March 2019

British Science Week

Hot on the heels of National Careers Week came British Science Week – an annual event run by the British Science Association in celebration of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths.

This year, Withernsea High School’s Science Faculty revisited the theme of Harry Potter and ‘The Science behind the Magic’. Last used four years ago, this successful theme aims to show how magical concepts can be explained and reproduced using real-life Science skills and techniques.

As is now traditional with these events, the week launched with the Science Faculty taking full advantage of the theme by wearing fancy dress. From several Harry Potters, through to a Voldemort and a Professor McGonagall – the team wasted no time in entering in to the spirit of the occasion!

Throughout the week, Science lessons for students in Years 7 and 8 were tweaked to accommodate the Harry Potter theme. Biology became ‘Muggle Studies’ which, for those who aren’t familiar with the books and films, is a study of human (non-magical) life. In these lessons, students explored genetics to investigate why some people are born with specific features.

In Chemistry, students looked at Transfiguration - a branch of magic that focuses on the alteration of the form or appearance of an object. However, rather than changing animals in to water goblets (which would quite obviously provoke the ire of the RSPCA), students instead turned glue in to malleable slime by adding chemicals to create chemical reactions. This highlighted how substances can change from one state to another through using different processes.

Via a specially filmed video introduction, students were also set a challenge from the ‘Minister of Magic’. The ‘Minister’, who looked suspiciously like Headteacher Mark Crofts, asked the students to employ investigative skills in order to find the correct formula for Floo Powder.
In the world of Harry Potter, Floo Powder facilitates communication and magical travel between fireplaces – producing a green flame in the process. In the world of Withernsea High School’s Science department, students had to simply test their way through a number of chemicals to find which one would create the desired green flame.

Using pre-made splints, each soaked in a different chemical solution, students held them over naked flames in order to record the colour results. From the bright reds created by Lithium Chloride through to the deep purples of Potassium Chloride, students used scientific knowledge and the periodic table to determine which chemicals were responsible for each reaction.

Incidentally, the elusive green for Floo Powder was found from Copper Sulphate (...and there was me thinking that 'Floo' powder was simply just Lemsip! One House Point to the first student who gets that joke..!)

ABOVE: The Science Faculty wasted no time in dressing up! They are pictured with guest presenter Matthew Tosh (fifth from the right) who delivered a stunning road show about fireworks.

Musically Explosive – Fireworks set Science week off with a bang!

Direct link to video on YouTube:

On Monday 11th March, we were delighted to be joined by professional pyrotechnician Matthew Tosh who delivered a fireworks roadshow to students in Years 7 to 10.

It was a welcome return for Matthew who made his debut appearance at the school last year with a show entitled ‘The Science of Fireworks’ – an engaging indoor display which explored the science behind the explosions.

This year, we were thrilled that Matthew chose Withernsea High School to debut his brand new roadshow ‘Musically Explosive’ – a pyrotechnic musical tour behind the scenes of the science, engineering, artistry and planning that goes in to creating a choreographed firework display.

Matthew was heavily involved in the ‘We Are Hull’ fireworks extravaganza which launched Hull’s tenure as the UK City of Culture on New Year’s Day 2017. Using that experience as a reference point, he spoke to students about the technical complexities of setting up and running such displays.

In the relative confines of the school hall, Matthew then demonstrated how IT and electronics play an integral part in controlling shows by triggering detonations from a computer-programmed detonator. The demonstration concluded with a choreographed fireworks display which was programmed to work in time to a soundtrack – a common feature of many modern displays.

The roadshow was a resounding success and highlighted the importance of STEM in creating impressive and technically complex displays that many of us take for granted. 

Speaking after the show, Matthew Tosh commented: ‘A huge amount of hidden Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) is involved when putting on a musical firework display or live event. Musically Explosive illustrates the range of skills, resilience and preparation required in the live events industry. More importantly, it shows students that the skills they are developing in the STEM subjects now can open doors to a whole range of exciting and creative careers in the future.’

