Mars is the mission for Steyning International Baccalaureate students

International Baccalaureate Students with Head of Science Mr Andrew Wood - photo by Maxine Silver
International Baccalaureate Students with Head of Science Mr Andrew Wood - photo by Maxine Silver

‘Getting to Mars’ was the mission chosen by Steyning Grammar School International Baccalaureate (IB) students as part of a science project that accounts for part of their science grade.

Students had just two days to research, test and present their findings and proposals to a panel of school scientists.

On Tuesday 14th and Wednesday 15th January 2014, all Year 12 International Baccalaureate students were involved in the science project. The group of 15 students were split into five teams each consisting of at least one chemist, one physicist and one biologist, and given a topic to investigate.

The teams went their separate ways, each to focus on their individual ‘Mars Mission’ and develop theories covering the five topics: Food supplies, communication, water supplies, the psychology behind such a mission and how radiation can be reduced. The projects all involved science, so after a day and a half of running specific tests in the laboratory the students had to make some valid judgements based on the evidence they had collected.

One group studied the ‘Psychology of the Mission to Mars’ and tested the effects of being in an enclosed environment. They looked at issues relating to wellbeing and interpersonal processes as well as measuring the levels of agility, mental speed and reflexes by completing online reflex tests and physical speed tests.

Heather Webster, IB student said “The atmosphere in the lab and the freedom and independence given to us to complete the task was great, letting us come to understand how actual scientists investigate hypotheses”

Students spent time developing their presentations, putting forward ideas and analysing data to allow detailed conclusions driven by scientific evidence. This type of project not only tested their science skills it also tested their personal skills, motivation, perseverance, team work and evaluation skills, all very important parts of the International Baccalaureate programme.

Ms Danielle Cook, IB Coordinator at Steyning Grammar School was very impressed with everyone: ‘We were all pleased to see such earnestness in young adults. Each individual immersed themselves in the topic given and the groups worked well together as teams, persevering in their research until they were confident they knew their subjects well enough to make tentative conclusions, both important aspects of the IB profile. ‘

The students carried out some ‘Pier Evaluation’ on each others presentations covering aspects like: The methods used to collect data, how the findings were summarised and how the investigations could be improved. The actual presentation skills of the group were also taken into consideration including the clarity and pace of the presentation, how well the project was explained and how they interacted with the audience.

Mr Andrew Wood, Head of Science at Steyning Grammar School and panel judge on the day said “I was pleased to see the way this project challenged students to use expertise from each of the Science subjects taught in the IB. This simulates the way in which scientists have to work in real life, across the areas in order to make new discoveries. As always, our students demonstrated excellent abilities to work with each other constructively to produce successful outcomes.”

One of the students Laura Bronda commented “The project was an efficient way in learning to work collaboratively with members of our group. It was interesting to apply science to the exploration of space. ”

This type of science mission is very good at focusing the students to work together to deliver project findings within a set time, and not only brings out their science knowledge but builds some very important team working skills.

Report contributed by Steyning Grammar School. Pictures by Maxine Silver.