Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Wind Turbine at Cults Primary School

The reason I visited Cults Primary School in Aberdeen was to check out their wind turbine, which I heard about in Australia. Susan Clark who I mentined in the previous post took me on a guided tour of the school and gave me some details about the turbine.

Cults Primary School in Aberdeen is the first school in Scotland to harness the wind to generate its own power. The wind turbine at Cults school will provide energy for the school and awareness of renewable energy among pupils, other schools and the wider community.

The 5-kilowatt Iskra turbine is powerful enough to provide enough energy to run most of the school’s catering operation. The cost has been covered by the Scottish Energy Saving Trust (£13,326), Aberdeen City Council (£9,500), the school’s Parent-Teacher Association (£1,000) and Cults Community Council (£1,000).

The turbine should deliver an approximate saving of £650 per annum at current electricity prices and will contribute to reducing the school’s reliance on fossil fuels. The school expects to cut its CO2 emissions by 5,633kg per year--and by 112,660kg over the lifetime of the turbine.

A 32-inch LCD screen has been installed indoors, allowing pupils and staff to monitor wind speed and direction, power output, and the tonnage of carbon dioxide which would otherwise have been pumped into the environment if the school were using conventional power sources. The school has installed the equipment to let the pupils make a real contribution to renewable energy generation and learn about enterprise, citizenship and working with others. While I talked with Susan in the school's corridor, students stopped in front of the monitor to read the information.

The principal Ian Smithers (the one with hair), said the monitor keeps the students interested in what energy the turbine is creating and saving. It has to work at a certain speed to be generate enough energy to save electricity and money.

I wonder what schools in Mount Alexander Cluster can do? Challenge 2 Change is moving in this direction.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Cults Primary School is an Eco-School

Today I visited Cults Primary School to find out more about their wind turbine and eco-school status. TheHead of School, Ian Smithers introduced me to Susan Clark ,the key person behind the project, who is team leader for the Pupil Support Assistants and the school's Information Technology among other things. I was impressed by the involvement of students in the decision process in the designated areas a school needs to cover to be awarded a green flag.

The school has been awarded two green flags which doesn't mean much to an Australian but is very significant in Scotland.

Susan showed me the documentation that has to be kept to demonstrate the involvement of children and she added that when the committee came to evaluate the school, they spoke at length to students. Obviously if the pupils weren't really involved it would be very obvious.

We walked around the school past the sensory garden which was designed by pupils in collaboration with parents, including a garden designer. The garden is for special needs kids and involves touch, smell, visual and other senses.
You can see the raised beds for kids in wheelchairs, the water fountain is powered by solar power. It does switch off in Scotland. I said our problem in Australia is not the solar power but the water as we are experiencing drought conditions.

There were numerous other areas of great interest which I'll report in another blog.
But it's wonderful to see the results of commitment by a school in giving the kids real responsibility.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Is there a chess connection with Glenfiddich?

Well it's a shame that after the Chess Conference we had to do a bit of touring. As you can see here Steve Tobias, Steve Carroll and myself took a break from our demanding cognitive work, to relfect on our experience. The sign had nothing to do with visiting Glenfiddich and nothing to do with having a wee dram. Steve Carroll was thinking hard, as you can see by his frown, about the chess and mathematics connections with visiting a whisky distillery.

Today we dropped Chess-squared initiator Steve Carroll at the airport with his 5 suitcases of presents for his wife Megan, kids Darcy, Jack and Gracie and numerous others he felt needed something from Scotland. By the time we loaded the suitcases into the boot of the car and Steve into the back seat the front wheels were airborne. We had to move Steve to the front seat so I could get the wheels on the road to enhance our steering capabilities.

However while we sat in a lounge with a cappuccino - don't get me started on the appalling coffee here - we began working out the future directions of our chess initiative in schools. One area to follow up is more focused interviews with students about what is going on in their heads when playing chess. What makes chess interesting for them and what makes mathematics interesting and boring?

Lots of ideas to follow up.

Steve Tobias has contact with one of the professors from Turin University who is keen to cooperate with the research the team is doing and to publish a joint paper in italian and English.

This afternoon we are visiting two researchers in Education at Aberdeen University to explore possible networking with schools in Mount Alexander Cluster and Aberdeen on energy conservation.

And I'm going to write to Tourism Scotland advising they need to train barristas. Maybe Edmund from Coffee Basics in Castlemaine, could be flown over.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Susan Polgar supports Chess-Squared

Susan Polgar, the world's first woman chess grandmaster is shown here supporting our cluster schools by writing a message on an autographed photo, for all schools in our cluster. Steve Carroll organised the photos and signing. This is an entry from her blog.

These are our friends from Castlemaine program in Australia. They are here at the International Chess Conference in Aberdeen, Scotland. Talk about commitment to chess and education to fly half way around the globe to attend! A numeracy initiative of the Mt. Alexander cluster of schools funded by Innovations and Excellence. A partnership supported by Castlemaine Chess Club, Castlemaine Community House, School Focused Youth Service, and James Cook University- School of Education- Queensland

Mount Alexander Cluster of Schools Chess paper

Yesterday the team - Steve Carroll, Steve Tobias and myself delivered our paper to the conference and we ran out of time. But we got our message across about the good things happening in our schools with our Chess-Squared initiative.

Steve Carroll outlined the background to the project and explained how the idea hatched from his fertile brain and that the key person for us in getting the tutoring going so successfully is Harry Poulton who as I said, "Is the only one of our group who can really play chess."

I spoke about the key partnerships with principals and teachers and that their commitment is real.

Steve Tobias talked about the research background and the notion of performance versus mastery learning. Our work is based in mastery learning that intelligence is not fixed at birth.

Feedback to our presentation was really positive. People liked the team presentation which demonstrated that we worked as a team and there is interest from Aberdeen and Turin Universities in doing some follow-up work with us.