Students from Year 7 and 8 in Ecology Club sowed seriously ‘alien’ seeds as part of an RHS experiment.
The extraterrestrial rocket seeds had been – not quite to the moon and back – but certainly to space. Two kilograms of seeds took off from Florida bound for the International Space Station as part of British ESA astronaut Tim Peake’s six-month Principia mission. After several months on board, the seeds were sent back and landed in the Pacific Ocean earlier this spring.
Once back on terra firma they were sown at The Perse, and other schools around the country, for an investigation into the effect of microgravity on seed germination and plant growth – essential work for scientists thinking about growing plants on other planets.
The students took measurements weekly to see which set of rocket seeds germinated and grew best. The Perse results were combined with those from students around the country to determine any effect.
An experiment designed by a group of Perse Sixth Formers was highly commended by CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research dedicated to probing the fundamental structure of the universe. The team of 10 led entered CERN’s Beamline for Schools competition with a proposal to re-create the Fitch Cronin experiment with kaons. Watch their fascinating pitch
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but can you guess the teacher by their taste in literature?
That is the challenge Prep pupils were set, when staff published a series of ‘shelfies’ – snaps they took of their current or regular reading matter. Children really loved guessing which shelfie belonged to which teacher, and the game encouraged them to consider what is on their own bookshelf.
Here are a selection:
They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover...
Can religious or civil authorities ever legitimately punish someone for a sincerely held religious belief?
That is the question Wafia Zia posed in an essay that came highly commended in the Keble College essay prize. Wafia interrogated the reasons for and consequences of our legal freedom in this country to believe, and considered whether it is reasonable to conclude that secular states are implicated in the rise in extremism.
Wafia traced back to find the roots of this freedom, and its unintentional potential impact. Here’s an extract from her essay:
The foundations of religious freedom in the 21st century have risen from the creation of a secular “Public Square”. This is a political idea in which there is a neutral public space where all can interact, regardless of private religious and cultural affiliations. In order for this square to exist, however, compromises must be made by all private citizens in order to maintain state authority and peace.
This ideology emerged in modernity alongside the French Revolution; in which the state and religion were separated and religious authorities struggled to maintain a sphere of influence. But this spread of idealism led to a new profound ideology. The Radical Enlightenment is a revolutionary set of ideas based upon Spinoza’s Materialist Rationalism, it was the foundation that led to the religious freedom we have today.
The advantages of religious freedom within a secular public square appear to be crystal clear: we prevent extremism within our society by only allowing religious parties to express their ideas in private. Thus, a multi-religious community is maintained. In spite of that, the consequences of maintaining a secular public state in which all are equal is often overlooked. The neutral public square de-generates religious identity, as we are forced to conform to the society that we live in. Another problem is that the promotion of security over the dignity of religious identity means that many feel isolated and vilified due to their beliefs. While the secular public space protects certain liberties, it disenfranchises, marginalises and de-particularises religious communities and this not only threatens social order but promotes extremism. The authority in a public square tries to maintain secular ideals in order to protect religious liberties, but in doing so ironically diminishes them.
Imogen Williamson, Year 6
The stage was empty until they shuffled on,
Some paraded and others shifted nervously.
They looked so different.
Some tall, some tiny, some twitchy, some calm,
Some thinking of dinner, others of death and the rest of their worries and woes.
When they were all in place the conductor looked up,
He tapped the lectern,
He lifted the baton – 400 inhaled,
He dropped the baton and 400 sang as one.
To celebrate the 400th anniversary of The Perse, we launched a poetry competition to find a winner from each year group. Imogen’s entry was the shortest of the four winning entries, but its simplicity and its clever use of metaphor make it a truly memorable piece of work.
Year 7 student Tingkai chose to carry out an investigation into how we decide right from wrong. He begins:
Often we are advised to do the right thing, but how do we know what is right and what is wrong? Being right can mean knowing the answer to a maths question, but being morally right is a different concept altogether. From the start of our lives we have been told, taught and shown what is (morally) correct. Through religion, education and opinion, our minds have been influenced to judge right from wrong without thought.
In the words of Garner and Rosen, for us to separate right from wrong, we must ask ourselves three questions, the first of which is: ‘What do the words right and wrong actually mean?’ Secondly: ‘Who believes that an action is right or wrong; some people or a lot of people?’ Finally, from the previous questions, we can answer the last: ‘How do we know what is right and wrong?’
Tingkai considers the influence of religion, past experiences, outcomes, our conscience, biases, our location and even the extent of the desperation in a situation. Why do we feel differently about saving a baby that is at risk of drowning in front of us, to saving one in need far away?
Read his thought-provoking essay on Perse Studio, our blog of students’ work beyond the curriculum.
Perse philosophers enjoy sandwiches in an unusual setting each summer, when they meet in what has been referred to as ‘Britain’s brainiest cemetery’, to lunch among the luminaries.
In a piece for Radio 4’s Today programme on the graves of the Ascension Burial Ground, Cambridge University history teacher Dr Mark Goldie counted three Nobel prizewinners, seven members of the Order of Merit, and over sixty who have entries in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: engineers, biologists, classicists, historians, poets and philosophers. Among them, a simple flat stone marks the grave of Ludwig Wittgenstein, perhaps the greatest philosopher of the 20th century.
Also at rest there are two sons and a granddaughter of Charles Darwin; Sir John Cockcroft (who split the atom in 1932); Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins (the first person to identify the existence of vitamins); and Sir Arthur Eddington, the astrophysicist who made the crucial observations of a solar eclipse that confirmed Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.
The graveyard belongs to the Church of England, and its former chapel is now the studio of American-born letter cutter Eric Marland, who trained with David Kindersley and is now the custodian of this special place.
For the full report by Dr Goldie, visit the BBC website.
Can fish live out of water? When Gyan in Year 7 explored this topic for a mini investigation he discovered not only that they can, but some can even walk on water.
Gyan explored four ‘walking fish’ that make their homes on land and live there until they need to go back in the water for oxygen again: the Mudskipper, Walking Catfish, Mummichog and West African Lungfish.
