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Your questions, my answers

Penny Tomkins, 13 February 2015

Hi Bulb Buddies,

I’d like to wish you all a fantastic half term! Don’t worry about your plants over the holidays, they will be fine! But be sure to check on them as soon as you get back, because the crocus plants can flower anytime from January onwards and so we should be expecting more flowering dates very soon!

I’ve had another brilliant joke from L at Thorn Primary School:

Q. Why do you call beetroot beetroot?

A. Because you have to beat the root to get them out!!

And more schools have sent exciting updates on their plants:

Silverdale St. John's CE School: The daffodils are about 5cm tall and one of them is around about 8cm tall! Prof P: Fantastic news Silverdale St. John's CE School you must be looking after them very well!

The Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary School: This week is cold again with very frosty mornings, but we can now see some crocus shoots as well as the daffodils. The mystery bulbs have the tallest shoots. K M. Prof P: I’m excited that your Crocus plants have shown through. Isn’t it interesting how different the shoots look! Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies!

Ysgol Nant Y Coed: It was a very dry week last week. Also, our daffodils are about 12-14cm tall now. Prof P: Wow Ysgol Nant Y Coed, make sure you keep a close eye on your plants! It doesn’t sound like it will be long now before you see your first flowers.

Ysgol Iau Hen Golwyn: I like this job. Prof P: I’m glad to hear it! There are lots of other experiments you can try if you are enjoying this one. Try the MET Office website for some great ideas for half term: http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/education/kids/things-to-do/experiments

Rivington Foundation Primary School: We think that the temperature on Tuesday,Thursday and Friday was because the sun was hitting straight on to the thermometer. Prof P: Wow Rivington Foundation Primary! What high readings for week 6! That shows summer weather in February! Well done for spotting that this is unusual and questioning why your readings are so high. I think you are right and it must be because your thermometer was in the sun and you took the readings at the warmest time of day! I suggest that you turn the thermometer slightly so it is not in direct sunlight. This will give you more accurate readings. You are well on your way to becoming Super Scientists!!

Carstairs Primary School: Unfortunately we are unable to take the temperature because our temperature monitor has went missing with all of the snow. Prof P: Wow, that must be a lot of snow you are having Carstairs Primary School! Thank you for taking the rain fall readings despite the wintery weather! I see these were high all week, did you have to take the rain gauge inside to melt the snow before taking your readings?

Hi Kirkton Primary School. Just to let you know that you’ve had the coldest weather reported so far for week 6 at -6ÌŠ!! Brrrrr!! And Thorn Primary School had the second warmest reading of week 6 at 13ÌŠ. I wonder how this will affect your plants! I’ll be watching both of your weather records and flowering dates with interest to compare!

Enjoy the holidays Bulb Buddies!!

Professor Plant

Your crocus flowers will be purple in colour with orange anther and stigma (the parts inside the flower).

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Winter to Spring

Penny Tomkins, 9 February 2015

Hi Bulb Buddies,

I’d like to share a few pictures with you. Remember, if you ask your teacher to send pictures of your plants to me I can share them with other schools involved in the project! I’m especially interested in pictures that show the change of seasons, like spring flowers submerged in winter snow!

A wintery spider web at the National Roman Legion Museum

Daffodils at St Fagans National History Museum. Can you tell which plants have buds and which have flowers?

There has been some confusion over when to enter your flowering dates online. You can monitor how tall your plants are growing each week and let me know in the ‘comments’ section when you enter your weekly weather records. But the ‘flowering date’ and the height of your plant on the day it flowers are to be entered on the NMW website only once the flower has opened. 

Look at the picture above of Daffodils at St Fagans National History Museum. This picture was taken on a cold day, so the flowers haven’t fully opened. But, you can still tell which ones have flowered by looking closely at the picture. If you can clearly see all of the petals then your plant has flowered. Before flowering the petals are held tight in a protective casing and look like this: 

This is a flower bud.

This is a flower bud. Once the flower has matured inside the bud (and the weather is warm enough) the casing will begin to open. This can take a few hours or a few days! If you watch your plants carefully you might see this happening! Once you can see all of your petals and the casing isn’t restricting them at all you can measure the flowers height and enter your findings on the website. Once you have done this a flower will appear on the Map showing where your school is!