Victoria Foster, Senior Science Technician and organiser of the school’s British Science Week activities, added: ‘It was fantastic to welcome Matthew back to Withernsea High School. The show was amazing and we are honoured that we are the first school in the country to see it. Matthew is a pleasure to work with and really engages the students with his positive and enthusiastic performance. Our students were captivated by the shows and we look forward to working with Matthew again in the future.’

Care of Magical Creatures

On Tuesday 12th March, Year 7 students were given a unique opportunity to gain close contact with number of reptiles and arachnids through a special workshop delivered by Animals In-Tuition.

Animals In-Tuition promote respect for and an understanding of a wide variety of animals and their habitats. Their workshops enable people to meet and handle animals which ordinarily they wouldn’t get chance to.

As the theme of the week was Harry Potter, the workshops concentrated on spiders and snakes. Among them were Royal Pythons, a Corn Snake, Dora the salmon pink Bird Eating Tarantula and a Chilean Rose Tarantula. 

While the rest of the year group were busy designing their own Magical Creatures and completing classification tasks as part of an associated workshop in the hall, small groups of students were taken across to the HLC to meet the animals. Many students (and staff!) bravely overcome their initial fears to stroke and in some cases hold the visiting animals. 

Mags Hudson, Ranger with Animals In-Tuition, commented: ‘I was blown away by how engaged all the classes were with our animals. It was brilliant to hear some great responses to questions thrown out to class and I’m super impressed with everyone’s knowledge! It was a pleasure to come and visit everyone and I would love to join you all again soon. I was also impressed with the members of staff who overcame some initial trepidation to hold our animals!’

ABOVE: Summer Grant gets acquainted with one of the visiting snakes. 

BELOW: Not a photo for the arachnophobes!

Science Busking

Wednesday 13th March saw the return of the ever-popular Science Busking event. This event sees Science teachers deliver a range of fun, exciting and engaging demonstrations for students to enjoy during lunchtime. This year, the demonstrations were taken out of the classroom and delivered in the school’s Main Hall.

Among the experiments on display were the hair-raising Van de Graaff generator and the explosive ‘Woosh Bubbles’.

The event, as always, was a great success and a large number of students took advantage of seeing Science in action.

Science is WOW Roadshow 

Finally, on Thursday 14th March, Mrs Foster and Miss Turner attended Patrington Primary Academy to assist with their Science week activities by delivering the popular ‘Science is WOW!’ roadshow.

Launched in September 2018, ‘Science is WOW!’ Is the third annual roadshow to be delivered to local primary schools by members of Withernsea High School’s Science department. With shows at Thorngumbald Primary and Hedon’s Inmans Primary already under their belts this year, Mrs Foster and Miss Turner were pleased to add Patrington to their list where they delivered a range of fun demonstrations and experiments designed to make students go ‘Wow!’.

This year’s show follows previous successes of ‘What is Science?’ and ‘Science is Magic!’ – both of which received rave reviews from primary pupils around Holderness.

The shows expands on the science knowledge learned in primary education and enhances it through a range of highly visual and exciting demonstrations designed to enthral audiences and spark further interest in science as a wider subject.

Any schools interested in hosting a roadshow are welcome to contact Victoria Foster (Senior Science Technician) at 

ABOVE: Mrs Foster demonstrates the 'Woosh Bubbles' as part of Patrington Primary Academy's British Science Week activities.
Photo copyright: Patrington Primary Academy

Commenting on the success of the week as a whole, Mrs Foster commented: ‘British Science Week is always a busy but incredibly fun week. We aim to show the students that science is present in everything they do and can be really good fun.

I would like to thank our two guests, Matthew and Mags, for their contribution towards making the week a resounding success and I would also like to thank Patrington Primary Academy for allowing us to be a part of their science celebrations.

Finally, thank you to the staff and students of Withernsea High who once again got fully behind the activities and made them a success. We look forward to another fun year next year!’