He discovered that the walking catfish can be found wiggling across the road after a Florida storm, that mummichogs can survive in hot water and that the lungfish creates a cocoon in which to survive the dry season. But it was the mudskipper that most captured his attention, for its potential to live longest on land – and for its bulging eyes, excellent for locating predators!
Mudskipper image credit: Japan Times
Students received a fascinating insight into working behind the hallowed black door of No10 from the Chief Executive of its Behavioural Insights Team.
Dr David Halpern came to The Perse to give a lunchtime lecture as part of our ’42’ programme. The behaviour change expert has worked side by side with Prime Ministers since 2001, helping the governments of first Tony Blair and then David Cameron to use so called ‘nudges’ to achieve their policy objectives.
As Dr Halpern explained, an understanding of behavioural economics is vital for policy-makers as “most policy concerns behaviour.” In recent years Government has become increasingly interested in identifying alternatives to legislation and fiscal measures to effect behaviour change, either forced by the lack of public money to find new levers or due to an ideology that is reluctant to pass laws.
Nudges are typically small, low-cost initiatives, yet they could be incredibly powerful. He cited the example of a seemingly minor change to an HMRC tax demand letter which had a big impact – significantly increasing payment. The addition of one line – “9 out of 10 people in your area pay their tax on time. You are one of the few yet to do so” – leveraged social norms to encourage people to act.
Following the lecture, Dr Halpern had a working session with students of politics, economics and psychology. Students were inspired to set up a Perse ‘Nudge Unit’, to develop experiments to measure how Nudge theory could be used to improve life at School.
Prep pupils created an exciting science garden in their grounds based on Fibonacci’s ‘golden ratio’, whereby when a series of numbers are added together, and squares are made of these widths, a spiral pattern is produced. The garden features a herb and a vegetable garden – the ingredients grown in the garden will be used in the Prep kitchen by chef Sean Johnson, and a range of flowering plants. If you look closely you will also see cubes of the iconic Wellingtonia tree which used to stand in the Prep grounds integrated into the design, helping to preserve an important part of the School’s history.
The original idea came from the School Council, funds were provided by the Perse Prep Parents’ association, and the design was created by Maryam Mortaz. The pupils were involved at every stage of the design process, with each form group putting their ideas to the designer, as were the Prep’s heads of science, design technology and geography, who discussed how the garden could be designed to integrate into the curriculum.
The garden gets plenty of use in lessons, for example pupils enjoy sketching the plants during art, and is a beautiful area for outdoor reading in the summer. Gardening club members help to maintain and water the garden, and label the plants. Plans are also afoot for a weather station to be installed, where the children can monitor rainfall, temperature and wind speed.
Image by brewbooks www.flickr.com
The Pelican took part in the National Gallery’s ‘Take One Picture’ scheme, in which the Gallery focuses on one painting from its collection and challenges schools to use the image imaginatively in the classroom. This year’s featured painting was Gainsborough’s Mr and Mrs Andrews, painted in 1750. Each year group explored a different aspect of the painting to create their own art: trees, farming, clothing, fabrics and the sky. The results were displayed in a Creative Exhibition for parents and friends.
This year we launched a mentoring programme with Colville and King’s Hedges primary schools, the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The aim of the eight-week course was to raise primary pupils’ aspirations, develop skills and enhance their confidence. Created with art history education organisation The Bigger Picture, the programme used history and art history to spark pupils’ curiosity, with sessions also hosted by King’s College and Gonville and Caius College.
French extension sessions are designed to stretch pupils both linguistically and culturally, well beyond the confines of the curriculum. They might include short stories, film studies, debating or music. One such session challenged students to develop a rap using the techniques of musicians like this rap by MC Solaar as inpiration.
No pet would ever have to go thirsty with Year 11 student Alexander Toff's automatic water fountain
The Perse Rocketry Society is perennially popular for the opportunity it provides to build and launch rockets from a top secret site near the School, and to enter the UK Aerospace Youth Rocketry Challenge, won in 2012 by a Perse team. Their challenge was to launch two hens’ eggs to a height of exactly 800ft in a rocket weighing no more than 650 grams and return the eggs safely to ground within 43-47 seconds. Penalty points were deducted from teams whose rockets fell outside these parameters; the team with the lowest overall number of penalty points was declared the winner. The winning Perse rocket reached an altitude of 803ft and returned to the ground in 39 seconds. While Perse teams’ skill is central to their regular eminence in this annual contest, the use of AP-motors, which run on ammonium perchlorate ie proper rocket fuel and can be harder to obtain, is unusual and may also be a factor in their success.
Egg image from FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Photographer: Piyachok Thawornmat
Sixth former Rebecca Waterfield helped gifted pupils at Shirley Primary School in Cambridge to reach new heights in her ‘enrichment’ time.
Once a fortnight she visited Shirley to give a group Year 4 and 5 students the opportunity to stretch their mathematical muscle by taking part in lots of hands-on activities, as part of our Primary Partnership Programme.
All The Perse volunteers make maths fun. From completing activities on the ‘Mathletics’ website to playing maths-based Top Trumps, the young pupils have a range of different activities to get involved with. Rebecca explained “They get to learn different things and do different things – they are not just sitting still and writing the whole time, it’s important to have a variety and mixture of different activities.”
As a result of taking part in the scheme, Rebecca found a new respect for her teachers, and the experience helped her better understand the teaching and learning process. Having to explain concepts to others, something made even more challenging on account of the pupils’ age, helped reinforce her own maths knowledge. She found that patience was an essential skill when it came to teaching the youngsters, as well as the ability and willingness to approach things from different angles, and felt she developed the ability to think on her feet – a skill which will undoubtedly be extremely valuable in later life.
The whole experience was hugely positive for Rebecca, who said “It’s great coming from a school like this and still being able to give so much to younger children at different schools, and being part of the local community… it would be nice to go more often!”
The Cambridge Greek Play is a play performed in Ancient Greek by students and alumni of the University of Cambridge. The event is held once every three years in a tradition which started in 1882 with the Ajax of Sophocles.
