Plants

Of course, we also looked at the old faithful, plants. I’m sure that all special school classes grow plants every year, but the students I was working with had not been credited with their knowledge on our recording system, so off we went again.

Most of them were able to label a simple plant diagram, but struggled with the concept that trees were also plants, I think because we call the stem of a tree a ‘trunk’ and they look quite different!

What do plants need to grow

The experiment involved planting cress seeds in egg boxes (again, low cost equipment that was readily available). Students worked in small groups to plan their experiment, each member of staff having been told where to guide their group in terms of which of heat, light and water would be missing.

A week later and cress seeds and sprouts were removed from dark cupboards, the tops of lockers (sorry caretaker) and the fridge. Some brief discussion how being in the fridge wasn’t a fair test ensued – cold and dark – but students all were able to see that to grow well plants need all three of the above.

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Materials

The topic for the second part of the term was materials. We identified objects made from glass, paper, wood, plastic and metal and discussed the properties of these.

One of the downsides of not having a science space is that the equipment which was once there is spread around the school. This meant that what I wanted to use could not be found. Instead, we improvised.

As a class we planned an experiment to test how strong a range of materials were, made predictions and then after we had done the experiment drew bar charts and talked about our results.

For the experiment, we got a range of wet and dry materials, easily accessible from the classroom, and secured them either side of a gap between tables. In the absence of slotted masses (or indeed masses of any kind) we used jenga blocks – they are uniform enough to be able to be used as ‘units’ and for some reason I had an enormous box of them in the classroom. Conceptually, the students were able to see the amount of blocks, and were able to discuss stacking them as opposed to placing them randomly.

Testing materials

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Habitats

I found this worksheet from @cleverfiend on the TES resources site.

habitats

This is quite a short activity, but I wanted to make it longer for my students, to elicit conversations and to check if there were any of the plants or animals which they did not know. There is a picture for each habitat, and one for each plant/animal mentioned.

know what a habitat is

It generated a lot of discussion – and a lot of mess! More able students were able to begin to explain how the plants and animals were adapted to their environments.

(KS3 students, p7-L2)

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#OnFire – Ashley Tait Play off special

Ashley Tait, Blaze Captain and long time player, has lifted the play off trophy with the team no less than three times. The first was in 2002/3 in the BNL against Cardiff Devils, the second time in 2004/5 as part of the Grand Slam season, where Blaze beat Nottingham Panthers in an agonizingly tight game which went into sudden death overtime tied at 1-1. With just over three minutes into extra time, Tait raced in on goal and scored the game winner. Most recently was last season where Blaze beat Sheffield Steelers, the then reigning play off Champions.

Having won the play trophy three times with the Blaze, I asked how it felt to win each time. Tait said, “It’s weird, the first one is  obviously special, and the next one with Coventry, our first in the Elite League era,  was to make it the grand slam, so that was very special.  Last year was pretty unexpected to be fair, we beat the first, fourth and fifth seeds along the way, so it was special but for very different reasons.”

With so many games to play each year, I wondered how well Tait remembered the games leading to the play off title. He said, “Last year I remember well – the Nottingham series in particular. We played really well in the first game there and came back tied at 3-3. I was lucky enough to get a goal in the return game. I remember it was an absolute defensive onslaught, we couldn’t get out of their end but everybody held firm and we came good. I think that win went a long way towards getting us the steel we needed to get through the semis with Belfast which went to penalty shots and the final.”

When it comes to preparation, the play off games have a very different feel to regular league games. It really is a case of winner takes all, with only four games between you and the trophy. Tait explained, “As an individual you have to put it all on the line and leave nothing in the dressing room. It’s all about the bigger picture which is winning. It’s all about your team mates, being willing to go through that wall and pay the price.”

While individual players have their own ways of preparing for the games, the most important thing is that the team is ready for the challenge. First they focus on the two leg quarter final, which is an alien concept to some of the import players.  Tait continued, “As a team the preparation this week will be solely based on a two game series. It’s always a little bit difficult, having the mindset to play two games, because it’s an aggregate score over the two legs.  That’s a foreign concept to a lot of the guys when it’s their first time playing over here. I’ve been involved in two legs where you hold a decent lead going in, and it’s very difficult mentally to go in with a two or three goal lead. It’s just human nature that you know you are in the lead, that you are winning, and it doesn’t help. You’ve got to have the mindset it’s a fresh start and it’s 0-0, regardless of what the actual score the night before was.”

With it being confirmed that we face Sheffield in the quarter finals, how confident are the team that they can lift the play off trophy again? “We always said we didn’t have the start to the year we wanted and it was apparent we weren’t going to challenge for the league title, so plan B was to make sure we get to the play offs,” explained Tait. “Anything can happen from there as we learnt last year! Last year is a great lesson for the guys that we’ve currently got.”

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#OnFire – James Isaacs

James Isaacs arrived from Canada partway through December, initially on a two game trial as injury cover, that was extended for a further two weeks and then, at the start of January was confirmed as staying on for the rest of the season.

The 6’1 d man has dual nationality – his father was born in Epsom, Surrey, before emigrating to Canada as a teenager – and he had prior experience of the Elite League before joining the Blaze, having played a season and a half for the Dundee Stars. During that time, he scored three goals and a further 11 assists, as well as helping them to win the Gardiner Conference title in his first season.

