Science Adventures to Herstmonceux

Science Adventures to Herstmonceux

On Tuesday 20 September 2022, the Second Year joined twelve staff members and travelled to the Herstmonceux Observatory, East Sussex, for a day of science enrichment and team building.

The Herstmonceux trip has been a Caterham science tradition for many years, and we were thrilled to be able to continue the tradition this year, albeit in the sombre aftermath of Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral.

After picking up a packed lunch each, the pupils boarded their designated coaches (named Galileo, Cassini and Magellan, after pioneering space probes) and we headed off just after 8:50. Greeted at the Observatory Centre by Education Director Jo at about 10:30, we split up into twelve teams and the challenges duly began.

Each team had an opportunity to visit the Discovery Park (a playground with exhibits inspired by discoveries and principles from the DNA double helix to the creation of standing sound waves in partially-closed pipes of different lengths), the Water Play section (which included Archimedes’ screw and other fundamental ideas of liquid flow), and the Exhibits Corridor (all sorts of installations inspired by forces and astronomy). The sculpted fish heads near the pond, which doubled up as light filters (allowing everyone to see the pond in a fascinatingly distorted view), were as popular as ever, but this year, the real fish in the pond outsold the sculpted fish and became the stars of the show.

To prepare the teams for a Second Year science course full of practical work and experiment design, all building up to the Junior Science Fair next spring, we also competed in three challenges. The iconic Tower Building Derby was held in the heights of one of the domes at the Observatory; the legendary Bridge Building Contest took place in a tent near the pond; and the secretive Codebreaking Crusade was undertaken in a marquee at the back of the site.

The teams, divided by Academic Houses, rose to the occasion and executed some formidable strategies for cracking codes and building tall towers and long, stable bridges as quickly as possible. This led to the annual speculation about whether any of the towers would collapse during construction and whether any of the bridges would be built to the wrong specification. Regardless of the outcomes of the challenges, the teams showcased their great House spirit and gained valuable insights into the art of sharing ideas and not just rushing in without planning.

Congratulations to Lewisham for winning the Tower Building Derby, to Team “Eiffel Swift” for winning the Bridge Building Contest, and to Team “Levine Lantern” for winning the Codebreaking Crusade. (There were honorary bonus points available for anyone, staff or pupil, who could explain why I had chosen team names such as Eiffel Swift and Levine Lantern for the teams containing pupils from two Houses!) However, maximum points in one challenge each was not sufficient to give any of these teams the overall victory, as Hebridean Pink, captained by Mr Bailey, took second place in all three challenges and won the overall gold medal. Congratulations to them and to all the other competitors. Of the six Houses, Lewisham took first place for the second consecutive year, followed by Ridgefield and Newington.


Thank you very much to everyone at the Observatory for opening the doors to us for another year, and to all the staff for accompanying this terrific curtain-raiser. As Mrs Lomas remarked at the end of the day, I think we left the Observatory with several new budding astronomers among our ranks – and you can’t ask for a better trip legacy than that.

Mr R. Evans

Teacher of Chemistry, Head of Ridgefield, Herstmonceux Trip Leader

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