You can practice measuring the height of your plants to see how quickly they grow. If your plants are still small you can measure from the top of the soil. But, when you come to take the final reading to enter on the website we ask that you measure from the top rim of your plant pot to the highest point of your flower.

Have you compared the heights of the flowers in your class? Are there big differences in the size and maturity of the plants, or are they all very similar? What about the plants planted in the ground? Are these any bigger than the ones in your plant pots? Why do you think this is? You can let me know your thoughts in the ‘comments’ section when you enter your weekly weather records!

Once the bulbs start to grow send your stories and pictures to our bulb-blog and follow Professor Plant on Twitter

Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies!

Professor Plant

P.S. Don’t worry if your bulbs haven’t sprouted yet. It’s still early days and I’m sure it won’t be long! Mine haven't all shown above the soil yet...

My Daffodils and Crocus are growing too!!

Snowdrops at St Fagans National History Museum.

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Your questions, my answers

Penny Tomkins, 4 February 2015

Hello Bulb Buddies,

I would like to share a humorous rhyme from R at Thorn Primary School: "If I was a dog and you were a flower I’d lift my leg and give you a shower!"

Thorn Primary School: What happens to the plants after they have flowered? Do they die? Prof P: Hi Thorn Primary School. This is a very important question. Your bulbs won’t die after they have flowered! The leaves of your plant make food and the roots absorb water. When your flower dies the bulb stores all remaining food and water inside itself ready for next Autumn. Your teacher has information on how to care for your bulbs after your flowers die, and I will blog about it closer to the time. But this won’t happen until the end of Spring – so enjoy your flowers while they are here!

Skelmorlie Primary School: This week we have had a lot of snow and sleet in our weather. It has been really cold so we have had to look out for ice when we are playing too. In our water gauge this week, there was around 13 mm of water and 37 mm of ice/snow. Prof P: Hi Skelmorlie Primary School. I’m glad to hear you are being careful when you are outside, the weather can cause dangerous conditions! I’m assuming you melted the 37mm of snow to 13mm of water. Was there less water than you thought there would be? This is because water expands when it freezes and evaporates when it heats! I’d like to thank you for all the weekly comments you have sent me – you are definitely Super Scientists!

St. Ignatius Primary School: Professor Plant we missed some recordings this week due to the bad weather here. Our teacher decided it was not safe enough for us to go out and collect the recordings. Today we had a big piece of ice in our rainfall gauge so if that melted our rainfall would be more. The raifall gauge was also this full as it includes the 3 days we didn't take recordings. St. Ignatius Primary 4. Prof P: Hello St Ignatius Primary 4. Not to worry about missing some recordings due to bad weather – if it’s icy it’s better to stay warm and safe! As for the block of ice, you are not the only school to have had this problem. If this happens again please take your rain gauge inside and wait for the ice to melt. Then record the water level as rain fall on your weather chart!

Morningside Primary School: We brought our rain gauge in on Monday as it was full of snow and let it melt before we took the measurement. Prof P: Well done Morningside Primary School, you really are Super Scientists! I hope you enjoyed the experiment. I always try to guess how much water there will be when the ice melts!  Other schools have had the chance to do this experiment too, including Corshill Primary School.

Chryston Primary School: We are terribly sorry that we could not finish our records last week. We have been very busy with our Scottish afternoon and the weather here has been horrible. Hopefully we will finish our records next week. Prof P: Not to worry Chryston Primary School. Scottish afternoon sounds exciting! I hope you had a good week!

Thorn Primary School: We had lots of snow this week as well as lots of ice! We have no recording for Thursday as our school was closed due to the ice making it unsafe for staff and children to arrive. Prof P: Not to worry Thorn Primary School, other schools were unable to complete their records due to bad weather too! And lots of schools have reported snow, including: Woodlands Primary School, St. Brigid's School, Ysgol Hiraddug, Abbey Primary School, Manor Road Primary School, Rivington Foundation Primary School, Bickerstaffe CE Primary School and Balshaw Lane Community Primary School.