In the early days the play was a major society event, drawing large crowds from London. A number of those involved went on to become household names: in 1906 Rupert Brooke made his stage debut as the Herald in Eumenides; music for Wasps was composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams. More recently Tom Hiddleston played Orestes in Electra
For more on the fascinating history of this play, visit the Cambridge Greek Play website.
Hollywood blockbusters are usually dubbed for German audiences, with each star having his or her own voice ‘double’. Now thanks to Berlin-based photographer Marco Justus Schöler we can discover just what the German Leonardo diCaprio looks like. The photographer’s portrait exhibition, Faces Behind the Voices, reveals the 30 German voices of some of America’s best known actors, actresses and cartoon characters.
The German voice artists play their Hollywood characters so frequently that they reportedly synchronise themselves to their onscreen doubles, with some even copying their star’s mannerisms.
Image courtesy of Pixomar at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Beautifully-detailed clay leaves created by Pelicans are displayed alongside the world-class art in the National Gallery.
Pupils studied Gainsborough’s Mr and Mrs Andrews as part of the Gallery’s ‘Take One Picture’ scheme. Taking the oak tree that stands in this picture as a starting point, the pupils prepared a low relief oak shaped leaf using card and string. They then worked with Year 9 students from the Upper to create a leaf made from clay imprinted with their texture. The leaves were fired and glazed at the Upper, displayed on a tree at the Pelican for parents and pupils to admire, and finally installed in the National Gallery as part of the ‘Take One Picture’ exhibition.
Each year the Prep devotes a whole week to scientific discovery. Science Week is a celebration: pupils might find themselves using forensic science to solve crimes in the Botanic Gardens; holding an antenatal clinic; meeting a meerkat; examining a model of Beagle 2; or event touching the moon (a piece of it, in any case).
More than 20 experts typically visit, including some of the country’s leading scientists, practising medics, researchers, astronomers and engineers. Pupils also visit the Upper, where they take part in workshops, creating bangs, extracting DNA and even learning how to survive on a desert island.
Pupils visit the Upper for workshops; this year bangs and explosions sparked the imagination and enthusiasm of Year 5, whilst DNA extraction and desert island survival succeeded in captivating Year 6.
The impressive variety of talks and workshops, many delivered by Perse parents, is a real tribute to the thirst for knowledge and intellectual curiosity in our school community.
In the early 20th century The Perse established a pioneering Jewish boarding house. Hillel House was home to more than 400 boys in its 40 year history, including many refugees. It was one of only four Jewish boarding houses ever to have existed at independent schools in Britain. The house was established in 1904 – against a backdrop of growing anti-Semitism – to promote acceptance of all faiths.
Most independent schools restricted the admission of Jewish children to a small quota at that time, required them to attend chapel and did not allow them time off for festivals or provide facilities to avoid non-kosher food. At Hillel House, Jews were free to follow their religion.
Hillel House was set up by visionary Headmaster WHD Rouse, whose early experience as the son of missionaries in Calcutta taught him the value of religious tolerance, and Maths Master, Israel Hersch. It occupied the building on Glebe Road which today houses the Perse Pelican Nursery and Pre-Prep. The House had five dormitories, a homework room, a library and a dining hall. Outside was a sizeable field for play and outdoor activities, also used for the traditional outdoor meal of the autumn harvest festival of Sukkot.
Prep pupils are encouraged to think about how they take care of themselves in their annual Wellbeing Week.
Children take part in a range of activities (from art to aerobics, mindfulness to team-building) over the course of the week, designed to get them thinking about different ways they can take care of themselves. After exercising their vocal chords in a rap poetry session, the whole school gets a whole body workout with aerobics in the playground.
We set a wellbeing challenge each day – one such challenge was to take notice, whether that be taking a break from the screen to spot something they have not seen before or pause during their busy day to appreciate the world around them.
Pupils are encouraged to:
Maths can crop up in some unexpected places.
The Fibonacci sequence is nature’s numbering system. The spiral created from the sequence can be found everywhere, from the scales of a pineapple to the shape of a human ear.
In the seeming randomness of the natural world, Year 6 pupils discovered many instances of mathematical order involving the Fibonacci numbers and the closely related ‘Golden’ elements. Their investigations led them to producing their own Fibonacci spirals to mirror the example – clearly visible from the classroom window – found in our science garden.
Image courtesy of posterize at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
An amazing 31 languages are spoken by Prep pupils on a daily basis – including Malayalam, Swedish and Japanese – cause for celebration and a day dedicated to exploring different cultures.
Pupils from all year groups, dressed to represent a country of their choice, spent a day off timetable learning and about and experiencing customs around the world. Parents and pupils began by proudly demonstrating their skills during a special assembly. A wide range of activities followed, from flag making and learning Danish, to playing boules, Danish longball and kabaddi.
Chinese and Native American cultures provided the inspiration for pupils to create myriad totem poles and an enormous Chinese dragon, paraded through the School by the pupils.
Prep students have a voracious appetite for drama, so it should not surprise you to learn that in Oliver! the cry ‘Please Sir, I want some more’ went up not once, or twice, but three times! And each time from a different actor in the title role.
At the Prep we triple cast our annual Year 6 production to enable the pupils to have much more involvement. Each pupil plays a principal role one night and a supporting role in the other two performances.
Pelicans enjoyed celebrating the Queen at 90 at their special street party
Year 8 pupils studying landscape explored programme music, where narrative is created about landscape themes, such as in Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony, Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture: Fingal’s cave and Elgar’s inspiration from the Malvern hills. Then – rather than art influencing music – they looked at how music might influence art.
Pupils studied the work of several artists inspired by music, including Kandinsky, Alison Pilkington and Kevin Laycock, and discussed how music could be described through colour, line and shape.
Students experimented with pastel, pencil and collage; the final piece was created by scanning their practical experiments and manipulating the image through multiple layering and filter effects on Photoshop.
Did you ever imagine that jelly teddy bears could teach us about evolution?
Year 7 pupils use them to demonstrate the process of evolution through natural selection by playing the Jelly bear evolution game.
