Monday, 24 November 2014

Coastal Erosion and the City Under the Sea

As sand, soil or rock is eroded (worn away) from one place it has to end up somewhere else! When it settles we call this Sediment - which is taken by the action of wind, water, or ice, and/or by the force of gravity to a new place.

You can see this at the coast. Sand is sometimes washed off the beach so a sandy beach becomes stony, and that sand is washed somewhere else. On some beaches it settles just out to sea, to form a sandbank. Coastlines can change quite dramatically over a period of time as this coastal erosion occurs.

The BBC Bitesize website explains this well, but it's in the Key Stage 3 section (but then all Dorothy's readers are pretty smart, right?) but this little diagram explains the process well. I've changed the information so you can understand what happens.

Erosion is usually a very slow process, it happens over hundreds of years, but sudden changes can happen if enough erosion happens underneath the surface!

To find out more, Dorothy and her friends went to visit the village of Dunwich, in Suffolk. 

Dunwich - the City Under the Sea

The tiny village of Dunwich is on the Suffolk coast.
Over the centuries Dunwich has been a Roman fort, the capital of a Saxon Kingdom and the base from which St Felix, the first Bishop of Dunwich, converted East Anglia to Christianity. At the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066 it was the most important sea ports on the East Coast, and the tenth largest place in England!!

There is lots more information here about medieval Dunwich, which has nearly all been washed away into the North Sea. A full kilometre (1000m has been washed away - this map from Dunwich museum shows it well - the far right line was the coast in 1300.
(That was 200 years before the Tudors!)

About 1000m is lost every 1000 years, so that's 1 metre every year. Which is actually quite a lot - especially if you are staying 10 metres from the cliff edge!!!

The cliffs are still being eroded by the wind and the waves and Dunwich Heath is now owned by the National Trust to protect as much as possible, although fighting the weather and the tide is rather a difficult task!! All that remains today are the damaged walls of the Medieval Friary. There is a museum at the beach and you can follow an excellent trail available here.

There are many stories about Medieval Dunwich. People say that whilst you are on the beach, you should stop for a moment and listen. The ancient bells of Dunwich Church are said to be heard from beneath the waves.......

Monday, 13 October 2014


Dorothy and friends love Hallowe'en.
Partly because the weather is usually relatively fine and still warm and they get to celebrate outside with their friends. Hallowe'en is a sociable festival totally aimed at children. It's that lovely gold, yellow, bronze coloured, crunchy, frosty, creative time of year which is a wonderful prelude to Christmas and I confess we embrace much of this American festival wholeheartedly.

So what do you do at Hallowe'en?
Many local farms, museums and visitor centres host special Hallowe'en craft activity days offering simple fun such as welly throwing, apple bobbing and pumpkin carving. Hallowe'en for us is all about getting outside and enjoying simple pleasures when it's fin, and getting the craft boxes out if it isn't.

Crafts and Activities
There are so many Hallowe'en crafts and activities you can enjoy. In the past we've made pipe cleaner spiders, hand print spiders, pumpkin soup, the list is endless. There are some brilliant ideas collected together on Pinterest - get your Mums and Dads to check these out. Alternatively Martha Stewart has even more ideas here.

Hallowe'en Food
Dorothy has started a Pinterest Board with ideas for Hallowe'en Food here. Since two of her friends have food allergies there is a lovely #freefrom packed lunch idea here.

But what is Hallowe'en, and why do we have this festival that celebrates all that is scary?

The History of Hallowe'en
Hallowe'en is short for "Hallow Evening" hence the apostrophe in between the two letter e's. It shows a letter is missing! Hallowe'en is also known as All Hallow's Eve, because November the 1st is "All Hallows" Just like December 24th is Christmas Eve, the night before Christmas!

Halloween can be traced back about 2,000 years to a Gaelic festival called Samhain (pronounced "sah-win"), which means "summer's end" in Gaelic which was celebrated on October 31. No one really knows what happened at Samhain as there are not many records from that time, but it was an annual gathering at the end of the harvest year, a bit like we now have Harvest Festival. But at a time when food was scarce over the winter months it was an important and essential time of gathering food.  Bonfires were lit which attracted insects which in turn attracted bats and large pots like cauldrons were used to heat food for everyone to share. This is where some of the symbols we associate with Hallowe'en come from.

No one is certain that Hallowe'en and Samhain are connected but many think so. November 1st is All Saints' Day, and November 2nd All Souls Day when we remember those who have died, and Hallowe'en became a celebration of bad spirits that were banished by the good souls on the following day. In our past there is a great deal of evidence that people enjoyed something called "inversion". That literally means turning social norms upside down so those usually in charge were bossed about by those who would usually be in that position. And that is exactly what Hallowe'en did, it celebrated the bad and the evil and the scary - and turned the natural order on its head for a day. This is fun and thrilling - because it's temporary and reassuring boundaries are only suspended for a day!

