28 October 2018

Zalipie: Poland’s Painted Village


The secluded village of Zalipie in southeastern Poland is home to a charming tradition.  Over a century ago the women of the village began to paint their houses: however, it was not the single, uniform color one might expect from a traditional and conservative society.  The village, through the intricate and vibrant paintwork of its womenfolk, bloomed.
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Although no one is completely sure how and when this tradition began, it dates from when the smoke from stoves escaped through little more than a hole in the ceiling of the house.  Women would paint over the spots of soot with whitewash.  Yet the spots would still be partially visible and it is believed that the women, in order for their house to appear immaculate for religious festivals, took to covering the remnants of soot stains with paintings of flowers.  Once modern cooking and better ventilation came in to practice, these cover-ups were no longer necessary.  Yet instead the flower patterns became gradually more and more sophisticated.

24 October 2018

Hybrids


Imagine a time in the near future when our seas have become so overwhelmed with our detritus that some bizarre kind of evolution takes place which fuses the denizens of the oceans with the discarded technology of our own species.  If you can then you might imagine something like this. Hybrids was created by five graduate computer animation students from MoPA animation school.   They wanted to draw attention to the pollution of our oceans through the use of captivating images.  It worked.

On Scaffolded Descriptive Writing for GCSE English Language 9-1

Paper 1 Question 5 in the AQA GCSE English Language exam is worth 40 marks.  Put that in to a percentage and it’s worth 25% of the qualification.  So it’s vital that learners do well on this question.

Here, grandmother, suck on this egg… 

There is a however, of course (isn't there always?).  The however in this particular instance is that it is often quite difficult to give students a feeling of almost immediate success when approaching this question - this is a long-haul situation. The faint-hearted can give up almost before they begin. Not only that, a number of students have developed some very fixed ideas about what makes a descriptive text - I teach in FE - and quite often it bears only a passing resemblance to what examiners are looking for (at least in order to award it good marks!).

So I wanted to do something to address this. I did a little research (OK, I used a search engine) and found that some teachers were giving their students scaffolded writing tasks, at least for the first paragraph of a descriptive piece.  Here is an excellent article (the best I found, to be honest) on The Learning Profession blog about how scaffolded descriptive writing openings can work brilliantly.  The rest of this post details my journey from this point - it isn't advice about how to teach this part of the syllabus, it's simply about how I developed my ideas about scaffolding and how I then went on to embed it in my classes.

23 October 2018

Dallol - The World's Weirdest Volcanic Crater

In the North East of Ethiopia lies the Danokil Desert.  At its heart is a volcanic crater, Dallol, little known and seldom visited but quite extraordinary.  

Surrounding the volcano are acidic hot springs, mountains of sulphur, pillars of salt, small gas geysers and pools of acid isolated by salt ridges. It makes for one of the most bizarre landscapes on planet Earth.

Dallol is one of the most remote places on Earth and very few people live here. Little wonder. After all, who would wish to live in close proximity to such a vast and alien backdrop as this? Even the name, in the local language of the Afar people literally means disintegrated. Even today the volcano is not mentioned in most books on the subject of volcanology.

13 October 2018

Frost Flowers: Nature’s Exquisite Ice Extrusion

It is as beautiful as it is rare.  A frost flower is created on autumn or early winter mornings when ice in extremely thin layers is pushed out from the stems of plants or occasionally wood. This extrusion creates wonderful patterns which curl and fold into gorgeous frozen petioles giving this phenomenon both its name and its appearance.  This feature contains all the science but if you want to see more pictures, don't forget that we have a new collection of frost flower photography that you can see by clicking the red rectangle above (there's a link at the bottom of the post too).

Conditions have to be just so for frost flowers to form.  Early winter and late autumn are the optimum time to come across them as although the weather conditions must be freezing it is vital that the ground is not.

6 October 2018

Autism Hour – A Great Initiative

There are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK and many of them find everyday experiences, such a shopping, something of a challenge.  The National Autistic Society has joined forces with a number of High Street shops to create Autism Hour.

You can watch a video about how someone with autism might experience a visit to the shops here.

During the second week of October shops will make a series of simple steps to make themselves more autism friendly.  Over 10,000 shops have already agreed to participate and the campaign also includes celebrities such as Chris Packham and Anne Hegerty.

The steps taken are incredibly easy – first and foremost the shops are spreading autism awareness among their employees.  Secondly, things like reducing the volume of music in their shops to dimming fluorescent strip lighting can really make a difference.

Personally, I think this is a great initiative and I hope that the steps made can, in the future, become something more permanent.  So, between 6 and 13 October, shopping should be a lot easier for a vast amount of people.  What a shame it couldn’t be extended throughout the year!

You can find out more by visiting the National Autistic Society's website.
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