Each student has a bear of a particular colour and these are placed randomly onto a map of ‘jelly bear island’. The students then take turns to choose a card which represents a selection pressure (e.g. a predator arrives on the island with a preference for eating the green bears)! Bears die off or survive and then the survivors can reproduce. At the end of the game the person with the most jelly bears of a certain colour is the winner and has the best adapted jelly bear for that environment
“Originally, classics was The Perse’s only subject and it is brilliant to have it reintroduced, especially in the year of the 400th anniversary”. Year 6 pupil.
Classics was reintroduced at the Prep in 2015, taught by the Head. Pupils have enjoyed decoding The Perse’s Latin motto, ‘Qui facit per alium facit per se’ as ‘He who does things for others does them for himself’, and have seen the learned pun.
Year 4 pupils were inspired by the sculptor and collagist Eduardo Paolozzi to create robotic heads.
Pupils learnt how to draw a face in proportion, then to draw different piece of machinery. Combining the machinery with the facial features, they built a semi relief sculpture from craft materials.
This fascinating essay explores the ideas of truth, interpretation and judgement, and how these can affect one’s understanding of the past. Should one’s understanding of events in a history book be based solely on the ‘hard facts’ of the event, leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions? Or should historians make their own judgements in addition to the facts, perhaps therefore altering one’s understanding of the past?
To find the answers to these questions, read Lower Sixth student John’s full report, which was a submission for the Julia Wood Prize, on our Perse Studio blog, a showcase of pupil work.
One of the world’s most celebrated existentialists Albert Camus, in fact repeatedly denied the label. So found sixth formers Jonny and Alex, who gave a presentation to their peers on Existentialism.
Camus was the author of L’étranger – a tale of absurdity, death, and coming to grips with the meaning of one’s existence – one of the most important existentialist works. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature 1957 “for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times”.
Jonny and Alex revealed that although Camus was personally committed to values such as individualism, free choice, inner strength, authenticity, personal responsibility, and self determination, he repeatedly denied that he was an existentialist. Although he embraced many of the ideas, he believed that for one to be considered anything one must commit themselves totally to that doctrine, and he was unwilling to do this.
Mobile phones that can save you from a heart attack, literacy’s influence on life expectancy and why more money is not always the answer. Jeremy Samuel’s analysis of providing high quality healthcare with limited resources was highly commended in the Corpus Christi College essay competition (William Briggs prize in Medicine).
As healthcare costs around the world continue to spiral higher and higher, populations and industry demand ever-increasing levels of healthcare quality, forcing providers to ask ‘Is it possible to provide high quality healthcare with limited resources?’
Despite recent, vast improvements worldwide, for example a 33% decrease in malarial-mortality rates in the World Health Organisation’s African region, significant challenges remain – from the spread of the Zika virus in South America to pressures on the NHS from a declining birth-rate. Capital alone is not the answer – despite spending $8,508 on healthcare per person, the American system ranked last overall in delivering healthcare.
Jeremy’s essay covers the role of technology, the promotion of preventative care and the adoption of innovative models of healthcare from around the world. Read the fascinating findings in full on our Perse Studio blog of student work.
Image courtesy of Baitong333 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The Sea and the Skylark, an original composition by student Will Harmer.
View the full score, or listen below.
Year 3 and Year 4 pupils worked with Director of Music Paul Harris to pen and perform a rap as a lighthearted element to their serious summer concert at the University’s West Road Concert Hall. No doubt its message was music to their parents’ ears:
Tidy up your room on a reg – u – lar basis
In the end you know – – it makes senses
Your mum will be proud
And your dad will say ‘YEAH!’
Student George Lawton created a moving short film to convey the experience of growing up at The Perse
Pupils from the Pelican, Prep and Upper took inspiration from three great composers from the past 400 years, Bach, Beethoven and Britten, to create their own compositions to mark our 400th anniversary. The pupils worked with award-winning composer Rachel Leach, and London Symphony Orchestra musicians Matthew Gibson (double bass) and Jonathan Lipton (horn), in a series of workshops over several months, then 200 pupils, from age three to 18, performed together in concert.
Rachel Leach said: “I was thrilled to be asked to write a piece to celebrate The Perse School’s special anniversary. Perse 400 features four movements for orchestra which borrow ideas from 400 years of music history. After a modern introduction we whizz back to Baroque times for a passacaglia – a repeating bassline loosely based on the work of 16th century composer Orlando Gibbons. After this there’s a classical sonata form movement, the main theme of which is based on the words ‘Perse’, ‘Pelican’, ‘Prep’ and ‘Upper’. Then a movement which, in line with many great 19th century symphonic works, has a secret story at its core, and finally we’re up to date with a modern finale and new anthem for the School. These movements were interspersed with new work created by the students in workshop sessions with LSO musicians Matthew Gibson and Jonathan Lipton. Upper students have reworked the bassline from Bach’s Goldberg Variations, a group from the Prep re-write Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and the Pelican follow Benjamin Britten’s lead in stealing from Purcell.”
The concert also saw a new setting of the school song words from c.1950:
Let us acclaim in song
Those who have passed along
Whose names appear on England’s story
Whose work won neither fame nor glory
Help us to emulate deeds that are good and great
So, beside our own ambition Perse’s name has held proud position
For 400 years
When Cambridge Assessment wanted to find a school where maths is embraced in all subjects, they only had to look up the road to The Perse. Here's a short film they made to illustrate that a good understanding of maths has no boundaries. Thumbnail image credit: Salvatore Vuono, freedigitalphotos.net
Student Alex Wright de la Cal received a commendation for his profile of ‘Max and Moritz’, written and illustrated by Wilhelm Busch, in the 2016 Oxford German Olympiad. The theme of the competition was ‘Deutscher Humor – nichts zum Lachen’, and judges were looking for linguistic accuracy, stylistic sophistication, and creativity.
It's not easy to frame a two-metre long anniversary tapestry. Here's a clip of the work being carefully laced by Simon Robinson Framers.
