Euston after signal failure delays, but all had seats and we travelled across to the Tate Britain gallery quite easily. The children started by looking at a series of Henry Moore figure related sculptures and drawings, with some very good rendering of shape and texture in their sketchbooks.
After a brief gallery explore they then went to the William Blake exhibition where they carried out a series of detailed drawn studies of selected paintings as well as a careful look at the very large range of William Blake engravings. Several members of the public commented positively both on their work focus and the quality of the drawings in progress!
Beech and Holly had a fantastic first trip to the National Space Centre in Leicester. When we arrived we saw a real life rocket. It was enormous and the children were very impressed. We were invited inside to explore different aspects of space and travel. In the Tranquillity Base we explored the inside of a moon buggy and took it in turns to drive a hover chair. We also had a go at measuring our heights, weights and bone density to see if we could also be astronauts. In the solar system section we found a tiny-tarium. In the tiny-tarium we met Astronaut George who took us around the solar system. We had to answer his questions about the different planets by pressing the buttons around the walls. The children discovered that not all planets have water, air and friends. We also used our sense of touch to feel different types of rocks they have found on the earth, the moon and in space. In this section we also saw a model rover robot which could be steered with a remote control.
In our packed lunch we had sandwiches, yogurt, fruit and raisins. After lunch, we were fortunate enough to then go to the big planetarium where we discovered the history of light travel from Earth and were blown away by how many people it took to land men on the moon. At the end of the day we met some of the Space Centre staff who showed us how to make our own alien slime which we could take home with us. We had had so much fun on the trip that a lot of the children fell asleep on the coach trip back to school. What an exciting adventure!
Miss Ascough & Mrs Maulkerson
On Friday the 11th October, Hawthorn and Poplar travelled to Newmarket, the home of British horseracing. The children were accompanied by Mr Thorne, Ms Archer and Mr Pendry around the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art.
Once inside they took part in a three stage workshop that focused on the digestive system. The children got to meet retired thoroughbred racehorses and observe their movement as they were told about the feeding habits of horses. This was followed by an activity organising the digestive system organs of a horse, which is slightly different to that found in a human being.
The children also visited an interactive gallery which taught them about the size and weight of a racehorse's organs and skeleton, as well as the careful selective breeding that goes into the creation of a champion.
Lastly the children took part in a mock surgery, identifying cuddly organs that they pulled out of the patient.
The children impressed the staff with their understanding of the topic and prior knowledge.
Larch and Rowan excitedly set off to the rainforest, well The Living Rainforest! We visited The Living Rainforest to support the work that we have been doing in geography. Guided by members of staff from The Grove and the centre, Larch and Rowan explored parts of the rainforest.
The children thoroughly enjoyed listening to our guides share information about the environment and the animals that live in the rainforest. The children impressed the guides with their knowledge of the rainforest, were able to answer lots of questions and ask relevant questions.
We were introduced to a water dragon, a salmon pink bird eating spider, an armadillo, a snake called Lenny and hidden in the top of the trees we spotted a sleeping sloth. We were very proud of the children, as they represented the school extremely well and were polite and well-behaved for the duration. What a lovely day!
Mrs Okwuadigbo & Mrs Vass
The day started well with a bright morning and a prompt set off to see Kew gardens. The day consisted of an science and art workshop looking at different climate ’biomes’ such as desert, tropical, temperate whilst exploring greenhouses with those environments. The children did various drawing and knowledge activities accompanying these with an exceptionally good Kew tutor. The other half of the day was a tour of the exquisite yet also ‘boisterous’ large scale Dale Chihuly blown glass sculptures situated in the Kew grounds and green houses.
The children drew notice as they looked and sketched with several unsolicited favourable comments; one lady saying that she was amazed at their work focus and quiet concentration and a passing design lecturer felt she had to stop and say that the drawing standard was outstanding especially for a year six level. The sketchbook work quality was very good with some striking drawings which will inform an ongoing sculptural project follow up at school.
