Having cycled a commendable 20 kilometres from Leek to Groningen in the warm rays of the summer sun, we settled down on the terrace outside Bernoulliborg half an hour early for a day exploring science. This would give Group Three of Lindenborg School the opportunity to find out more about studying science, sample student life first hand and get to know each other better.
The programme, which was developed by Tanja van der Woude, the coordinator of such activities here, included a heartrate experiment, a visit to the observatory, a look through a solar telescope, a lecture on constellations and another on the Big Bang, and a visit to ScienceLinX.
It’s a complicated device, the heart! We were given an explanation of the names of the different parts of the heart and how they work, one pupil had an ECG taken and then it was time to get to our feet and imitate the beating of a heart in a role-play. Much fun was had by all! It’s incredible that an organ where much can go wrong generally works so well.
Observatory, solar telescope and constellations
It was a very special feeling to stand eye to eye with the enormous Gratama Telescope. The Telescope, which is bent according to the curvature of the earth, peers through a slit in the dome as it focuses on the distant reaches of the universe. When the telescope turns, the dome turns with it. It’s enough to make you dizzy!
We then took it in turns to look through a solar telescope that had been set up on the roof outside especially for us. The sun was fully visible, like a small orange, but was otherwise calm, with no eruptions or other rumblings on the surface.
After a short inventory of who had which star sign – surprisingly evenly distributed across the possibilities – we were given an explanation of all that we could see in the sky above Groningen and how to find constellations. This was with the aid of Stellarium, a programme that you can install at home. I can really recommend it. Then there was time for a range of questions on light years, galaxies and calculations.
Then it was time to leave planet Earth and travel into space in a question and answer session. Although the pupils made a valiant effort, it was more often than not Roest himself who tackled such questions as: what will we encounter on our journey? How far away from us is that? What do the planets look like? What is a galaxy? Where did the Big Bang take place? What causes seasons? What is a black hole?
On a sad note, if we wait long enough we will be alone in space, because everything is moving apart rapidly and the furthest away galaxy that is visible to us is more than 13 billion light years away. The universe is expanding. Into what? Roest did his best to answer this and many other intriguing questions with an enthusiasm about the subject matter that was infectious.
In the hall of Bernoulliborg are a range of fun devices that can help you understand such matters as ecosystems, the flight of a flock of starlings, the turbulence of air inside a tornado, why a pendulum turns above a magnetic plate... and much more!
We were given an explanation of some of the devices and were then free to wander around and discover things for ourselves. One of the highlights was playing a game of Mindball with a classmate. You win by keeping as calm as possible and minimizing brainwaves.
The sun did its best to make it a pleasant return journey for us. Two bike chains came off, one group went the wrong way and there was much fun and japes. But above all the day had been about future options and we now had plenty of food for thought as we cycled the commendable 20 kilometres back to Leek in the warm rays of the summer sun.
Text and photos: Anneke de Vries, classics teacher, Lindenborg School, RSG De Borgen, Leek.
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