Children relished five days dedicated to the written word for the Pelican’s Literacy Week. During the week they explored poetry, and penned poems on the theme of ‘sense’. Here is the poem written by Shivani Ojha, Year 2
Excited is hot violet
It tastes like sweet popcorn
And it smells like fresh grass.
Excited looks like big fireworks
The sound of Father Christmas
It feels like fluffy kittens.
Happy is light pink
It tastes like soft strawberries
And smells like sweet cake.
Happy looks like red roses
The sound of babies giggling
It looks like a beautiful butterfly.
Image by antpkr, from freedigitalphotos.net
Children at the Pelican Nursery and Pre-Prep make many friends – including those of the four-legged, often furry kind. The School has five ‘learning friends’: soft toys used to epitomise and encourage good learning behaviours.
Clara the cat – exploring
Tommy the tortoise – persevering
Ursula the unicorn – creating
Oscar the owl – reflecting
Bertie the bee – collaborating
Percy the pelican (the school mascot) – ‘Pelican behaviour‘
Incidentally, the children created the mosaic themselves, with the help of glass artist Eva Bennett.
Girls’ cricket is growing in popularity at the Prep, and in 2015 the U11A team had an unbeaten season and took the county Kwik Cricket title.
While male players have dominated the game in the recent past, evidence suggests women have played cricket since its very beginning. According to Lords, early images appear to show nuns and monks playing cricket together in the fourteenth century, and a crowd of 3,000 was recorded at a women’s match in Sussex in 1768. Women may have actually invented overarm bowling.
The ‘Scoubidou’ craze – the art of weaving plastic strands into bracelets, figures and key rings – originated in France and is thought to be named after the 1950s Sacha Distel song.
A found fragment; a torn tale….discovered drifting in the breeze.
Year 3 pupils were set the challenge of writing so compelling an extract of a story, the finder of the ‘lost page’ would be determined to track down the whole novel. Here is one of the winning entries.
Sometimes homework is as popular as a plague – literally!
Following a computing lesson using hyperlinks to create interactive presentations, one Year 5 pupil decided to put the skill to the test by creating a powerpoint quiz about the Black Death.
The Prep took on a classical feel when the school hall was transformed into a Roman villa for one of the School’s regular ‘history days’.
These days allow pupils to fully immerse themselves in the period they are studying, and are a key feature of our history curriculum. On Roman Day, pupils donned some fantastic costumes, with Roman warriors aplenty!
Pupils busied themselves throughout the day working as apprentices – learning, making and trading crafts whilst sharing all the latest gossip as Romano-Britons. The day included workshop activities such as creating oil for lamps, making beeswax writing tablets, grinding up herbs for authentic medicinal cures, making clay charms and painting plates. During the afternoon session the pupils experienced a symposium banquet, celebrating the Roman victory over the Iceni rebels with dancing, plays and soldier drills.
Prep pupils were enthralled with teacher Ashley Artaman’s assembly on the harvest and the farm-to-fork experience. Mr Artaman brought in some potatoes from his family farm, including one giant-sized specimen, and the children selected teacher Pete Whitmell to take on the challenge of eating the monstrous tuber. This served as an opportunity for some impromptu maths: the potato in question weighed in at 1.827kg (the weight equivalent of nine jacket potatoes or 82 roast potatoes) and took three and half hours to cook. Eating time – in front of an excited crowd of pupils – was a stomach filling 35 minutes.
Image by Suat Eman, courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net
Pupils have a great time on the twice yearly camps as part of their membership to the Perse Exploration Society. From assault courses to wide games, quidditch matches to paddle boarding, there's something for everyone to get stuck into.
Prep pupils’ sweet dreams were realised when they became Willy Wonkas for the afternoon and created their very own chocolate bars.
Three teams of pupils from ages 7 to 11 worked with the School Chef Sean Johnson to make ‘Chocodough’, ‘Guzzle Guster’ and ‘Fudgipops’ – new chocolates they designed in a whole school House Activity Day. The pupils’ inventive and rather tasty sounding creations consisted of a whole host of ingredients from digestive biscuits to marshmallows, and caramel to wafer.
During the House Activity Day pupils from all year groups spent the day working together to design, brand, market and finance a new chocolate bar. They took products from an initial vision and concept to a packaged prototype, then created a campaign of printed posters and a TV advert to bring it to market. Groups then pitched their idea to the Prep ‘dragons’, teachers who ditched their usual encouragement and support for disapprobation and cynicism.
Pupils used a wide range of technology to develop and pitch their ideas, from Google Sketch-up for the initial designs, to Windows Movie Maker for their advert and Excel for their financial modelling, helping them understand the practical uses of the software.
Deputy Head Tom Knowles said: “The chocolate challenge was a fun way for all pupils to develop their teamworking skills, apply their mathematical knowledge to a business context and get creative. The whole school has really enjoyed it, and the winning teams loved bringing their new confectionary to life with the help of a real chocolatier and the School Chef.”
Travel writing evokes a sense of wonder, creates insightful vignettes and allows the imagination to wander to distant times or faraway places. It is known for exploring ‘otherness’ or ideas which are unknown to the reader – what a Moroccan market might smell like, what snow might feel like to someone who has never felt it before, or just the best place to get a coffee in the middle of Milan.
The Year 6 English Enrichment Group (children who are particularly enthusiastic and able in the subject) was asked to imagine the Prep as an exciting travel destination and to express their ideas to a reader who had never seen a place quite like it. Here is their response.
As you approach the Prep, the sturdy oak gates spring into life to welcome you inside. For over a century, small faces have looked up at the imposing stone façade of Leighton House, craning their necks to see the very top of what was once one of Cambridge’s finest residential addresses. Although its magnificent structure can dwarf you at first, inside it quickly feels like home. Pushing open the heavy green doors is always followed by that reassuring hit of warmth and colour as life in a busy school comes into focus. Learning, playing, sharing and enjoying all line up to take their turn as the bell shrilly rings and lessons begin.