However, Halloween was as much a time for festivities and games as for playing tricks or asking for treats. Apples are associated with Halloween, both as a treat and in the game of bobbing for apples. Bobbing for apples was used for fortune telling. It was believed that the first person to pluck an apple from the water-filled bucket without using their hands would be the first to marry.

Trick-or-Treating resembles the late medieval practice of "souling," when poor people would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day (November 2).

It originated in Ireland and Britain.

Keeping Safe when Trick or Treating is really important. Dorothy Says.....
  • Stay with your grown up unless you have permission to go with friends near your home. 
  • Do not try and cross roads on your own.
  • Only knock on doors that have pumpkins in the doorway or in the window, since those living there clearly enjoy participating in Hallowe'en. 
  • Make sure you wear something reflective, so cars can see you clearly.
  • Consider saying "Happy Hallowe'en!" instead of "Trick or Treat?". Many older people find this a lot less intimidating and that is not in the spirit of the festival. Tricks are not really considered acceptable any longer and adults take a dim view of the old fashioned raw egg throwing......
  • Always check the ingredients of treats if you have food allergies before trying them!

And the final word goes to Dorothy's friends who love Hallowe'en. HAVE FUN!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Make a "putt-put" steam boat.

Putt putt steam boats have a long history. They are also known as "pop pop boats" and were very popular in the first half of the 20th Century, usually in a tin version with copper tubing. The Cub Scout Manuals from 1954-1977 included instructions for making them. It states that "They can be made quite simply - or you can build an elaborate version if you wish!"
However, Dorothy and her friends discovered the can be very tricky... you will need a cooperative grownup for this project for sure!

Notes for Mums and Dads
There is a lot of interesting information about them on the Science Toy Maker site here if your Mums and Dads are interested in reading more! More about their history and construction can be found on the "Pop Pop Pages" here.  They don't use a conventional engine but it's still a type of heat engine - or more accurately a "Pulsating Water Engine".  You can read all about heat engines here.

The Putt Putt Boat
These simple boats have fascinated toymakers, children and physicists for decades, and can be fun and fairly simple to make. There are actually two kinds of putt putt boat: the diaphragm kind and the looped copper tubing kind.  The advantage of the copper tubing engine is the relative ease of construction, and you cannot wreck it with too much heat. The disadvantage of the coil design is that it is often slower and makes little or no noise.

NB This Blog is aimed at children aged 6-10yrs, this is definitely a project for older readers!

Dorothy and I opted for a simple, achievable design using everyday items.

To make the boat shape you will need :-
  • A tall juice box or milk carton like this
  • Sharp Scissors
  • tape or strong stapler
OR use an aluminium (tinfoil) baking tray the size your Mum would bake a 2lb loaf in!

To make the boat "go" you will need

  • A brass or copper tube 3mm  outside diameter, 2mm inside diameter, 50 cm length. 
  • A binder clip with a base of about 2 cm
  • A small candle tea light or empty case and a solid fuel tablet
  • About 1 square cm of double sided adhesive tape  
  • A sturdy cylinder shape (e.g. piece of wooden dowel), about 2 cm diameter and 3 cm length
  • A piece of scrap wood minimum 4 cm x 15 cm x 1 cm
  • One screw with a length about equal to the thickness of your piece of wood and one screw 2 to 3 cm longer (for each you will need a matching screwdriver, not shown)
  • A piece of sturdy tube with a loose fit over the brass or copper tube and minimum about 20 cm long; 
  • For the optional rudder, you need about one third of an extra aluminium baking tray. 

How to make it :-

Cut the carton in half lengthways (you probably need a grown up to help you with this) and fit it together to make the boat shape below. You can use masking tape, or other tape which is water resistant/proof, or get a grown up to use a strong stapler.

Once finished and dry you can paint it with oil based paint to the colour of your choice :)

Then head over to this site for full instructions:- a video and tutorial. 

Then the fun bit - you get to test it out!

Sadly things don't always go to plan, ours took a little while to finish and perfect... 

but it's going now!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Carrot, Stick..... Or Carrot Stick? Why grammar matters!

Grammar - Using Commas

Our little guinea pig, Pickle has proved to be incredibly intelligent, affectionate and (for a rodent) pretty smart.

He's even been known to host his own talent show:-

He is also a perfect individual to teach you about Commas and their use!

Commas tell readers to pause and take a moment to understand what a sentence is about.
  • Put a comma after each item in a list
  • Don't put a comma before the word "and" - although many grown ups will tell you this is OK and called the "Oxford Comma"!
  • Put a comma after a group of words that belong together

They separate ideas within a sentence or items within a list.
for example - The shopping trolley was piled high with cereals, drinks, fruit, vegetables and bread.