Our Lady of Peace Primary School: It has been very windy,snowy and icy. Two girls fell today at playtime and lunchtime on the ice and hurt themselves. It snowed last Tuesday and Wednesday. The two girl that fell are the girls that wrote this. Prof P: Hello, I’m sorry to hear you fell on the ice! I hope you weren’t badly hurt! I hope children at other schools take note and that everyone is extra careful when outdoors in this weather!

Ysgol Y Plas: Dear professor plant I thought you would like to know that nineteen bulbs in the flower bed have been growing and sixteen in the pots have started as well. From C. Prof P: Hi C, that’s great news! Other schools have reported new shoots too, including Skelmorlie Primary School!

Tongwynlais Primary School: We have no rain records for monday and tuesday as a few of our fellow pupils have been playing with our rain gage. We hope we can collect more accurate measurements next week. Prof P: Thank you for letting me know TongwynlaisPrimary School. Other schools have been having problems with their rain gauges too. Including Euxton Church of England Primary School whose rain gauge has been repeatedly knocked over by football players! They have found a new location for their rain gauge now.

Darran Park Primary: I have got a new friend doing this job now - he enjoys doing it !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Prof P: Haha, well I’m guessing that not everyone at Darran Park Primary is enjoying this project! I hope your new friend can show you how much fun science can be and that you come to enjoy the project as much as he does!

The Blessed Sacrament Catholic Primary School: It has been really icy in the mornings but the daffodil shoots are getting taller. F. Prof P: Good to know F. You must be looking after them very well!

Bancyfelin: 1 mm of snow fell on Thursday 29th of January. This means that 4mm of rain + 1mm of snow fell on this day. Prof P: Well done Bancyfelin. I assume you measured the snow using snow sticks? I see you recorded 4mm of rain, so I assume the snow melted in your rain gauge!

Baird Memorial Primary School: We are surprised by the changes that occurred within the temperature side of things. The changes were dramatic. Prof P: Hi Baird Memorial Primary School. You are right, there is quite a jump in your temperature readings from -1°c on Thursday to 11°c on Friday! This shows how temperamental the weather can be. Drops in temperature are often caused by cold winds, clouds and precipitation (rain and snow).

Ysgol Nant Y Coed: We enjoyed doing we like doing it very much its so FUN!!!! This is are last time doing it :(wahhhhhhhh we wish we could do it again-S and A. Prof P: Hi S & A! I’m glad you are enjoying the project and I hope you have learnt a lot! There are other scientific experiments you can take part in. I’m guessing its someone else’s turn to take the temperature and rain fall readings for this project now. But you could easily do a similar experiment at home! The MET Office have a Weather Observation Website (WOW) where they ask people to document temperature reading from their area. This information then helps Meteorologists to build a clearer picture of weather patterns across the UK. You can take part here: http://wow.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/manual .

Ysgol Clocaenog: Heddiw, rydym wedi gweld bod ein cennin pedr yn dechrau tyfu. Mae cennin pedr K wedi tyfu 1.5cm. Mae rhai ohonynt dal heb ddechrau eto. Athro'r Ardd: Wel, rwy'n falch o glywed bod eich Cennin Pedr wedi cychwyn tyfu. Mae'n swnio fel bod bwlb K yn tyfu yn gyflym iawn! Daliwch ati gyda'r gwaith da Ysgol Clocaenog!

Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies!!

Professor Plant

Thank you bulb buddies from Professor Plant and baby bulb!

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The changing seasons

Penny Tomkins, 30 January 2015

Hello Bulb Buddies,

I’d like to thank those of you who sent in your weather data last week. And especially those of you who sent in jokes, keep them coming!

Some of the comments this week noted that the weather is getting warmer and that the days are getting longer. For this reason I thought it would be interesting to talk a bit about the seasons!

There are four seasons in the year. Winter, spring, summer and autumn. We are still in winter, which is the coldest season.

Spring starts around 20th March (the Spring Equinox) and is when we see most flowers bloom, the weather gets warmer, and many animals have their young. Lambs in the fields are a good sign that spring has arrived!