Take a walk along a metaphorical timeline and move from the ‘old’ of Leighton House to the modern New School. Slanted roofs and wide sections of glass reveal classrooms shouting about knowledge, skills and understanding. The library is the beating heart of the school and children visit to refresh their knowledge and learn things they could never dream of. Artwork flows up the stairs as you walk past in a colourful cascade with masterpieces suspended from the ceiling inviting you to walk through its canopy, like curtains parting to reveal a stage.
Children scatter to cover the playground at break. An observer is just as likely to notice girls walking hand in hand down the path talking and dreaming, as they are to see rhythmic games of table tennis and adventures of the imagination. A moving picture forms before your eyes, coming to life as actors don beautiful costumes and fanciful headdresses to take audiences to faraway worlds. A mellifluous harmony can just be made out in the distance as the school orchestra hone their craft.
Vast expanses of green stretch into the distance, with tall trees towering above you, each with stories to tell of the many children who have played in their midst. This is The Perse Prep School, a school proud of its past but excited about its future.
One class studying the Aeneid decided to bring Book 12 to life, enabling them to use their imaginations to step outside the confines of the text and interpret it in their own way.
Each chose a character, exploring their situation and motivations, and studied the text to find the key lines and pieces of action they could use to create an exciting dramatic piece. Students set up the ‘stage’ and ‘backdrop’ in the classroom, using desks to show everything from city walls to a chariot in which Finlay as Turnus sat banging together two coconut shells in order to replicate the sounds of horse’s hooves.
The group’s chosen scenes included the final epic duel between Aeneas and Turnus. Students’ ability to improvise was put to the test as they transformed everyday things into props: a metre ruler for a sword and a red tie to demonstrate blood gushing from a wound.
Read the full story on our Perse Studio blog of student work.
Pebbles, angels, songbirds and dolls – just some of the metaphors used to explore the position of women in the family and society, in literature and poetry considered by Sixth Form student Charlotte Petter.
Charlotte’s essay on the representation of female repression through marriage and motherhood in Ibsen and Plath’s work was highly commended in the Lancaster Writing Award for Criticism. While she concluded that “Marriage and motherhood are presented as repressing women completely and inevitably…however, whilst clearly reflecting this pervasive repression, Ibsen and Plath contest this view. They ultimately represent repression as misguided, advocating the rise of the female individual through a strong female protagonist and the female voice. By deviating from social convention, Ibsen’s Nora utterly shocked contemporary audiences, offering a unique alternative to the confines of marriage. Furthermore, in her own life, Plath found the ultimate escape from marriage, first through separation from Hughes, and then through her suicide. Ultimately, both authors challenge the repression of women, promoting individualism and equality, asserting that a woman’s life should not be confined to the role of mother and wife.” Read her fascinating essay on our Perse Studio blog of student work.
Dough Disco is exercise for the fingers to improve fine muscle control. It is good before writing tasks as a warm-up and very valuable every day exercise for children in their Early Years.
This is regularly practised by our youngest Perseans to improve hand-eye co-ordination and create strong, flexible fingers and arms, to train up their hands for holding pencils and writing.
Pelicans embarked upon an exciting project to create their own ‘dream shoes’.
They sketched their ideas to show the shapes and colours, then created fantastic papier mache creations of their original designs.
From sparkly high heels to monster shoes, the children certainly let their imaginations run wild!
Pelicans embarked upon an exciting project to create their own 'dream shoes'.
The Perse Economics Department and students are in the process of building their own MONIAC or Phillips Machine, which is a dynamic model of a working economy, showing the circular flow of income (see here for more information on the original).
The model used a series of transparent plastic tanks and pipes which were fastened to a wooden board. Each tank represented some aspect of the UK national economy and the flow of money around the economy was illustrated by coloured water.
The Periodic Table is expanding each year with the discovery of new elements – Livermorium is the latest to be approved and named by the IUPAC.
There were several attempts to make element 116 but all were unsuccessful until 2000 when researchers at the Joint International Nuclear Research (JINR) in Russia, led by Yuri Oganessian, Vladimir Utyonkov, and Kenton Moody observed it. Because the discovery was made using essential target material supplied by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in the USA, it was decided to name it after that facility.
The Sixth Form chemistry club is named after this element.
Sixth Form students from the Biology Society took part in a Natural History Museum citizen science project which aims to map the diversity and distribution of different microorganisms surviving in our towns and cities.
The ‘Microverse’ project forms part of the Museum’s research into discovering and understanding the microorganisms that can survive in challenging environments. Although buildings may not appear to be ‘extreme’ environments by human standards, for living organisms they present many survival challenges such as providing limited access to nutrients, subjecting organisms to extremes of wet and dry and often being exposed to high levels of pollution.
Students collected samples of mircoorganisms from the exterior walls of the main school building from the brickwork, glass and wood surfaces. The swabs were sealed inside tubes of DNA preservative and data about the collection area was recorded. The samples were sent to the Museum for DNA analysis where they were compared to known samples on a database to identify the microorganisms present on the school walls, as well as their relative abundance. A report of the data which will be interpreted and discussed at a future Biology Society meeting.
By taking part in the project the students have contributed to genuine scientific research and to the Museum’s collection as the data will be used to publish academic research in a scientific journal and the specimens will be incorporated into the Natural History Museum’s Molecular Collections Facility.
Rome eventually met its demise as the greatest ancient superpower, leaving behind a legacy that shaped modern Europe. But how did such a pillar of strength finally crumble?
This is the question that James, a Year 9 pupil, posed in a prize-winning essay. It is a case that big is not always beautiful, nor necessarily functional. Rome, he discovered, had simply grown too large to sustain itself. The Senate in Rome made decisions and sent word out to all the provinces in the vast reaches of the Empire, however due to the distances between these provinces often they didn’t do as they were told.
And what could the Romans do? They couldn’t send out an army to deal with each seditious province – there just weren’t enough resources. On top of this, the provinces were bleeding Rome’s treasuries dry. Money was needed to hold Rome together, and those on the far end of Rome’s soil weren’t giving enough out. Even in Rome, unemployment was at a record high (slaves were taking all the work), and inflation was ravaging trade across Rome. In short, it was a disaster, so the Romans named all this the “The Crisis of the Third Century”, a very accurate summing-up of how much trouble Rome, as an empire, was in.
