Powerful Learning - Head's Blog

Posted on: 18/10/2019

This week we have had the privilege of showcasing our pupils' learning to numerous prospective parents during our weekly individual tours but also at our Open Morning on Wednesday when the visitors were guided around the school by our current Year 6 pupils.

The feedback we had from our visitors this year was quite overwhelming and the sense of pride which we have in your children is immeasurable. The last port of call on the tours was to the Upper School Hall as the guides introduced their visitors to myself, Mr and Mrs Crehan and Mrs Smith.  Every visitor paid our students the highest of compliments remarking on their confidence, communication skills, passion for their school and their learning and how they managed to answer all the questions but also enticed questions from their visitors. 

What we do at St Helen’s is truly unique and it is through the dedication of the staff working so closely together to lay strong foundations for your children that they go on to be very successful young adults.

Our teaching and classroom environment empowers the children to be adventurous in their learning journey; strengthening their determination and imagination to become critical thinkers with the ability to reflect and collaborate to deal with difficulty and uncertainty to enable them to become more independent and resourceful learners.

One such example of powerful learning this week was in the Year 6  science lessons . The children have been studying microorganisms; they designed and planned an investigation to find out the various factors that affect respiration in yeast.  A preliminary experiment was suggested by one of the children and from there, the whole year group was challenged to think of a ‘bigger’ experiment.  

The result of the independent planning was that 5 main factors were to be investigated: temperature of water, acidity of substances, natural vs artificial sugar, amount of sugar, and various sources of sugar including vodka! (This was under lock and key but the children were definitely resourceful in their planning!)  The children worked collaboratively and had to figure out and allocate certain jobs and responsibilities within each group. All resources were provided for the children which they had to organise and use effectively. They all worked out timings and the recording and collection of data. The children relied on the efficiency and cooperation of each group member to complete their experiment; some giving up their playtime to continue with the work. 

The children achieved success in many ways. They all learned an important scientific concept in yeast respiration and  mastered investigative skills by performing a full scientific enquiry in a fun and enjoyable way. It is also equally important to note that through hands-on experiences and activities in science such as this, collaborative learning took place and continues to be encouraged.

During lunchtime on Wednesday the Science monitors were discussing their learning with me in the Science lab and Shaina has kindly written up this wonderful report to share with you. I will leave you with Shaina’s words - it sums up the power of learning at St Helen’s!

Mrs. Drummond


In science this week, Year 6 did an experiment to see how yeast respires with liquids of different pH values. 

Firstly, we had to plan what we wanted to include in the experiment. In our plan we had to include our prediction, our fair test (what we keep the same, what we change and what we are measuring), all the equipment we would need from the ingredients to the labels and bags and also our method in a way that we could then follow the steps in class making the experiment easier.

After this was completed, we gathered into groups and labelled the bags (lemon juice A and B, milk A and B…), got the sugar and yeast and beakers in case they leaked. We were all ready for the next day when we would conduct the experiment. Everyone was allocated a job. In my group we had some pairs and some people working alone as they chose to do so. Conducting the experiment along with me were Laura, Esha, Malaika and Ridhima were one pair and Catherine and Lily were another pair. Each person/pair was allocated two liquids to test; there were five liquids to test and ten beakers as we had A and B of every liquid to increase accuracy in our results.

The following day, we gathered our materials with speed because of our thorough planning. To each bag we added five millilitres of the given substance to ninety-five millilitres of water. When everyone was ready we added in our teaspoons of yeast and sugar at the same time and sealed the bag immediately afterwards. Every five minutes over a forty minute period, we took measuring tapes and measured the width of the bag. We did this because just as we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide so does yeast. This life process is called respiring. When the yeast breathes out carbon dioxide the bag inflates and therefore causes the width to expand. Having already created a rough table to record data findings, we simply wrote down the width of the bag every five minutes for each person’s/pair's findings.

In conclusion, we found out that substances with a pH of 7/8 (neutral or slightly on the alkaline side) worked best. Extremely surprisingly, we found that lemon juice, which is pH 3 and very acidic, also helped yeast respire, whereas vinegar of the same pH value did not help yeast respire at all. I don’t think this was a fair test because our bags kept opening, allowing carbon dioxide to escape and some yeast bubbled up into a froth, leaving the bag to have not expanded at all.

I thoroughly enjoyed this experiment because of the new things I have discovered. I did not know that yeast respires in the same way we do or that it grows but not in the same way we do - instead it multiplies many times. I also did not know that different temperatures or pH values can affect the way that yeast respires. 

I think this experiment can be improved by not putting the liquids in the bags but instead in the tubes because they have lids and are leak proof, whereas in our experiment some of the bags leaked and/or opened. In the tubes we can measure the amount of froth as that is also carbon dioxide building up. 

By Shaina A