After lunch on Friday the keen members of the climbing club departed for the Lake District National Park. A long journey with a tasty sandwich saw us arrive around nine thirty at Glaramara outdoor centre. The centre were so welcoming and showed us straight to the rooms where Kyle promptly declared that the room was ten out of ten. Falling straight asleep they were obviously tired.
A bright start to the day was a wonderful way to wake up. The Lake District was stunning to see. The children started the day with a lovely cooked breakfast before meeting Tom, (their instructor), who kitted them up with harness and climbing helmet ready for action.
We headed out into Borrowdale and wound out way in the minibus down a very narrow winding lane. Walking up through the woods the children got their first glimpse of the lake and location of their morning climbing. Throughout the morning the children learnt to belay and look after each other whilst climbing. It was great to see them coming together as a team and work on their communication skills. After a great morning the children walked to the river and ate their tasty pack lunch before moving to the next location for the afternoon.
In the afternoon the children went up to the upper valley and climbed on Shepard’s crag, famous around the World to climbers. They had the opportunity to look at a new style of climbing and relished the challenge, despite the high wind they did fantastically.
After a long day some games, shower and dinner beckoned. They were very hungry and ate a delicious dinner, a tour group commented how impressed they were at the politeness and manners the children demonstrated throughout dinner. They were then of to bed and were once again asleep in minutes.
The next day was a bit wetter than the previous day and the decision was made to go gorge scrambling/climbing. The children were kitted out with waterproofs and caving suits to keep them warm. A short walk and we were exploring the gorge. They climbed through waterfalls, tight holes in tress and caves. They had the best time exploring and having a great adventure. We then headed back to the centre for a late lunch and got on the road back to school.
All of the children had a fantastic time and could have happily stayed another week. We look forward to the summer and more rock climbing adventures to come.
Beech and Holly had a wonderful trip to Paradise Wildlife Park. We started off our trip with a hands on experience where we met a tortoise called Usain, a bearded dragon called Spike and a very friendly rabbit called Moana. After our workshop we visited the big cats and watched the white lions sleeping on top of their rock. We were very lucky to see the cheetah being fed and we listened to the talk as they explained that she was quite lazy and didn't like to run even though they have set up lovely tracks and games for her. We discovered that they therefore only run out of necessity which was very interesting. We spotted some playful jaguar's and sleepy tigers from the tree top walkway and descended to discover meerkats warming up under the heat lamp.
Our next adventure was into the reptile house and the Amazing Amazon exhibition where we saw a huge Anaconda swimming in it's pool. We also spotted an alligator, pythons and toads.
After lunch it was onto the penguin pool where they were having a swimming race and jumping out of the pool. Then we saw the alpaca's, zebra's and we even crawled through the meerkat tunnel to get a closer look at another group of meerkats who were foraging for their dinner. We had a quick ice cream stop to restore our energy and it was onto the Land of the Dinosaurs! We had a very exciting ride on the Dino Express and came face to face with some our favourite dinosaurs. Some of us even got squirted by the dinosaurs which was very funny.
We had a fun packed day and saw lots of wonderful animals. Many of us are keen to return as we enjoyed it that much and even one member of Holly Room declared as we were heading home "this was the best day ever!" All in all it was a very successful trip and we all left with lots of new animal facts to share.
The students arrived keen and ready at school for six thirty AM, despite the early start they were full of beans and ready to go. We headed for the Channel tunnel and managed to get on an early crossing which was very good news as what awaited us at the other side was a huge traffic jam through Brussels. The students sang lots of songs and stayed in good spirits until we arrived at the hotel in the evening.
The students were out of the car and ready to go in ten minutes and after a quick dinner they were out on the slopes and ready to ski. The students had a fun couple of hours skiing learning some new techniques and skills. After packing up they were straight to bed and asleep in moments.