Commas help you by showing you where to take a breath. They also show meaning.
Pickle likes carrot sticks and we use them to persuade him to do things! There is also another method of persuasion which grown ups often talk about called "carrot, stick". This means that you offer a reward and a consequence when you want children to do things! 

This method would never work with Pickle, he needs encouragement and no threat as with most animals. Adding that comma makes all the difference - even to a Guinea Pig.

Initially, getting him in from his outside run proved rather challenging. At times, it took upwards of 45 minutes to persuade him to come close enough to grab him and if he hadn't finished eating no amount of calling or treat offering would work!... (I told you he was smart!)

Eventually, after a year of training this is how I get him in.

With the emphasis on "I". He refuses to do this for anyone else!

Thing is, if you are a young guinea pig about town who values his street cred. it's not so cool to be seen to be cooperating so diligently. Treat-offering with shouting has absolutely no impact whatsoever. The "carrot, stick" (where "stick" is the shouting!) option is utterly ineffective.

Seems it was really a matter of grammar - same words, correctly put.  
A "carrot stick" works every time!

Just as long as there is no audience!!

Thursday, 31 July 2014

The Age of Steam

This article is about Victorians (KS2) and also about science and an adventure! 
SO much fun in ONE post!

Bygone Days

Dorothy and friends are on holiday in North Norfolk and yesterday took a trip on the "Poppy Line".  As a volunteer-led fully functional steam train line the North Norfolk Railway says:-
The North Norfolk Railway offers far more than just a train ride, experience yesterday tomorrow with a day out travelling through some of Norfolk’s stunning coastal countryside.
Before the internal combustion engine people used steam engines to move trains and boats. The first commercial steam engine using a piston was developed by Thomas Newcomen and was used in 1712 for pumping in a mine. In 1781 James Watt patented a steam engine that produced continuous rotative motion. The following century saw a revolution in steam powered machines. There is an excellent timeline here of transportation which records the main dates of progress in transport and includes steam. 

The History Bit

Creating an engine to do the work of man was revolutionary. Previously, growing food to eat - called a "subsistence economy" kept most people working hard. There was little extra time for developing ideas - or even HAVING ideas. Until people could be freed from growing food to survive society could not move forward. Not since Roman times had a people managed to do this - and this was the reason for the Roman's success and their Empire. If fewer people could be used to grow food - there were people free to do other things. That might be developing technology, conquering other countries or participating in art and culture. But none of those can happen if every man, woman and child is occupied growing food to live.

The Age of Steam was incredible. Machines - if well cared for - could do the work of ten men - and more. This was the start of a time called the "Agricultural Revolution" - when food production could be taken care of by machines and fewer people - and this meant there were people with time to think and plan- and the Industrial Revolution followed suit.

For any economy to progress, it's food supply needs to be safe. If you run or lead a country you need to feed your people - before you can do anything else. Britain developed steam power first, and was "free" first to pursue other things. This is the main reason why the British Empire was so successful, why we industrialised first, had the first railways, the first factories and why Britain was seen to be supreme across the world. Because we had TIME. Time to think, to dream, to develop, to pioneer and time to BUILD.

There is more about KS 2 History - The Victorians, here.

The Science Bit

The combustion engine was actually really simple. Coal was used to make a hot fire underneath a tank of water. Like a kettle! The water got hotter and hotter, until it started to boil. This boiling water became steam as the hottest atoms at the top changed from liquid to gas. Any gas takes up more room than a liquid as the atoms are further apart. The steam spread down a tube and just like forcing water through a syringe they were used to move a piston which turned a wheel. Keeping the fire hot kept the piston moving and the wheels going round. Simple!

You can find out how a steam engine works here.

Steam engines powered factories, machines, engines like trains and had so many uses.

Steam Trains

Steam trains are amazing things to watch. Noisy - and far more interactive than electric or even diesel rains they need constant care. But looked after well they provide many MANY years of service! Being part of an old steam train line is to work together i a community. This is something often missing in today's society and something many of us can learn from.

This is taken one step further in Holt, Norfolk where the Poppy Line terminates. An old fashioned double decker bus collects passengers and takes them on to the little market ton of Holt!

Dorothy says:- 
"Have you ever ridden on a Steam Train? Was it very different from a modern Train? 
If so, How and Why?
Were there more people around to look after and hep you on a steam train than a modern train?

If so - did you like being looked after, or do you prefer doing everything yourself?

Lastly - do YOU have time to think, to DREAM? Or do you think that counts as boredom? Do you appreciate time to yourself, when you have no demands made of you, or do you find this difficult? Two hundred years ago, this would have been a HUGE novelty. For anyone. And out of "boredom"/free time, came amazing things.

See what you can come up with when you are next bored!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Summer Holidays - what to do, and why do we have them?

