Primary School

No Metallic Sound

The instruments, manufactured from metal steel with incorporated membranes, are actually made of oil barrels. However, cut to pitch, they are percussion instruments for upbeat Caribbean music. Originally from Trinidad, they are used in the music styles of Rumba, Salsa and Merengue.

"Everyone can learn how to play steel pans", says Marcos Moreno. He is a Caribbean drum teacher and music instructor from Spain, who gave lessons to year 1 to 5 Primary School pupils from various language sections between the 2nd February and the 3rd May 2016. Each class received drum lessons once a week during regular school hours. Playing steel drums requires fine motor skills, such as hitting the steel drums lightly and precisely - like a xylophone - so that the membranes of the instruments produce a variety of pitches. Marcos Moreno's style of teaching catered for a wide range of learning capacities as he shared with and challenged the children. A sense of achievement usually develops fast and so the children very soon were able to drum quite a few rhythms and melodies.

Time and again, the other teachers confirm the observation that the children are much more concentrated and collected in class after a steel pan course unit. "This is a phenomenon that surprises me every time", said the experienced music instructor.

In particular, the final concert is great fun when the young drummers are given the opportunity to delight their parents and are rewarded with standing ovations for their performance. It is a true "feast for the ears" to listen to simultaneous drumming and singing, enhanced by the reflective parabolic mirror shaped pans that create a compact sound. The fun in making music is the main thing!

Secondary School

Is There Life On Mars?

Mountains, sand dunes, craters and rocks, the barren landscape on Mars resembles that of desert and mountain areas on earth. However, the distant planet is anything but life-friendly. "The atmosphere is very thin and temperatures can fall as low as minus 100 degrees Celsius", explained Gerard Kruizinga. The aerospace engineer from the Netherlands works for NASA, the American aerospace agency. He was a navigator in charge of transporting the rover "Curiosity" to Mars. It is a remote-controlled motorised land vehicle, built to explore planet the red planet.

On the 11th May 2016, he gave a presentation about this Mars mission to an audience of year s6 Secondary School students. The scientist spoke on complex route calculations, the gigantic costs and the many technical hurdles, such as landing in very thin atmosphere. As no GPS data exists, the spacecraft had to find its way to the red planet by looking back to earth, instead of looking ahead. "Curiosity travelled blindfolded to Mars", said Gerard Kruizinga.

The engineers never really knew whether their calculations worked out and Curiosity would actually hit the right planet or whether it would simply vanish in space. Nine months later, a science fiction dream became reality; on the 6th August 2012, Curiosity landed on Mars. However, the fifty-year-old described the moments before as "seven minutes of terror". At the scheduled time of landing, he and his team were forced to wait many minutes for confirmation as the transmission of the data sent by Curiosity reaches the NASA control centre only with a time delay. All the greater was the relief when the "touch down" was confirmed. Having been too exhausted and tired after a 20-hours shift, Gerard Kruizinga was only able to fully enjoy this pioneering success much later. It is almost a miracle that the mission was successful. It is the result of reasoned engineering, making the father of two sons quite rightly proud.

In the question and answer session that followed, the science-enthusiastic students demonstrated how well they were informed and how much they were interested in the subject matter. Many had seen the very realistic film "The Martian" and wanted to know whether there is life on the red planet. Curiosity has been exploring Mars for almost four years now. But the vast wilderness, deep canyons and impressive mountain ranges - dry, dusty, without breathable air - is not suitable for life, especially not for us humans. At least not yet!

Moorhen In The Morning

It's not for everybody this very special challenge: An expedition into the Scottish wilderness. The Cairngorm Highland is a well-known mountain range in the North-East of Scotland; barren mountains, deep valleys, dark forests and deep cold lakes. From the 4th to 9th May 2016, 41 Secondary School students took part in the silver and gold pre-expedition of the International Award. The weather is always unpredictable, but the five groups were rewarded: There was no rain!

There were of course many more highlights: the English breakfast lovingly prepared prior to the expedition, the training day for the silver-groups in the Glenmore Lodge and pasta Bolognese "all you can eat" after the trip.

And during the excursion: The expedition participants were able to enjoy the impressive wild beauty of the Cairngorm Highlands. Who actually has the opportunity to have dinner at sunset amidst an idyllic riverside with spectacular views on mountains covered with lavender-coloured heather? Falling asleep to the sound of a babbling stream, waking up to the cry of the grouse, having breakfast with the team and spending the whole day in the nature. The day trips offered a lot of excitement: crossing rivers, passing waterfalls, walking on paths that disappear, using one's own navigation skills, listening to the funny sound that grouse make when they start flying from heather bushes. This year, there were more animal sightings than ever, including rabbits, weasels, intrusive horses, snakes, pheasants, deer and hundreds of sheep with their lambs.

But of course, there was the difficult part of the expedition. The participants of the three gold groups trekked 80 km in four days, the silver candidates accomplished 45 km. The heavy backpack with luggage for the whole expedition soon led to an aching back and neck tensions, in addition to blisters, cramps at night, perhaps a snoring partner in the tent, morning toilet without beauty case at the cold stream, bush toilet, being plagued by ticks and midges, group dispute and cabin fever and much more. And yet the participants were simply happy in the end that they had managed to accomplish this demanding expedition and were proud of their performance. Congratulations to all!

The participants feel very lucky that the European School offers its students this extracurricular activity. They feel even more grateful that there are so many volunteers who form a team and make this program possible. An expedition at this level with so many participants is an incredible achievement of these volunteers and cannot be sufficiently appreciated. Weeks of preparation, planning and arrangements led to this great experience. Thanks to all helpers!