Polar Explorers
Blog by Helen Mason

Oxford Road Primary School, Reading, 20 children, KS2

8th February 2018

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Vange Primary School, Basildon, and Temple Sutton Primary School, Southend-on-Sea, 130 children, KS2

14th March 2018

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‘Some of my own learning points. Thanks again. Antarctica contains most of the world’s fresh water. The ice fish has a protein that acts like antifreeze. Elephant seals have bad breath’ (teacher)

The ORSAnauts is a science club at Oxford Road Community School, led by a very enthusiastic teacher, Mark Lyford. We had been trying for ages to fix a date and topic for my visit. In the end we settled on Polar Science, since this is something which I, Helen Mason, have a great interest in, having been down to Antarctica five times. See the British Antarctic Survey’s website for some great information and activities for schools.

My talk ‘Big Birds and Penguin Poo’ covered several different topics, different species of penguins, and how penguins are being affected by climate change, observing penguin poo from space, the huge wandering albatross, and how to keep warm in extreme conditions. The children particularly liked trying on all the polar clothing, which I had taken. The string vest caused great amusement, but we pointed out that wearing it on the ‘outside’ had no effect, its strength was in keeping air next to your body, since air trapped in fur and feathers is a great insulator. The children explained what each piece of clothing and equipment was used for, for example why we need sunglasses in Antarctica. Afterwards, the children produced some beautiful art work to illustrate what they had learnt. I spent a wonderful afternoon with Mark and the ORSAnauts. They asked and answered lots of questions, and we had a lot of fun.

Vange Primary School, Basildon and Temple Sutton Primary School, Southend-on-Sea have been following the Polar Explorer Programme with Heather MacRae. Dr John Dudeney OBE, an Antarctic legend, came along with us to meet the children and to see what they had been doing. John spent over two years in Antarctica as a young man, from December 1966 until March 1969, and spent all his working life at the British Antarctic Survey, going back there very year. The children had some fantastic work to show us, and asked hundreds and hundreds of questions, about every aspect of living and working in Antarctica.  Their questions included: ‘How long can a person survive in Antarctica?’, ‘What made you want to go to Antarctica?’, ‘Were there any dangerous mistakes or accidents while you were there?’ and ‘How did you keep warm?’. Their written work and their art work was impressive. Well done everyone!