Before joining Stars, Isaacs won a championship at junior level in the British Columbia Intercollegiate League in 2010/11. He turned pro with the Mississippi Surge of the Southern Professional Hockey League and a season and a half later he signed in the ECHL with Idaho Steelheads. He played over 50 games for them before moving on to Greenville Road Warriors for a further twelve games.

As a dual national, it is a little easier for Isaacs to play over here, as he doesn’t require a visa. He explained, ‘I applied for my British passport a few years ago and got that, which made it easier for me to come over here. I’d never lived in Britain before I came to play for Dundee. I came over in grade 7 for a four week school exchange, I’ve backpacked across Europe a couple of times, stopping off in the UK, but I hadn’t stayed here for an extended period of time.’

The decision to join Dundee was a mutual one. ‘I wasn’t having fun with my team in North America, and the timing worked out with Dundee. They had been after me in the summer, but I wasn’t available then. I came over in the January and loved my time in the UK. I came back to Dundee last year and was going to go for a third year there, but the coach, Jeff Hutchins, got fired and things sadly changed, so my contract wasn’t renewed.’

As it seems to go in the small world which is Elite League hockey, it was the relationship with his former coach which helped him secure the initial trial with the Blaze. Isaacs said, ‘Jeff Hutchins helped out a bit. I was stuck for a team for the season, and came over to the UK on a whim. I found a cheap flight to the UK and I was going to go and stay with my girlfriend up in Scotland. I was on the train to Edinburgh when I got a call from the Blaze saying that they wanted me for a couple of games, and it went from there.’

Despite the Blaze management announcing that they are hunting for a forward, they have signed Isaacs as a d man until the end of the season. Isaacs is quick to praise his team mates, but can see that he fits a specific role as well. ‘I think I maybe fit a role that they were looking for that they didn’t quite have on defense,’ he explained. ‘We have a great d core, there are a lot of guys that do different things, and I just came in and tried to be that calming defensive defense man. It just worked out that I came in and we won some games in a row, I’m sure that helped as well. If we’d have lost those games I might not be here. Sometimes it’s all about timing and right now I couldn’t be happier. I like it here in Coventry, the organisation is top notch and I can’t complain at all. I’m looking forward to seeing out the season here.’

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Traps

Source: Traps

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#OnFire – Pietrus

Jordan Pietrus joined the Blaze later in the season than most of the players, initially coming in as injury cover, but he played well enough to earn himself a permanent spot on the roster.The 30-year-old from Vermilion, Alberta, spent last season in Poland for KH Sanok, posting 70 points (28 goals and 42 assists) in 56 regular-season and play-off games, making himthe leading point-scorer and joint-highest goal scorerin the league. He also scored four goals and one assist in six Continental Cup appearances. While he was at University he spent several seasons as either Captain or Alternate, and it’s easy to see why when you talk to him about the team and how he has settled in.

“I think I’ve settled in pretty well,” he said.“The organisation has been pretty professional in helping me and my wife settle in and I’ve been enjoying Coventry so far. We’ve been made to feel comfortable. The fans have been unbelievable and everything has gone pretty well.”

Making the move from one country to another is never easy and having played in Poland last season but not been picked up at the start of this must have been quite challenging. Arriving late to a team that has already formed does not come without its challenges. “Fitting in with the guys wasn’t too hard to be honest. They are a great group of guys and they welcomed me. On the ice it took me a while to feel like I was settled as the rest of the guys had eight weeks of training together beforehand, so that was a little bit difficult for me initially. I feel that over the past few weeks I’ve started to get more confidence and bring my game up to another level, one that I am happy with.  It’s been a slow process for me, but I think it’s coming,” he explained.

Having come for a short term role, Jordan quickly impressed both fans and coach, and as a result was offered a contract for the rest of the season. “I came here with the intention of winning a job, he smiled.“I was fortunate enough that I was able to do that and I’m glad to have that opportunity.”

During his time with us, Pietrus has shown that he plays very well when on a line with Lauzon and Lukacevic, but that he is equally comfortable playing on any line combination that Coach Weber puts him on. He explained, “The line combinations have been changing quite a bit, I feel like each game we’re starting to improve. There are some guys you naturally have chemistry with, and I’ve played with a lot of the guys. There are still some people on the team I’ve not played on a line with yet though! Our team is trying to find the formula for success, it’s a process. The line with Lauzon and Lukacevic worked well for a while and then we had to change it up again. The last few games have been a bit different, but playing with those guys has been great. We have a line up full of great players and it’s a pleasure to play with everyone.”

Not long after he arrived, Blaze fans voted Jordan as their ‘Player of the Month’ for October. He seemed pretty stunned as he talked about that accolade. “It’s an honour to have been recognised as player of the month. It’s humbling and exciting as it means I’m doing the right things. It’s a product of the environment, playing hockey with good players. I’m fortunate that my line mates are able to help me out, and we had some success. It’s great that the fans recognised it too.”

Looking forward to the rest of the season, Pietrus has the same desire as any hockey player – to win a trophy or two. “We’ve had a rough stretch, but for the rest of the season I want to win some silverware and win a championship. We have to take it one game at a time, one day at a time. We need to continually get better and hopefully we’ll reach the point in our last game of winning a trophy!”

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