So this Eratosthenes chap ...........
East Midlands Branch Goes Young 29th September – 1st October 2015
The East Midlands Branch has, in common with the remainder of the RIN, been looking for ways it could develop its activities to include the younger generation. This year we had the opportunity to do so. Our friend Clive Hall, Commodore of Hykeham Sailing Club, was also Secretary of the Lincoln Group Training Association (LGTA) who in conjunction with the Lincolnshire Education & Business Partnership (EBP) put on a three day Construction Industries event for schools at the Lincolnshire Showground each September. This event has been running for 14 years and has gradually built up to its current size, which involves up to 330 students each day in groups of up to 15 trying up to four different activities. Always on the lookout for new contributors, Clive asked the East Midlands Branch to attend.
We were invited to the 2014 wash-up meeting and took careful note of what the two students, who had been invited to it, had to say. The main point was that they wanted more hands-on time for everyone in the group. Clearly, a group of 15, all hands on for an hour, was going to be difficult for us, so we decided to share with our friends of the Spirit of Goole Project who would be demonstrating aircraft covering. We would have seven or eight students each and swap activities after half an hour. The total contact time was later cut to 55 minutes to allow time for the students to move between activities and then to 50 minutes to allow more time for prize giving at the end of the day. Therefore, we were looking for a hands-on activity for seven or eight students for 22.5 minutes. At the suggestion of our friend Simon Roberts from the Nottingham Geospatial Institute, we decided to go for two groups of four students calculating the circumference of the Earth by taking two GPS Positions in a north - south line a measured distance apart. The students were to range from year 6 to year 10, and we were worried that the younger ones would struggle with degrees, minutes, and seconds of arc, so we decided to stick with just degrees to five decimal places. We could have used GPS sets to tell us the distance between the two positions but decided it would be more fun to use pacing. However, calibrating little legs would have taken too long, so our final decision in the measuring department was to purchase trundle wheels, because everyone loves using trundle wheels, especially the adults who never got chance at school in the 1950s. We bought broom handles to mark our start points and pinned flags to them using the material from a worn out sports umbrella. We decided there was time for explanations so purchased a large globe from Amazon and made a giant cardboard pizza with a removable slice decorated with pizza photos from real pizza boxes.
All was going smoothly until fourteen days before the event when two things happened simultaneously. First, Spirit of Goole Project was forced to pull out, and second, we thought ‘What if it pours down’. Suddenly we needed more helpers and four events, two for outside and two for inside. Once again, Simon Roberts came to the rescue and suggested modelling the Solar System to scale if the Sun was a football. That would have taken more than 22.5 minutes to walk and talk, so instead we used a ‘day-glow’ tennis ball mounted on a short length of bamboo pushed into the ground. This size Sun put Pluto 285m away. We colour-printed pictures and descriptions of the Sun and the nine planets and laminated them. We also wrote the scale size of each planet ranging from the size of a pea to a grain of fine sand. Each student chose a planet and read his card to the others at the appropriate distance. We also marked the position with a postcard attached to a tent peg. After walking 285m you could look back and see eight postcards and a tiny ‘day-glow’ tennis ball. This activity also gave us the excuse to purchase yet another trundle wheel.
For possible indoor or outdoor use we resurrected ‘the direction game’ which was reputedly invented by Baden Powel. We purchased conical markers at an unbelievably low price on Amazon and laid out a circle about six metres in diameter with the cones marking the eight principle directions, N, NE, E etc. Each student stood by a marker and the instructor called out two directions. The students at those points had to change places.
We also had the privilege of working with students from a special school and had to modify the activities accordingly. We began with ‘the direction game’ which was great fun, and when the grown ups got tired of that, we progressed to the Solar System, which the some students knew a remarkable amount about.