There were also financial issues, other religions were able to begin taking parts of the empire, and military spending left gaping holes in defences and in funds. The “gates were wide open”, and the barbarians came through, finally eradicating one of the greatest ever powers. However, despite the fact that Rome as an empire was lost to the barbarian hordes, it would not be correct to say that Rome was completely destroyed. The ideas and concepts, the power and glory and driving force of such an empire still lives on in today’s Western society. Rome shaped everything we know in our modern way of living. Rome never died – it lives on with us.
Read full James’s full essay on our Perse Studio blog, which showcases student work beyond the curriculum.
More than 200 students in Years 7 and 8 took park in a Random Acts of Kindness relay, filming themselves doing something nice, posting it online and nominating two of their peers to pick up the baton. Here is Joseph Tidy making his neighbour's day.
Does it ever feel like those around you are speaking a different language?
If it’s a Perse pupil, they made have made up their own, like Year 10 pupil Ben de Almeida Newton, who invented ‘Benonese’ and created an 84-page textbook to teach it.
“Benonese follows the pronunciation of many Indo-European languages, so for English speakers, this shouldn’t be too difficult to learn. It is difficult to practise this language with others as it is not widely known so one method of practising speech is to record oneself and play it back to achieve fluency. Pronunciation is completely regular when it comes to the indicative mood, but later on, in the subjunctive, knowledge of more phonetically challenging languages may be needed to master these sounds.”
View some sample pages on our Perse Studio blog of student work.
One of the 'chanties' sung by Perse pupils in the early 20th century, designed to increase vocab, teach the difference between quantitative and accentual rhythms and, most importantly, make learning Greek fun.
Three Year 8 pupils, Martin E., Alex C. and Ewan M. made a documentary on Tudor history. From Henry to Elizabeth, “History in the Local Park” covers almost all the major events of this turbulent period in a light-hearted, creative way.
The 2015 theme of the annual House Poetry competition was ‘light’. Here are the two dazzling winning poems.
Middle School winner
Light – Sophie Littlewood
Laughter drips, accusingly rhythmic
in a fake room. Finery speaks in projected soliloquies;
Neon strips in chandeliers and painted lies,
wallpapered habitually on the cardboard.
Tell me I am blind when I talk in prose
and you sing to concrete. Walked away,
the understanding an unnoticed pretence.
Shadows flickering from immovable circles;
disgust and sympathy entertwine.
Complication of seeing
opinionated truth, my perceived candlelight
is shameful, but you hold a cloak.
When the dull backlights reprimand your voice,
realisation is an abstract noun. Brave journeys
To a wooden gate. How can you know the sky light
When you only know the neon? and the chandeliers.
Lower School winner:
Light – Fleur Christmas
Spilling onto the Earth
like a crashing wave,
the lemonade jug
poured into every morning.
Swelling into the day
like a growing idea,
a golden balloon
filled with potential.
Surrounding you with warmth
like a hug from a loved one,
makes you smile
a hearty smile from within.
The source disappears
but a misty glow remains
the sickle moon.
The world is wrapped
in a shroud of dismay,
through space and time.
Until in the morning
to inspire the world
The daunting task of working out a way to decrypt Playfair-encrypted text without knowing the key.
In 2013, the 11th National Cipher Challenge involved cracking Playfair-encrypted text. Devised in 1854 by Charles Wheatstone, the Playfair cipher puts the alphabet into a 5×5 grid (‘J’ and ‘I’ occupy the same square). The arrangement of the letters in this grid is the key of the cipher – the sender and receiver of the message both have to know this key.
Perse student Pratap Singh was the joint winner of the Trinity College Prize (awarded to the runner-up in the individual competition) for his work cracking the code. His attack on the Playfair was based on cribs – small pieces of text which he could guess would be in the plaintext. He explains:
“I guessed that the challenge would be a letter beginning and ending with certain phrases; these phrases became the cribs I used to infer the key. The method of using cribs is a very successful and traditional way to attack a piece of encrypted text. It was an important part of the British attack on the German Enigma cipher during WWII – the British knew that many messages they intercepted would contain certain known words T H E P R S A B C D F G I K L M N O Q U V W X Y Z or phrases at certain places. Interestingly, one of their most common cribs was “Keine besonderen Ereignisse”, meaning “nothing to report”.
“The program that I wrote for the National Cipher Challenge used cribs to try to recover as much of the key as possible. The algorithm that I designed used an important symmetry property of the Playfair’s key grid: that a given key grid could be “rotated” both horizontally and vertically without changing how it encrypted text. The rightmost column could be moved to the leftmost column and the bottom row could be moved to the top to create an equivalent key grid. This meant that any given letter could be moved into the top-left corner of the key grid by rotating horizontally and vertically.”
Read his full article on our Perse Studio blog.
Triboluminescence experiment – a bit of crystal magic
Inspired by a classroom chemistry experiment to grow crystals, one of our pupils decided to research alternative methods to create even better ones. He came across ‘triboluminescence’ – the process by which a flash of light is produced when a material is scratched, rubbed or crushed, and wanted to witness this for himself.
Read the report on his fascinating experiment on our Perse Studio blog, which showcases our students’ work.
Gene therapy and heart failure – a Year 7 mini-investigation
Heart failure is on the rise in the UK and Year 7 pupil Amarthya decided to research this for his Year 7 mini-investigation project. These investigations are an opportunity for students to enrich their learning by researching a topic around a ‘bigger picture’ essay title, or a subject that they are particularly interested in. This essay was inspired by one of the School’s lunchtime ’42’ lectures given by one of the UK’s leading cardiologists.
He discusses the risk factors for being diagnosed with heart failure, the current methods of treating patients with heart failure and the use of gene therapy to mitigate the effects of heart failure. Amarthya explains how calcium is particularly important in the maintenance of healthy heart muscle, and talks about the latest developments in gene therapy to increase calcium levels in those with heart failure.
