The Perse School

Curiosity Corner

  • Let me
    take a

    A novel game

    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...

  • Curiosity Corner
    Graveyard picnic

    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.

  • Le rap est
    de la

    Le rap est de la poésie

    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.

    Rap techniques

  • Curiosity Corner
    History of drama

    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.

  • Curiosity Corner
    Faces behind the voices

    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


  • Curiosity Corner
    Leaving for the Gallery

    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.

    Clay leaves

  • Curiosity Corner
    Scintillating science

    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.

  • Curiosity Corner
    A lesson in tolerance

    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.

  • Curiosity Corner

    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:

    • Connect – by getting to know new people and looking after the friendships they have.
    • Take notice – by being aware of the world around them.
    • Give – by doing something kind for someone.
    • Learn and discover – by trying something new or perhaps rediscovering an old interest
    • Be healthy – by eating well, staying active and getting enough sleep.
    • Care – by looking after the world and saving energy.


  • Curiosity Corner
    Maths in unexpected places

    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

  • Curiosity Corner
    The art of music

    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.



  • Curiosity Corner
    Life is sweet

    Jelly teddy bears and evolution

    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

  • A life
    in a

    A life in a day

    George Lawton (OP - 2016) created a moving short film to convey the experience of growing up at The Perse

  • Curiosity Corner
    Do you scoubidou?

    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.


  • Curiosity Corner
    A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum

    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.


  • On your marks, get set, go!

    An active bunch

    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.

  • Curiosity Corner
    Dough Disco

    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.

    Dough disco_2

  • Lv

    The latest element

    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.

  • What shall we do with a drunken sailor?

    Greek chantie

    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.

  • A mole
    lot of

    Chemistry takes over

    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). 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.

  • Curiosity Corner
    The great outdoors

  • Curiosity Corner
    Seriously sporty

    Here at The Perse, we are seriously sporty.

  • Curiosity Corner
    The fingerprint

    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.

  • Curiosity Corner
    Can science improve your tennis game?

    Five Sixth Form 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:

    • shock absorbers on ball speed and sound
    • raquet mass on power
    • string tension on raquet power
    • environmental temperature on tennis ball bounce
    • court surface on ball speed, spin and ball bounce.

    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:

    • Grass is a high speed, less-responsive surface. It favours offensive players and the use of backspin shots, (e.g. slice).
    • Hard is a high-speed, more-responsive surface. It favours offensive players and the use of topspin.
    • Clay is a low-speed, more-responsive surface that enhances ball spin. It favours defensive players and the use of topspin.
    • Artificial grass is a medium-speed, medium-responsive surface. It does not favour a certain style of play and thus can be recommended as a standard surface, perhaps for new tennis players.

    For their full report, visit the Perse Studio blog  which showcases student work.

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