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!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Very well actually! You may remember that back in the Spring Dorothy and her friends decided to prepare and plant up their very own vegetable patch. It was hard work, but it was really worthwhile  as they have been enjoying some of their produce already!

The potatoes were the first to be ready, they have needed an awful lot of water because - despite all the rain we have had, Dorothy's garden is on a hill and the water drains off pretty quickly. The soil is also doesn't hold water well. 

We used a fork to level the plants gently out of the soil and were really impressed with the results! The skins rubbed off beautifully. Can you think of any ideas for meals which include new potatoes?

There are lots of recipes for your Mum or Dad to try on the BBC Good Food site 

Potatoes - Dorothy asks, did you KNOW? 
  • The word potato comes from the Spanish word patata.
  • Potatoes are a vital part of many people's diet across the world.
  • Potatoes are vegetables but they contain a lot of starch (carbohydrates) that make them more like rice, pasta and bread in your diet. 
  • Potato plants are usually pollinated by insects such as bumblebees. 
  • Potatoes contain a variety of vitamins and minerals. 
  • There are thousands of different potato varieties but not all are commercially available, popular ones include Desiree, King Edward's, Charlotte and Russet. 
  • China was the leading producer of potatoes in 2010 but they originally come from South America in the Andes.
  • Potatoes don’t store very well but they are relatively easy to grow. Potatoes won't freeze even when cooked as the potato starch turns into sugar and alters the taste and texture. 
  • Potatoes are usually served hot, but sometimes cold in the form of potato chips or potato salad. 
  • One of the main causes of the Great Famine in Ireland between 1845 and 1852 was a potato disease known as potato blight. The shortage of potatoes led to the death of around 1 million people who were dependent on them as a food source. 

See how many types of potato you can find - or how many different ways of cooking potatoes you can think of?

We are trying to grow other fruit and vegetables in the garden too.

The raspberry canes look a little sad as someone went over them with the lawn mower... they are having to work hard to catch up!

Are you growing things in the garden? Or enjoying the wild plants and flowers nearby?

How does your Garden Grow?