Maths Mission @ Bristol

Today Jenson and I had a great adventure at Bristol's fabulous science museum: At Bristol. We had joined a home ed special Maths Mission themed activity day.

It was a fairly rushed start to the day not helped by the fact I was feeling a little jaded after a few drinks with the girls last night. We always order one bottle of wine too many, or in last night's case, two bottles too many! There wasn't much forward planning for our day out today.

To make matters slightly more complicated I had decided a few days ago that we would take the train and would cycle to the station on our bikes. With a fuzzy head I hurriedly made our packed lunches, checked the train times and fumbled some clothes together. I had no map and no idea where we were going. I was very unprepared. 

We finally made it to the train station at 8.30am only to discover that someone had thrown themselves onto the train lines near Birmingham. Panic bells started to rise at an alarming rate as I worked out that the next train wouldn't get us to Bristol until nearly 10.30am, making us very late. Thankfully, by some miracle, another train managed to haul itself into the station and so we jumped on that. More panic though as we had no idea which the bike carriage was. Obviously it was the one at the opposite end of the platform to where we were. I pegged it leaving poor Jenson dragging his bike in my wake and screaming at me not to leave him stranded. Thankfully a kind soul helped us onto the train with our bikes and showed us where to store them. We took our seats and off we went. 

Jenson was very excited to be on a train and enjoyed looking out of the window at the scenery passing us by. He did a few sketches in his learning journal too.

When we arrived at Bristol we were faced with more challenges and time wasn't on our side. It took us ten minutes alone to work out how to get out of the blasted station during which we had to navigate many stairs and people rushing to get to work. Thankfully, a very nice man helped me with the bikes and even straightened Jenson's handle bars for him. It was good for Jenson to see such acts of kindness.

Once out of the station I turned on the sat nav on my phone. I've never navigated whilst cycling and won't be doing it again in a hurry. I wasn't able to wear gloves due to the possibility of dropping the phone, this resulted in freezing cold hands. Ignoring my numb fingers, there were many obstacles to avoid including people, cars and other cyclists. With one eye on where I was going, one eye on where Jenson was going, one eye on my phone, trying to prevent both of us from not getting run over by a bus, getting lost two or three times; by the time we reached the museum I was ready for a lie down.

Keeping in the very unprepared spirit of things, I had no idea what the itinerary for the day was. As luck would have it though, first thing on the agenda was a mission briefing in the 3-D planetarium. I slid my bottom into the big cosy seats and had a quick rest before the introduction began. It was brilliant and Jenson was half scared and half excited. It was great to see a few familiar faces and we sat with these people who are slowly becoming our friends.

Technically I wasn't meant to take any photos, but I sneaked a couple of shots in before someone very politely told me not to!  

First off we were whizzed from our planet Earth into space to take a closer look at some constellations.

We then flew around the planets taking in Saturn, Neptune and a mystery planet that none of us had ever seen before. We then heard a big noise; it sounded like someone or something had jumped on board our spaceship. A little alien suddenly appeared at the back of the room: he was lost in space!! It was up to us to help him find his way back to his planet, which we all deduced must be the mystery planet we had seen earlier in the show. 

The planetarium show had been brilliantly put together and set the story for the day ahead. We were led to an educational room and the children received their tasks for the first workshop. The crux of the activity focused on trying to help the alien find his way back to his planet.  First of all, the children had to come up with a name for the mystery planet. Lots of little hands shot up but three options were decided upon and we all took a vote: Lava planet won.

Next the children had to use maths to navigate the rocket through space and back to planet Lava, taking care to avoid other planets, stars, nebula, meteorites etc. By this point there had been about twenty minutes of talking and Jenson was pretty bored and fed up. His attention quickly turned to food as Michael and the others used instructions such as left, right and straight on to help guide the rocket. Our host for the day encouraged them to think about other directions they could use, such as whole, half and quarter turns and therefore introducing the maths element. 

Once the first task was completed the children had to work out how long it would take the rocket to reach planet Lava using the directions they had assigned to it. Jenson's interest in the activity plummeted: he left the table and made a good dent on a watermelon snack. 

He remained uninterested for the rest of the session. It wasn't until they got onto the next activity that his enthusiasm came back, and of course, it was making a rocket! 

Lunch was a welcome break, although Jenson had eaten all of his already! We took the opportunity to explore the rest of the museum. The following pictures show just a few things that Jenson had a go on.

We all regrouped for the super shapes show and rocket launch. Turns out planet Lava is very different from planet earth: it is 2-D. This helped to introduce shapes and demonstrations with 2-D and 3-D objects. Our host made sure that lots of the children were included in the workshop by asking for helpers. By now Jenson had got his confidence and was putting his hand up too. I was desperate for him to be picked because I knew how much courage it had taken him.

After being overlooked two or three times, he eventually got his chance: he had to launch the rocket using the launch pad!! He looked like the cat who'd got the cream and I was beaming! I was so thrilled for him. As volunteering roles go, this was by far the best one to get. He told the lady his name and we all gave him a big cheer. Our friends there who know him understood how brilliant it was for him to be standing up at the front and how much courage it had taken. He got to wear a hard hat and had a speaking part too. I was nervous he was going to run off the stage and bury his head in my chest at this point, but he stood there and did everything that was asked of him. He had to read out the names and colours of the shapes to another helper called June, who we know, so she could find the correct shapes from the table in front of her and stick them to the rocket ready for blast off. Everybody counted down and then BANG! Smoke poured out of the rocket and the alien was zooming back to his own planet. Jenson got a big round of applause, the biggest one came from me.

The workshop concluded with the children launching the rockets that they had made earlier. Our host pulled each rocket from the bag one at a time, read the name out that was written on it and then called that child up. Using the equivalent of a stomp rocket, they jumped on the bottle and their rocket took off into space! Jenson's turn had the whole room laughing as he jumped with such vigour that his rocket smashed into the ceiling! He had wanted his to go the highest and it did!

That was the end of the home ed day but there was just enough time to look at some more exhibits before taking the train home to pick up Wren up from nursery. A brilliant day that I hope Jenson will take great memories from.