Far from being just a furry creature who lives underground, a mole is an important unit of measurement in chemistry. One mole of marbles would cover the area of Great Britain to a depth of 1500km! This number helps us appreciate just how small the micro-world of atoms and molecules is.
Each year the Upper celebrates Mole Day on 6 February (06/02). Head of Chemistry Dr Khimyak explains:
“Whenever moles are introduced there is the compulsory suggestion from pupils that a mole is just a cute furry creature that lives underground. We gradually come to the idea however, that a mole is a unit of amount of a substance that contains the same number of particles (atoms, molecules, ions etc.) as there are atoms in 12g of C-12 isotope.
At the beginning of 19th century an Italian scientist named Amedeo Avogadro estimated this number to be 6.02×1023and it is this magnitude that creates the main difficulties for pupils.”
Each year, pupils take part in fun activities (quizzes, mole hunts, and mole-themed lunches and sports activities) to help them get their minds around the mole.
How do you design a rollercoaster?
Year 8 mathematicians spent several arduous days in Disneyland Paris learning about the mathematics of some of the park’s most famous rollercoasters.
Armed with lots of new mathematical knowledge from the Disney experts, the pupils returned to school to design their very own rides. In addition to the fun factor, they had to consider safety, the look and feel of the rollercoaster and capacity.
The groups came up with some very inventive rollercoasters, including a triple-drop ride, where the team carefully calculated the size and shape of the loop to ensure passenger safety, a Monsters University themed ride and a Toy Story themed ride where the group did some complex maths to calculate the incline of the rollercoaster to ensure it would deliver on its promise of being a ‘big thrill’ ride.
Take a look at our students’ fantastic designs, and find out more about the maths behind rollercoaster design on our Perse Studio blog, which showcases pupil work.
What is the most important place in the world and why?
Pippa, one of our Sixth Form geographers poses this question in her excellent essay, an entry to the Trinity College Geography Essay Prize. Russia’s size marks her out as a geographical superpower, and Pippa explains that whilst her geographical make-up in terms of climate and natural resources has affected Russia’s status as a powerhouse on the world’s stage in a positive way, this very geographical composition has also served to undermine her performance in other areas, such as agriculture.
Read the full piece on our Perse Studio blog – a showcase of pupil work.
Two Year 9 pupils set up a club to help others create the ‘perfect portrait’.
Benjamin and Blythe designed the posters and promoted their new club around school to attract members. The club has given them the opportunity to share their skills with others through a series of workshops, giving other students the techniques and and time to achieve the best results.
Here are their top five tips for drawing great portraits:
Pre-destined life paths: injustice or oppression?
One Year 9 pupil examined Steinbeck’s great novel, Of Mice and Men, asserting that this classic, all-American tale was not a tale of the American dream, but rather one of a twisted reality.
The student seeks to debunk the sentiments of critics of years past, that Of Mice and Men was an unremarkable novel, which was met with derision upon its publication, by explaining it is a truly complex tale, encompassing a range of themes. He argues that this book more accurately portrays and explains this period of America’s past than any history book could.
To read the full report, please visit our Perse Studio blog, which showcases our students’ work.
Gravitational field strength of a planet
Year 7 pupil Aaditya conducted research into the question of what affects a planet’s gravitational field. Does the composition of a planet (i.e. the type of rock it is made from) affect this field strength?
Aaditya found that sun has around 28 times more gravity than that of earth. But its radius is 100 times than that of earth, meaning the volume of sun is million times of earth. When these values are substituted inverse square law, the expected gravitational field increase of sun is around 100 times than that of earth. But the observed solar gravity is around four times less than expected. This is due to the lower density of solar matter.
By taking the volume formula of a sphere, and using the definition of density as the quantity of matter contained in a unit volume, we can write gravitational field as a function of density and can show that, for a fixed volume, it is directly proportional to density.
Read more of Aaditya’s research on our Perse Studio blog, which showcases our pupils’ work.
Here at The Perse, we are seriously sporty.
The Fingerprint by Andrew Tanser is a piece of public art at the entrance to the Upper.
The work takes the form of a stainless steel fingerprint wrapped around the front of an elliptical stone column, with text etched into the fretted metal surface.
It features quotations, formulae, titles of artistic and scientific endeavour, and the names of notable people from a wide range of walks of life and fields of work.
The sculpture encourages pupils and visitors to stop and reflect; it inspires intellectual curiosity in the beholder. It also signifies the imprint of a Perse education – lasting attitudes, practices and knowledge that each pupil takes with them when they leave.
Five Lower Sixth pupils applied their science knowledge and skills in an attempt to discover winning tactics for tennis. The team used theoretical studies as well as a series of experiments to find out how specific tennis racquet features, along with environmental conditions and court surfaces, influence a tennis ball in motion.
They studied the effect of:
Both the theoretical predictions and the experimental results confirmed that lowering string tension does indeed increase the power of the racquet, and that tennis balls bounce higher in hot weather. Players may wish to pick their court surface carefully:
For their full report, visit the Perse Studio blog which showcases student work.
A light-hearted element of the celebrations has been the creation of the ‘Tessara’. The idea of our creative partners, the District, and named ‘Tessara’ by Dr James Watson, our Head of Classics, objects connected to a Perse education stand in for a ‘4’ or a ‘O’.
The Greek word “tessara” (τεσσαρα) means four, although in some dialects of Greek it would have been modified to “tettara” or “tessera”. It also seems to be the ultimate origin of the Latin word “tessera” which has a number of meanings: a small square/cubical block, a die cube, a token or voucher, or a small tablet bearing the password/orders of the day in the army. Its most long-lasting usage is that a “tessera” (plural “tesserae”) was one of the small pieces used to make a mosaic. Our English word tessellate comes from the Latin word “tessella”, which really just means “little tessara”.
Departments at the Upper have created their own Tessaras to display around the School, our memorabilia includes two pin badges featuring Tessara designs and Noel Young Wines has created Tessara wines on our behalf. Look out for the Tessara in our communications, and do send us your ideas for objects that could be included.
You can access any part of our website from here.
Delve in and find out how we fit it all in.