Captain Bligh reached Timor today, along with 18 other, in 1789 after a journey of 7,400 km in a open boat. Quite a feat! With trains, cars and planes now the preferred method of travel, we can forget just how intrepid travelling by sea was. From Zheng He, the Chinese admiral who explored the vast oceans around China to Captain Cook who went off to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and finally met his end in Hawaii, adventurers and navigators make for a great story of adventure – we’ve got several stars of the sea in our movie library for kids!
It’s interesting to look at what Finland is doing with its approach to education. Take Phenomenon-Based Learning (PBL) – it might be changing the way kids learn for the future. Less rigid subject teaching, much more collaborative learning and a clever way of using technology to find out stuff. So the days of plain old history, geography and english lit may be numbered. Of course kids need to learn the basics of maths and language, grammar and science, but once they have those, they can apply that learning in real-life situations so answer questions about our world.
There’s always going to be a place for general knowledge in education – that’s part of the great tapestry of learning and gives what we do perspective and context.
Sir Humphrey Davy shuffled off to the great lab in the sky today 188 years ago. But in his time, he was a major hitter in the world of science boffins. I won’t go into it now, but his main gig was inventing the DAVY LAMP which miners used down the pits. Also he was a major inspiration and guru to MICHAEL FARADAY (inventor of the electric motor) who DID turn out to be a BIG NOISE in science. Life well lived, Humphrey Davy (although 50 seems a bit young to die).
I’m thinking about Andrew Jackson Moyer today. Who he? One of those quietly brilliant scientists – a microbiologist from Indiana who deserves to be part of the Alexander Fleming story of penicillin. Fleming famously noticed the mould in his unwashed lab dish when he got back from holiday. But it was Ernst Chain and Howard Florey who worked on producing it in bigger quantities, to save the lives of wounded soldiers returning from World War II. But even those brain boxes couldn’t make enough of it. Enter Andrew Moyer who found a way of making truly industrial amounts of penicillin by means of continuously shaking the culture of corn steep and lactose. Ok – the broth bit is a bit too sciencey for me, but the main point is…thank you Andrew Jackson Moyer! Watch Alexander Fleming’s life story here!
Today is Biodiversity Day. Sounds irrelevant? It’s not! Biodiversity is the sciencey name for variety. and you’ve gotta admit, we all love a bit of variety. Take Darwin and his famous finches. The whole evolution theory wouldn’t have got off the ground if there’d just been one, sad, grey-looking type of finch. Instead there were loads of finches, all with their specially-designed beaks to deal with the nuts on their particular island. Excellent example of nature’s neat planning. Right tools for the right task. Check on up Darwin’s life story with our video biog.
We all learn in different ways. Even as adults, the differences between us are easy to spot. Some remember best with visual aids, others with an acrostic, poem or word puzzle (ie “In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue”) and still others by writing things down repeatedly. And this all starts in the early years – finding your naturally-effective path to learning. I like the idea of learning without noticing. The picture of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers on a child’s bedroom wall will become a familiar friend their whole life long. Learning without noticing led me to make a library of short colourful films that impart valuable information in an appealing way about famous figures from all walks of life. This picture helps us remember Isaac Newton, the brainbox who worked out the force of gravity while sitting in his orchard. Introduce Newton and his life to your kids and they’ll never forget him and what he did!
Today Florence Nightingale was born. Let’s remember her with thanks. It takes guts and determination to keep going in the face of adversity and she faced that in spades. Despite her well-to-do upbringing, she wasn’t taken seriously at first when she first made plans to go to the Crimean battle front. But she persisted and the rest is history. It seems like a jolly story nowadays, but it must have taken a lot of energy, courage and grim tenacity to make it happen. Happy birthday, Florence. We haven’t forgotten you!
Painting outside in the rain, the wind and the sun doesn’t seem like a bold creative move. But back in Claude Monet’s day, it was. He broke the mould of serious, sensible, historical painting and heavily stylised portraits and brought a fresh excitement into the stuffy art world. And like most pioneers, no-one thought it was much good at first. But now Monet’s works sell for tens of millions of dollars!
Okay. He’s generally regarded as one of the biggest names in science. Wrote ‘On The Origin Of The Species’. Yes, we know. (By the way I bet you didn’t know he also wrote ‘The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Actions of Worms’ – definitely a bestseller.) But I like the fact that he wasn’t JUST one of the most influential figures in human history, he was also a bloke who got seasick, like the rest of us. And he was on The Beagle for 5 years! Get the lowdown on his seasickness and the other slightly more important things about him with our great little movie for kids.
May is a month when you really feel spring is here. Even if it’s raining. The birds know it, the flowers are up to speed and the days are getting longer. All the warm days are ahead of us. Maybe that’s why in his play, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Will Shakespeare wrote that May is the major love month. So feel the love! And if you don’t already know a lot about our greatest playwright, check out our fun movie whether you’re 7 or 100 and nail his life story in 10 minutes!