On Friday, 11th March 2016, Paultons Park hosted “Science in the Park”. This special event as part of British Science Week celebrated all things science; with over 420 students and teachers attending a series of free workshops as part of their school visit to the Park.
We were delighted to welcome a group of bloggers from Wellow School in Hampshire. Here is their account…
Do you ever sit in the hot, stuffy classroom wishing that you could be exploring science first hand? That a lesson could be brought alive by seeing and feeling things for real, instead of looking at text books and pictures? Have you ever fancied yourself as a super scientist, taking part in activities that magically bring the subject alive?
You need to visit Paultons Park where you can be immersed in a science experience that will enthral, entertain and engage you while having fun and learning in a way that will ensure that science remains embossed in your memory forever.
Paultons offer a range of exciting science sessions for schools, where schools are able to book fantastic lessons to fit in with the National Curriculum from physics to animal adaptation.
To celebrate Science week, Paultons Park organised a special science day for schools and we were invited to attend and blog about our visit – we were extremely excited!
We began our day by visiting Professor Blast’s Laboratory. Walking up the stairs to the lab, mysterious equations filled the walls while the musty smell of past experiments filled the air, tickling our nostrils and stirring our senses. On entering the lab, we were greeted by Erin, one of the education officers at the park and a range of exotic and curious mini beasts.
We met an Indian stick insect which did such a good job of blending into its surroundings that it was very hard to spot at first! He was a lot friendlier than the White spotted assassin bug. Erin informed us of the horrible way that they catch and eat their prey. The assassin bug is fed crickets. It pierces the cricket’s body and injects venom to paralyse the insect so it doesn’t struggle. The assassin bug then feeds by sucking fluids out of the insect’s body. Yuck!
The millipede Erin showed us was far less scary with its black shiny skin and lots of tiny little legs but we really enjoyed meeting the Madagascan Hissing cockroach most, which we had the opportunity to hold (although not all of us were brave enough!) It felt like he was clinging to our skin. He showed us he could run very fast and we had to move our hands quickly to keep hold of him. We think he thought he was on a treadmill! He was very friendly and tried to climb up the sleeves of our jumpers! We did meet another cockroach but he buried himself quickly when he saw us coming!!
The visiting schools were going to participate in a workshop to find out about these critters and use a key to sort them into vertebrates and invertebrates, we wished we could stay longer but we had to hurry along to the meerkats where an interesting talk was happening about the adorable and team-working animals.
We had been looking forward to learning about the meerkats but at times we were not sure who was examining who! The meerkats stared at us, watching out for danger while their friends foraged for peanut butter that had been sneakily hidden before our visit. We were fascinated to learn how brilliantly these creatures are adapted to their environment. Did you know that the black colouring around their eyes acts like sunglasses? In the harsh desert that Meerkats are accustomed to, these natural sunglasses help them keep lookout in the bright, glaring sun. They also have special adaptations to help them burrow. Their ears can actually close themselves. Wouldn’t that be useful when your parents are nagging!
The penguin enclosure was next on our busy itinerary. All the Humboldt Penguins were very cute – much sweeter than they look on T.V- but we did have a favourite! Our favourite was a little penguin called Chilly. He had been hand-reared and so was very friendly. Chilly reminded us of Pingu! He was very cheeky and followed the lady, who was giving the talk, around for fish. The lady was very fair though so he wasn’t able to get more than his fair share! We didn’t blame him for trying, if someone had a big bag of chocolate – we would definitely follow them and try to get more too! Penguins have feathers that are stiff and overlap to help keep them warm. They also have bald patches around their beaks which can help cool them down. These penguin’s spot patterns are like fingerprints – as every penguin has a unique spot pattern, you can use this to tell them apart. Paultons have given each of the penguins a wing tab however, which makes telling them apart much easier. We were fascinated to hear that they can dive up to 70 metres – that is almost three times the height of the ride ‘Magma.’ They can swim almost as fast as the ‘Caterpillar.’
As we were listening to the talk, the Penguins kept swimming past us on their sides – it really looked like they were showing off but apparently that is called porpoising and is just one of their swimming styles!
We were thrilled to meet Paultons Park’s very own ‘Mad Scientist.’ She posed for photos with us on the sky swinger which was great fun. We asked her why Paultons had decided to put this fabulous day together for school children. She said ” Our aim is for children to learn science in a fun way and Paultons love science! ” The mad scientist didn’t just say this though – she danced! She was very funny with extremely bad hair and was certainly quite mad!
We met Education officer Andy for a fascinating and very entertaining physics talk about the roller coasters in the park. We didn’t realise that so many forces were at work within the park. Andy used K’nex models to demonstrate how some of the rides work. He showed us how air resistance can be reduced to give a faster ride, he also made us think about friction as the ‘arch-nemesis’ for some rides at the park when you want to go fast but a useful force for stopping – which is very important too of course! We couldn’t wait to try the rides for real.
Cobra was one of our favourite rides! We could really feel the centrifugal affect on the sharp turns and the magnets worked brilliantly to stop the ride quickly. We also enjoyed the Caterpillar ride. Like the Cobra, Gravity played a big part in this ride but this ride used friction wheels and not a chain to help push the ride to the top and the friction wheels were also used to stop it quickly at the end. The Sky swinger was so graceful. The centripetal force kept us travelling in a circular path while we flew, feeling free like birds! The Wave Runner used water to reduce friction giving us a faster ride. We loved flying off the bumps before gravity pulled our boats back to the slide. We also loved the fact that the Wave Runner made our teacher scream!
We were excited to visit the Flamingos and learn all about them. Some of us tried to stay standing on one leg for a while and agreed that it was actually quite comfortable! We were surprised to learn that what we thought were the flamingos knees were actually their ankles and that they are pink because of the food they eat! One of the flamingos, named Rhubarb, still has grey feathers. He was only born in October last year.
We had time for only one more activity before going home and so we headed for the fantastic Astrodome. We lay inside the dome where we were transported to space, viewing the stars and the Milky Way. It was an incredible experience and we saw and learned so much! Who knew that author JK Rowling named her characters Sirius and Bellatrix after star formations or that one day when the star ‘Betelguese’ explodes going supernova, the light given off will be so bright that you will be able to read at night for around two weeks?! It will probably not happen in our lifetime though!
We all had the greatest, most fun and action-packed day ever at Paultons Park’s Science Day. In many ways, the day was not unlike a rollercoaster – thrills and excitement at every turn!
We hope to go back soon. Paultons taught us so much – it is much more than any ordinary theme park!
Thank you Paultons!
From Lola, Evie, Robert, Christian, Bill and Ethan
Wellow School Bloggers
For more information on Paultons Park Education, please visit www.paultonspark.co.uk/education