On a dull, cold and misty day on the moors at the end of October, the Y13 Biologists spent a day in the Peak District (White moss path near Stanage Edge) collecting data for one of their biology required practicals (RP12).
They were investigating the effect of an abiotic factor on the distribution of heather and measured several biotic factors including pH, soil depth, gradient and vegetation height. They used an interrupted belt transect and estimated % cover of heather with a quadrat.
No-one got lost in the mist or fell in the bog and everyone was very cheerful carrying out their data collection even when they realised that Sheffield had spent the day basking in autumnal sunshine!
Well done to everyone for being so fantastic – you were a pleasure to work with!
Our Y13 Hispanists had a marvellous four day, four night trip to the Spanish capital over the October break. The streets of Madrid and in some cases the madrileños themselves were adorned with Spanish flags in response to the ongoing catalan “uprising”. Pride, tinged with a hint of worry, was the predominant feeling amongst the locals. When asked about this eloquently by Charlotte, our waitress in a restaurant spoke of her “tristeza” at the desire amongst “some” to break up their country. Clearly the feeling associated with the independence movement in Madrid is not the same as it is in Catalonia.
Having managed to arrive in Madrid on Sunday afternoon (which seemed unlikely at one point given both our original Ryanair flight and our subsequent Monarch flight was cancelled), we headed to El Prado, one of the most visited art museums in Europe. With famous works by Goya and Velazquez on show, it was awe-inspiring. Even our least enthusiastic art aficionado (Amelia) described it as “all right”, so by that metric it really was special. Once everyone had had their artistic fix (which for some took less time than others), the evening rolled in and we let Harry take control of finding somewhere to eat. The brief was “Spanish” and “affordable”. After having to explain that we couldn’t dine in one of Madrid’s 5* hotels because it wasn’t affordable, we eventually settled on a mid-range Italian, which although didn’t meet the former criterion, served its purpose.
Monday was an opportunity to explore the city, see the sights and “dar un paseo en bici”! After a brief debate about whether sticking to the beautiful Parque el Retiro or exploring the city’s streets by bike would be better given levels of biking proficiency (and Harry and Emily’s bizarre tandem) we decided it would be safer for all if we stuck to the park. We asked the locals all manner of questions about the location of random spots within the park, and after our LIDL picnic in the glorious sunshine it was time for “el remo”. To the lake we took, and although most (particularly Ali) were unquestionably terrible, Emily defied the odds, in being unexpectedly skilled on the boat.
Then, following a surprisingly aggressive period of haggling with a street vendor by Harry (for Amelia’s fashionable sunglasses) we headed to the “Guerra y Conflicto” exhibition in the Museo Reina Sofia. There we saw perhaps the most famous piece of art ever by a Spanish artist, Picasso’s Guernica, depicting the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War. So impressive it was that Antje couldn’t help taking surreptitious (albeit ultimately clandestine) photographs. She tried to lose herself amongst the crowd, unsuccessfully, and was appropriately rebuked by security! Harry, on the other hand, did lose himself, completely, in the museum and didn’t emerge until closing time. In fact, we had to go in and find him, several hours after everyone else had finished! On return to the hostel, again Harry took the culinary lead and prepared a marvellous Mexican meal for the group.
Tuesday (road trip day) involved a splendid jaunt to Segovia. With the marvellous Pablo Alborán (Lucy’s favourite) providing appropriate sing-a-long material the drive through the Parque Regional Cuenca Alta was breath-taking. Appropriately attired, the mid-morning activity was climbing the La Najarra (a small mountain in the Sierra Guadarrama). Sadly, we ended up going the wrong way, but the neighbouring mountain was equally spectacular. It is fair to say that some were more at home than others on the mountain, and although the climb itself was arduous, the rewards of vista and picnic at the top were very much worth it.
The afternoon saw us reach Segovia, a marvellous provincial town, about 100km to the northwest of Madrid. There, the striking roman aqueduct, the quaint Jewish quarter and the relief-inducing McDonalds (sigh!) were among the highlights. The evening’s meal was taken in an even smaller neighbouring town called El Escorial, where the group had ample opportunity to practise their Spanish discussing everything from Catalan independence to bullfighting with our lovely waiter and waitress.
Wednesday, our penultimate day was also a public holiday with it being “El Día de los Muertos” and it was fitting to see some of the city’s religious sights, along with the magnificent “Palacio Real”. Other than shopping, the undoubted highlight of the day, was the opportunity to watch Lorca’s Bodas de Sangre (a Romeo and Juliet style romantic tragedy) at the theatre which was produced with such conviction and beauty (and artistic flair) that it was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Our last day involved the group spending time working on their independence research projects in a university style library in the edgy Lavapies district of Madrid. In addition, however, there was the unique opportunity to see the famous Plaza de Toros at Las Ventas and to learn of its history at the museum. Although still deeply controversial, and probably still cruel, we now have a much more convincing understanding of the respect and honour afforded to the bull in any fight in Spain.