The long summer holiday is approaching fast, for some it has already started! What are your plans this Summer? How many weeks do you have to fill?

Are you the sort of person who likes to keep busy, or are you looking forward to chilling out and relaxing?

Dorothy and friends are off to North Norfolk soon, and are very excited. For those of you staying home, here are some ideas to keep you busy!
  1. Visit your local park. Some host activity days in the summer too. 
  2. Take a swim at your local pool, many have special events on over the summer.
  3. Check out local museums - most have special summer activities.
  4. Join your local library - they often run a Summer Reading Challenge too!
  5. Keep a diary showing all your summer activities.
  6. Check out this article with your parents for some brilliant stay-at-home fun.
  7. There will be many holiday clubs and camps locally, not all are expensive. 
  8. Local sports centres have holiday sports courses - often subsidised by your Council.
  9. NetMums have a lovely long list of activities here
  10. Do you have any landmark sites or stately homes near you? All National Trust and English Heritage properties run holiday activities. 

  11. If you live anywhere near Northamptonshire check out History Live! THIS WEEKEND!
Over the weekend of 19 and 20 July, visitors to Kelmarsh Hall can cheer on their chosen gladiator champion, meet a flying ace and his biplane, see lances splinter and discover the sights and smells of a Viking encampment. It's all part of History Live!, the biggest living history festival in the country, where over 2,000 re-enactors and performers will bring English history alive, from Roman times through to the Second World War.

Or, you could give a little time each day to keep those Maths and English skills going with a Twinkl Resources subscription! It's a well known fact that children take a couple of weeks to catch up after their long summer break. This has led some to challenge the need for a long summer break.

Why DO we have such a long summer holiday?

You may think it's so you can enjoy the summer weather - but you would be wrong! The long summer holiday started when education became compulsory for children. Before the 1870 Education Act children the government did not fund schools. Children did not have to go to school - or be educated at home. Many worked long hours in factories, coal mines, or on the land. There was a lot of opposition to the Education Act because families said they needed the income their children brought home, without that extra money many families said they would be homeless, or simply starve.

Schools in Victorian England

At the start of Queen Victoria's Reign few children went to school, and they grew up unable to read or write. Church Registers (records) of marriages show that only half of the people who married could sign their names!

The government did not run any schools. Some people ran schools in their homes. Larger schools, called Charity Schools were built and run by wealthy people who wanted children to learn about God and Jesus. Children needed to be able to read to read the Bible and learn from it. These schools were for the very poor though, and were known as "ragged schools".

There is lots of information on the BBC site about Victorian schools

State Provision

The Government set up a system of school boards in the 1870 Education Act with money from local rates to run schools. In 1880 school became compulsory between the ages of 5 and 10. (This was extended to 11, and then 12 and remained unchanged until the 1930s just before the Second World War!) Most children left school by the age of ten, since their families needed them to earn money, and could no longer afford the few pence charged per week in fees.

Summer "Holidays"

When deciding how many days children should be in school holidays were first decided on the basis of public holidays. So Christmas was a school holiday and also Easter. To help families in the countryside a long summer break was put in place so that children could help bring in the harvest. And so the Summer Holiday was known as the "Harvest Break". It was never intended as a "Holiday" but time for children to work rather than learn! 

Even after the Second World War, when your grandparents were growing up, many city children and their families went to stay on farms to help earn some money bringing in the harvest. "Hop Picking holidays" in Kent are very well known, hops are used to make beer and London families would have holidays in the countryside - but not a rest. It was very hard work!

Many people - teachers and parents argue that the long summer holiday is too long. Children forget what they have learned and slip backwards, and today few children help on the land! Holiday prices such as aeroplane flights are so much more expensive in the summer too, as everyone wants to get away at the same time.

Dorothy Asks:-

  • What do YOU think? Is the summer holiday too long? 
  • Do you run out of things to do? 
  • Would you like shorter terms - or more frequent breaks?
  • Do you think your parents would agree with you?

Whatever you get up to this summer - be sure to have lots of fun!

Don't forget! Dorothy Whiskers is offering a year's platinum subscription to Twinkl Resources to keep the kids busy over the summer! Click here to enter the Giveaway!

Linking with -
 photo letkidsbekidslogobadge_zps424b7d61.jpg

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Fraction Action and Twinkl Subscription Giveaway

Let's face it, most of us start to break out into a cold sweat when we hear the word "Fractions", and once the whole thing goes beyond discussing cake slices most lose all hope.

But fractions don't HAVE to be scary - the main issue is they have an image problem! So Dorothy and friends are going to give Fractions a makeover, and convince you all that actually, they are just super fluffy, cute innocent little numbers which always do as they are told, and once you "own" them they are a sure-fast way to score lots of extra marks!