The summer comes in full force from June to September, and is when we have the warmest weather and the longest daylight hours. Luckily for you it’s also when you get your longest school holidays!

Autumn takes hold from late September, and this is when the days become shorter and the weather begins to get colder! This is when the leaves turn colour to oranges, reds and browns and fall from the trees. And when animals like squirrels hoard food for the long winter ahead. Winter arrives again in December, and stays until mid-March.

Do you know why we get seasons? What causes the weather to change so dramatically throughout the year? Well, it’s because the Earth is turning around the Sun at an angle. The picture below shows the earth in relation to the sun. The earth turns (rotates) on its axis (imagine a line joining the North and South poles) as it moves around (orbits) the Sun.

It takes the Earth 365 days to travel once around the sun. The length of a planets year is the time it takes for it to complete one orbit of its star. So a year on Earth is measured as the passing of 365 days. 

The Seasons (from the BBC Bitesize website)

The picture above shows the Earth’s rotation around the Sun. The axis is shown by the red line at the North and South poles. You can see that the axis (red line) is at a different angle to the Earth’s orbit (the dotted line). This means that each day we are at a slightly different angle to the Sun than we were the day before. This is what causes a difference in the number of daylight hours we get. Fewer daylight hours (winter) means less light and heat, making this time of the year colder. More daylight hours (summer) means more light and heat, which makes it warmer!

The UK is in what is known as the ‘North hemisphere’, this means we are closer to the North Pole than the South Pole. Notice that in the picture the North pole (the red line pointing up) is leaning towards the Sun in the June and away from the sun in the December. This angle is what causes the change in daylight hours as the Earth orbits the sun over the course of the year.

Other countries experience the changes in daylight hours at different times of the year. In Australia it is summer in December! And in Iceland they have sunlight for days in a row in the summer and darkness for as long in the winter! Imagine the sun being out at midnight!

Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies,

Professor Plant

Earth on it's axis (from BBC Bitesize website)

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The Big Garden Birdwatch

Penny Tomkins, 23 January 2015

Hello Bulb Buddies,

There is an exciting scientific survey being conducted this weekend, and your help is needed! It’s called the Big Garden Birdwatch and is organised by the RSPB, a conservation charity that help to look after our wildlife. You can help by registering online here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/ and downloading an information pack. You then spend one hour this weekend documenting the birds that visit your garden or a green space near your home. The information pack on the RSPB website has a guide to help you identify the birds! Then, upload your findings to the RSPB website so that they can feed into the nationwide survey of bird populations, aimed at providing an insight into how our feathery friends are doing in the wild!

The Big Garden Birdwatch has been running since 1979! You can find out about previous results here: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/previous-results/ . An annual, nationwide survey is a fantastic way to spot changes in bird populations. This is important, because if we know that numbers of a certain bird are dwindling, we can start to look at why this is happening and make changes that will help those birds to survive. An example of this is the Starling. The Big Garden Birdwatch has shown an 80% decrease in the Starling population since 1979. The RSPB has been raising awareness of what we can do to help these birds, such as keeping the grass in parts of our gardens short so that Starlings can more easily reach the grubs and insects they feed on near the roots of the grass.

Starling in the winter (picture courtesy of the RSPB website).

Here are some ideas on how to attract birds to your garden: http://www.rspb.org.uk/news/387868-top-10-bird-feeding-tips-this-winter . And some fun, bird-related activities: https://www.rspb.org.uk/birdwatch/family-fun/ .

St Fagans National History Museum and National Museum Cardiff will be hosting Big Garden Birdwatch activities this weekend! If you want to be involved here are links to the What’s On guides for more details:

Cardiff         St Fagans

 

I’d like to send a big thank you to those of you who sent your weather data in last week. I’m looking forward to this weeks data and finding out whether it has been warmer or colder and how many of you have had snow or hail!! Remember, if you send all your data in and let me know online when your plants have flowered, then you will receive Super Scientist awards and be in for a chance to win a Nature Trip!

Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies!

Professor Plant

Starlings (picture from RSPB website)