Many thanks to all of our Y13 Spanish students, whose Spanglish and Spanish are both coming on very well and who were an absolute pleasure to travel with through Madrid and its environs.
The Y12 students spent a day honing their fieldwork skills in Ecclesfield Park during October break. As part of the water and carbon cycle unit we spent the morning calculating the amount of carbon stored in the long avenue of trees before looking at varying infiltration rates across the park. In the afternoon we investigated the relationship between distance downstream and stream discharge. In February, we will be doing two more days of local fieldwork in preparation for the students’ Non Examined Assessment which they will then undertake as an independent study in Y13.
In the meantime, Y13 have been busy collecting data for their Non Examined Assessment. Human geography fieldwork has involved conducting in depth interviews with residents of Wentworth, Birley, Fulwood and Grimethorpe. Other students have been out administering questionnaires as well as measuring footfall and doing archive research. Physical geographers have been out at various locations in Sheffield and Barnsley measuring variables such as discharge, precipitation, carbon, infiltration, temperature and wind. This data is going to be used to answer questions as diverse as: to what extent can an urban heat island be witnessed within Sheffield? What were the impacts of the mine closure in Grimethorpe? What does Wentworth mean to people today? Is there a difference in levels of deprivation in Fulwood and Birley and if so, what are the causes? How has Elsecar changed economically since 1782? How does a micro river basin discharge compare to that of a larger basin? I’m very much looking forward to reading them when they’re submitted after Christmas.
On the 23rd November some Y12 students went to a lecture at Sheffield Hallam given by Professor Jamie Woodward, a Geography professor at Manchester University on ‘From Green Sahara to desert river: 6000 years of living with a shrinking Nile’. The lecture included some fantastic images of the Nile basin and links in with our studies of water cycle and climate change.
Sociology trip to the cinema to watch ‘Wonder’ and discuss the implications of childhood within society.
After an eventful departure from Manchester, we arrived in Paris on Monday evening and headed out for some traditional French pizza, with lardons, crème fraiche and pommes de terre, before having an early(ish) night in advance of three days’ solid sightseeing.
On Tuesday morning we set off for the Père Lachaise cemetery, where the final resting places of Oscar Wilde, Chopin and Édith Piaf can be found. The grave of Jim Morrison is of particular interest to the students of Combined English, so two teams set off in a race to find the singer’s tomb, a race won by David’s team, naturally. After this, we headed for the Montmartre district, where we visited the Sacré-Cœur Basilica and ate lunch on the church’s steps while enjoying some spectacular views of the city, before the group set out to explore this historic district, and the pigeon selfie competition began in earnest. In the afternoon we headed to Le Marais quarter, another historical neighbourhood filled with history to discover. The group walked through typical Parisian streets, admiring the capital’s outstanding buildings and architecture. We stopped at the Centre George Pompidou, the largest modern art museum in Europe, recognisable by its distinctive postmodern and high-tech architecture. Alas, it was closed, but the students found solace in the colossal 6-metre high sculpture of a golden thumb placed in front of the centre to celebrate the work of noted 20th-century French sculptor César Baldaccini, a sculpture that they all seemed to enjoy! We then moved on to Notre-Dame, one of the finest examples of French Gothic Architecture, before heading back to the Bastille quarter for a dinner of crepes to end our first full day in The City of Lights.
Wednesday began with an early start, as we caught the train to the Palace of Versailles. Although some were unimpressed (“It’s no better than Wentworth Garden Centre”), most students appreciated the architectural splendour and magnificent art proffered by this 17th-century wonder. After exploring the palace and its gardens we headed back into the centre of Paris, and the group ate the delicious sandwiches they had worked hard to prepare the night before. We then visited the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris and later on caught a movie, during which we enjoyed Josh’s generosity with his white chocolate Oreos, before retiring to the hostel for the evening.
Thursday saw another early start, although this one was enlivened by the considerable chill offered by the French capital. We set off for the Louvre, and the students enjoyed seeing the art on offer so much that they unanimously requested more time in the gallery than we had previously anticipated. After a picnic in the Jardins des Tuileries we headed along the Champs-Élysées towards the Arc de Triomphe. Some of us strolled up this elegant Parisian boulevard; others caught a lift in the back of a golf buggy; the daredevils of the group drove a Ferrari. We then walked along the banks of the river Seine to the Eiffel Tower, and climbed the 669 steps to the second floor, from where we were able to watch the sun set over the city. After the long walk back down, we headed to the Latin Quarter, and enjoyed a delicious, traditional three-course meal, with many of the students opting for snails as their starter. After an unsuccessful sojourn to a karaoke bar, we headed back to the hostel in advance of our flight home early the next morning.
The flight back to Manchester was uneventful, but most members of the group spent the journey in eager anticipation of the results of the French speaking competition. On the minibus back to Sheffield Ali announced his controversial and disputed ruling, which left some happy, most angry, and all confused.
Our students had an amazing trip to Paris; they learnt a lot about French culture and heritage, as well as the language.