Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Spain and chocolate: making our lives better

Chocolate comes from a tropical tree that is believed to have originated in Ecuador. It became a popular part of the diets that the native people enjoyed, along with other native plants, such as corn and potatoes, which were completely unheard of in Europe. By the 16th century the Spanish were acquiring great amounts of knowledge from their meetings with the civilisations of the New World. It was the Spanish that introduced chocolate to the Western world. They discovered that the Central Americans drank the bitter drink with pepper and spices and the conquistadors preferred to sweeten their beverage with cane sugar. Starting with the Spanish Monarchy, this new brown drink spread initially to Italy, France and then on to the rest of Europe.  Later in Italy, the solid chocolate bar was invented and now, in the 21st century, it is one of the most popular food types and flavours in the world.

This week however, a new study has suggested that chocolate is not only delicious but also beneficial to our bodies. Solid bar chocolate is one of the richest sources of flavanols we have in our diet. These are naturally occurring molecules that are biologically active and are also found in tea leaves and certain fruits and vegetables. The study suggests that age-related memory loss can be reduced by a higher intake of flavanols. Great news for Chocolate lovers:

As people age, they typically show some decline in cognitive abilities, including learning and remembering such things as the names of new acquaintances or where one parked the car or placed one's keys. This normal age-related memory decline starts in early adulthood but usually does not have any noticeable impact on quality of life until people reach their fifties or sixties. Age-related memory decline is different from the often-devastating memory impairment that occurs with Alzheimer's, in which a disease process damages and destroys neurons in various parts of the brain, including the memory circuits.

In the CUMC study, 37 healthy volunteers, ages 50 to 69, were randomized to receive either a high-flavanol diet (900 mg of flavanols a day) or a low-flavanol diet (10 mg of flavanols a day) for three months. The high-flavanol group also performed significantly better on the memory test. "If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months that person on average had the memory of a typical 30- or 40-year-old," said Dr. Small. He cautioned, however, that the findings need to be replicated in a larger study -- which he and his team plan to do.

Nevertheless, you still need to be careful about which chocolate you buy. To acquire a high level of flavanols then you will need to buy chocolate that has a high percentage of cocoa. These types of bars are often called “dark chocolate” and don’t contain milk. They also have much less sugar than the low cocoa chocolates and so it is better for you in two ways. Luckily for you, in Barcelona you can some of the best brands of chocolate worldwide, organically sourced ingredients and toasted and produced here in Cataluña:
Blanxart and Chocolate Solé

For reference
Adam M Brickman, Usman A Khan, Frank A Provenzano, Lok-Kin Yeung, Wendy Suzuki, Hagen Schroeter, Melanie Wall, Richard P Sloan, Scott A Small. Enhancing dentate gyrus function with dietary flavanols improves cognition in older adults. Nature Neuroscience, 2014; DOI: 10.1038/nn.3850

Science Fair: Timetable

To help the students who are taking part in this year’s Oak House School Science Fair, we have created a timetable to show all of the targets during the year.
The first target or deadline is Friday October 31st (Halloween) where the students have to have chosen their project and who they are going to do it with. This information must be passed onto a member of the Science department so that we have an idea of who is doing what.
The timetable is as below. Any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Watch this space for more details.

Tasks completed
October 31st
Project and partner chosen
November 30th
Hypothesis written
Background research done
Variables identified
December 31st
Practicals planned
Preliminary practical tests
January 31st
Practical work
February 28th
Practical work
March 31st
Practical work
April 17th
All materials compiled
Poster has begun
April 21st
Poster is completed
April 23rd
April 24th
Science Fair Day(s)
Poster and materials are presented and judged

IB Environmental Systems: Biotic components of an ecosystem

This week saw the students of IB Environmental Systems surveying the biotic components that make up an ecosystem. (Biotic refers to the living part of an ecosystem like plants, animals and microbes).
The students started this part of their studies by learning to identify organisms using dichotomous keys. They also created their own keys for animals found in the Collserola and plants from around the school (thanks to Nicanor).
Even though these students would have used identification keys in both primary and in ESO, they found it tricky to be able to create their own. To be able to look for features of an organism that can be used to distinguish it from another is a skill that needs practice to perfect.

Still, this is just some of the skills that the IB gives and expects from these students. Onwards and upwards!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Science around the school

Walking around the school I was struck by the number of scientific objects in open view that we take for granted and that fade into the background. First of all, the most famous scientific object in the school is the wind vane on top of the “Torre”.

 Wind vanes are used to indicate the direction of the wind. It points in the direction from which the wind is blowing. Winds are named after the direction they blow from, so a northerly wind blows from the North. So the wind vane points to the name of the wind. Unfortunately our wind vane doesn’t work anymore. What was the direction of the wind when it stopped working?
Another interesting thing is that the compass points are fixed and these show the orientation of the school in relation to north and south. Interesting in the fact of the number of students I have encountered recently that didn’t know where south was.

Another object of interest is this plaque on the wall outside of the Science labs.