The following morning the students were up early for a good breakfast and then straight out on the slopes for their morning lesson. They focused on their technique getting their arms forwards and engaging their body to ski down the slope with carving style turns and get ready for the gate training later in the day. They started to make progress in this before going in for a well-deserved lunch. The students headed out with us to warm up their legs and get ready for the afternoon gate training. We worked again on their technique before they went off to have their first run at the gates.
In the afternoon the students had their first run at the gates completing some good times but still needed to work on their technique for turning into the gates. Luckily after dinner they had video analysis feedback to improve this.
Looking at the video analysis the students studied their techniques and knew how to improve the following day. After an evening hot chocolate they were soon straight to bed sleeping through the whole night.
Sunday morning came, and the students were up and out on the slope practicing some technique before going into the gates once more, where they started to use their body to turn and kept their hands up. The students stopped for an early lunch and were back out onto the slope ready for the final session. They hurtled through the gates trying their best to improve upon their scores from the previous day. After a final group picture, we were of the slope and ready for the journey back.
The journey back was much quicker, we got back just after the scheduled time. All of the students were exhausted and promptly fell asleep as soon as they were with their parents.
All of the students had a great trip and look forward to their upcoming competition later in the year. Mr Thorne and Miss Keates
Beech and Holly had a wonderful trip to Pizza Express where they went through the rigorous training to become a Junior Pizzaiolo. We had a very informative workshop about all the ingredients that come together to create the wonderful flavours in a pizza. They explored the different tastes of Mozzarella and tomatoes and then the exciting dough appeared. We discovered what we needed to make the dough and then we had to knead it, flatten it, spread it and roll it. It was so much fun and the children finished it off by throwing the dough in the air and catching it just like the professionals! Once our dough was safely in the pizza dishes they added their cheese and tomato toppings. They went into the stone ovens and then came out pipping hot and scrummy yummy. This was one of my favourite trips I have ever taken children on as they were so excited and engaged with everything that they did. The children were beautifully behaved and a credit to the school and I was so proud of them. Well done Beech and Holly- I look forward to our next adventure together. Mrs Collins
Beech and Holly had a wonderful trip to Whipsnade Zoo in the glorious sunshine. We were fortunate enough to arrive in time to watch the very cheeky lemurs eat their breakfast then made our way to the penguins. We spent a long time in the African Animals part of the zoo and were delighted to watch the giraffes being fed and the sleepy lions doing what they do best-sleeping! Then we made it up to the tigers before stopping for lunch and a little play. The next part of our adventure took us on the train where we spotted the beautiful elephants and the rhinos wallowing in the mud. After a stop for an ice cream we visited the petting zoo and got very friendly with the pygmy goats and finished our trip in the butterfly house. It was here that the children were complimented on their wonderful behaviour and we were told that we were the best school to have come through this part of the zoo that day. With lots more still to explore we sadly had to leave but the children were brimming with excitement about the amazing animals they had encountered that day and eager to return at the next available opportunity! Thank you Beech and Holly for a wonderful day, we were all incredibly proud of you and impressed with the knowledge and facts you had retained from our exciting day at the zoo.
On arrival, our tour leader, Stephen, commented that The Grove Independent children were likely to be the smartest children who had visited the Milton Keynes City Discovery Centre! We began in a lecture theatre watching a slide show of photographs exploring historical images of Milton Keynes and London. Milton Keynes’ history can be traced back to the Stone Age! We studied huge maps and heard all about the great plans for Milton Keynes over 50 years ago. We then embarked on our field trip around Stony Stratford. Carrying clipboards, we stopped at a medieval inn, a Georgian house and some Victorian terraces to complete fact sheets. We were proud of how the children conducted themselves along Stony Stratford High Street showing their manners to all they passed. Next we visited a library and found out how books used to be borrowed. Finally, we practised our navigational skills back at the Discovery Centre. A wonderful fact-filled day!