This plaque indicates the height of this position (the central line) above sea level. This measurement has been made by the Institut Cartogràfic I Geològic de Catalunya who also supplied the plaque. On further inspection of this group’s website I encountered this map where if you zoom in on the school it shows the various heights above sea level.  And they seem to disagree! Maybe they need to come back and do another survey or change the plaque!

What other interesting Science objects can you find around the school?

IB Environmental students sampling the environment

This week the students of IB Environmental Systems and Societies were outside measuring various abiotic factors around the environment of the school. Abiotic factors are the non-living components of a habitat and affect the biotic (living) components. Abiotic factors that they were beginning to measure were light intensity and the temperature of both soil and water. 
This activity was also significant in that the students were learning how to use the new data loggers and sensors that the Science department had purchased this year in order to meet the requirements of the IB science subjects. These data loggers with the addition of numerous sensors and probes can be used in all of the Science subjects both inside and outside of the lab. We plan to also make use of them in both ESO and primary Science to get the students used to collecting data by this means.

When all the data is collected, students then have the choice of viewing it as a table or a graph and then sending it to a computer via wifi to be saved and analysed at a later date. Exciting times!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

OAK HOUSE SCHOOL AMB EL CRG (Centre de regulació Genòmica)

Ajudem a que es pugui seguir fent recerca a Barcelona!  

A EEUU part de les aportacions econòmiques destinades a recerca provenen de l’estat i una altra part del sector privat. Nosaltres podem aportar el nostre granet de sorra:
Només cal que clickeu per veure el vídeo que tot l’equip del CRG ha preparat.

Gràcies per la vostra col•laboració

A very well produced video and for a great cause! Well done to all of the researchers in this facility!!

Where is South?

This is a question that I asked in one of my Science classes today and the response I got was surprising!
Students were asked to point in the direction of south and hands were pointed in every single direction of the compass (including South thankfully). This was a group of 3rd ESO students who have been in the school now at most 10 years and still weren’t too sure where south lay.
Have we lost touch with our external environment as we are becoming more interested in internal one? Perhaps we just don’t have time to consider the world around us and how it is made up? Or maybe in general this is the way we are and I am just the exception due to the need to be observant as part of my job!?!

Either way, it was an interesting discovery and one I think we need to rectify within the school!

1st Cycle Science enrichment projects (Red worms and composting)

In our Enrichment Project lessons, our group has been investigating red worms and how they produce compost with leftover food. We've shown the year four pupils what happens to our food when we don't eat it. We are explaining to them all the process of how worms make compost, what they eat, how to keep them alive and how much quantity of food they should eat. The children came with us to the compost area, in school, where we have a box full of compost and red worms. They were really interested and focus on our experiment, always wanting to participate, give food to the worms and take care of them. Our experiment gave wonderful results thanks to the kids who were always smiling.

See the video here!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Oak House Science Fair

As a means to increase the Scientific research capacity of our students, Oak House School is proudly launching its second Science Fair next week (October 13th).

Last year we had students from both primary and secondary researching their own projects over the course of five months. They then presented a video and a poster (on Family Day) of their project and its results. Winners were selected for both posters and videos in both schools and these were presented to the well deserving winners on prize giving day.

This year, though, will be slightly different. To ensure that all students have the experience of research, (which will be very useful when they undertake their Treball de Recerca in Bachillerato or the Extended essay/internal assessment in IB), we are making the Science Fair project compulsory for all students of year 7 and 2nd ESO. Students from other year groups are invited to participate as well.
Students will work in pairs, selecting a project from a list or devising their own. They will then have until April to carry out relevant research, experimentation and prepare their poster.
In April, there will be a full day in which the students will present their posters and defend their project to other students and parents as well. This is also the day the projects will be judged by the members of the Science department.
Prizes will be presented to the winners on prize giving day again.

Science department members are available for any advice and ideas.

Good luck to all participants!!!

Another year of Science in Oak House School

Here in the Oak House School Science department we offer a large number of Science subjects, at many different levels and in two languages. In the primary school they follow the British national curriculum, whereas in secondary we combine the requirements of the ESO (Educación Secundaria Obligatoria) system with the rigours of the IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education). Our students sit their IGCSE Combined Science exam in 3rd ESO to ensure they all have the same grounding in Science before continuing on (either in Science or elsewhere). In 4th ESO the students can finish their ESO system Sciences in Catalan.  Some students also choose to study the subject Environmental Management for IGCSE in both 3rd and 4th ESO. 
After ESO, comes Bachillerato and now the newly begun IB program. Both of these programs run side by side with the IB offering those students, who have plans to study abroad, the chance to study their desired subjects in English.
In Bachillerato we offer Biologia, Química and Física as well as Cièncias del món contemporani and Cièncieas de la terra i medioambient.
In the IB we offer Biology, Chemistry and Physics from Group 4 with the addition of Environmental Systems and societies.
Our school also has a comprehensive approach to environmental issues concerning the School and this is coordinated in-house. The school has been given a silver award by the Eco-Schools organisation. 

Science within Oak House is taught to a very high level by a dedicated and professional team of teachers who want to share their passion for all things Science!!!