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STEM - Making Learning Fun!
This page builds on our overarching aim of enabling young people to enjoy their lessons and develop a life-long love for learning. Science, technology, maths and engineering (STEM) activities are central to our curriculum and through this page we showcase some of the ways in which we develop student skills and knowledge in order to encourage the pursuit of exciting careers in these areas.
Mad Science Saturday
On Saturday 4 February 2023, we hosted our annual event Mad Science Saturday. Fifty three boys and girls from 15 different primary schools across Swale attended Highsted to take part in interactive science workshops. The morning started with children learning about the adaptations of animals and plants. Getting up close to the third largest species of tortoise in the world, the Sulcata and comparing this to the much smaller species of the pancake tortoise, a hatchling just over the size of a 50p piece.
African clawed frogs, musk turtles as well as ferrets were among the species they encountered. Children took on the roles of Biologists, Chemists and Physicists, as they created slides toview materials underneath a microscope; tested household products to determine if they were an acid or alkali; as well as making rainbow density tubes. Our yound scientists enjoyed learning about new things, meeting new people and the scientific techniques they had mastered during the day. The Year 5 children who attended strongly recommend Highsted's Mad Science Saturday to future Year 5 children.
Oscar WS from Bredgar C of E Primary School and Anyinke A from Westlands Primary School
Maths in Action: University of Greenwich
On Monday 11th July, ten students from Year 10 took part in ‘Maths in Action’ at University of Greenwich, Medway Campus. They participated in three hands-on workshops throughout the day and attended an inspirational talk by Dr Jackie Bell, a mathematician and a competitor in BBC 2 series ‘Astronauts – do you have what it takes?'
One of the workshops involved designing and building a bridge using sticks, string and paper. Students were challenged with the goal to build a bridge that could hold the highest mass. The two Highsted teams came first and second in this challenge, using their knowledge of geometry and tension to create strong, stable designs. Other workshops included exploring notations to record strategies for juggling, and using surveying equipment and trigonometry to measure heights.
London & South East Maths Tournament
On 13th July, a team of students from Year 10 competed in a London and South East Maths Team Tournament. Throughout the competition, the students improved round by round, strengthening their confidence and communication skills as they progressed; as well as achieving full marks in several of the challenges.
The team worked through four challenging rounds, including abstract problems not typically seen in GCSE questions. They showed excellent strategies when solving problems and combined their knowledge of different topics in unusual contexts. There was tough competition and students achieved a strong result overall, for which they should be justly proud – well done!
On Wednesday 8 June, 65 children from six different primary schools came to Highsted for Year 5 Mathletics. The pupils arranged themselves into teams of five and competed in four different activities using their mathematical knowledge, problem solving skills and team work. To download a report of this inter-school activity day, please follow this link.
Number Day 2022
On Friday 4 February, Highsted Grammar School took part in NSPCC Number Day. Eighteen members of staff proudly wore numbers for the day and the students engaged in a hunt around the school to find them. They had to then fit their teachers into different categories, much to their delight. Students were looking for ‘teachers in their prime,’ ‘irrational teachers’ and staff who were just a just a figment of their imagination. All who were involved found it fun and engaging.
Lunch time saw some Highsted students tearing across the playground asking every member of staff they saw, “What’s your number?” The race to fill in their forms was on to make sure that they had all of the categories correct. To add to the pressure, they had a bonus task of spotting who fitted in to more than one category. It was great to see students enjoy this activity and learn about numbers that they otherwise wouldn’t until A-level. The winning forms were 7.5, 8.5 and 9.1 and the year winners were as follows:
Emilia C (Year 7) Emily C (Year 7) Jessica R (Year 7) Olivia G (Year 7) Rachel N (Year 7) Amelia A (Year 8) Amelia H (Year 9)
Amelia A was the overall winner. She not only collected all of the numbers but scored full marks filling in the categories. Well done to all who took part!
Mad Science Saturday 2022!
Saturday 5 February saw Highsted Grammar School host its annual STEM activity, Mad Science Saturday 2022. The event was a morning of fun-filled, engaging scientific experiments aimed at inspiring Year 5 girls and boys in the Swale community to be enthralled with Science! Nineteen primary schools from Swale were represented, taking advantage of this fantastic opportunity.
The themed event centred around the fascinating world of water: from creating coloured rainbow density test tubes, to chromatography, children explored first hand the great properties of water. Three additional workshops enhanced childrens knowledge across Biology, Chemistry and Physics through teacher demonstrations
Children marvelled at the static electricity activities which included the use of the Van de Graaff generator, wowed at the flammable properties of methane and aahed at the Africa clawed frogs watching them feed, while using keys to identify prey species.
Joel from Iwade said "I enjoyed the water tricks," while Jolie from St Peters Primary School stated, “I enjoyed the fact we made things and were involved, and I especially liked the electricity. It was awesome!”
Discovery Park Trip - Year 7
On Friday 13 March, Year 7 students from Highsted visited the Discovery Park in Sandwich. On the day students had the freedom to explore many different stalls and talk to experts about a range of science-based topics. They were able to get involved in a plethora of activities from making their own balloon shapes to experiencing virtual reality. One talk ‘Yummy or Yucky’, gave students the opportunity to try bugs; there were also talks on wind turbines and forensics. The latter part of the day included a talk on ‘How to be a Science Hero.’
The day was a great success and all enjoyed their trip.
Highsted Enters 'Maths Feast 2020'
On Thursday 27 February, Highsted took eight Year 10 students to Maidstone to take part in the 2020 AMSP (Advanced Mathematics Support Programme) Year 10 Maths Feast Competition. It is a national competition which combines mathematical, communication and teamwork skills and offers students another way to express and develop their enjoyment of mathematics. Our students showed great enthusiasm and excellent teamwork throughout. The competition required students to apply skills they have learnt from their GCSE to both familiar and unfamiliar contexts.
Prizes were awarded for different categories and Highsted were delighted that each of their teams were awarded certificates of achievement. One award achieved was for 'scoring highly in all rounds' and the other award was for 'winning Round Three'. Round Three was a comprehension round where students had time to study a poster on an unfamiliar topic and were given time to answer questions using that information. The students excelled at their communication skills and presenting their answers with rigorous mathematical reasoning. We would like to congratulate Megan B, Elena I, Ruby P, Harriet C, Ilana W, Rose R, Charlotte W and Caitlin A for their participation and achievements on the day.
Mad Science Saturday 2020
On Saturday 8 February, young scientists came to Highsted to join in a day of science activities. Fifty-five pupils from sixteen different primary schools took part in the day, which included watching some exciting demonstrations and competing in challenges.
The day was split into two halves. In the morning, there were four science demonstrations:
- the science behind a firework;
- reactive series of alkali metals;
- light; and
- types of reaction.
Following this, the pupils had a chance to get involved in a series of tasks such as viewing animal specimens, pH testing, maggot racing, graphite circuits, fruit DNA and looking at onion skin under a microscope.
All our guests thoroughly enjoyed their day and were given a reusable water bottle as a souvenir of the event. Some of their comments included, “I enjoyed the gases and all the metals that made sparks!” and, “I really enjoyed looking at the onion cell, it was fun to see how onions had cells as well as us.”
Year 10 produced some amazing images as part of a graphing competition that they took part in from Monday 11th to Friday 15th November. This year saw the first launch of ‘Maths Week England’ and to celebrate, Highsted arranged for Year 10 students to take part in a national competition ran by Mathematics in Education and Industry (MEI). Students spent a lesson discovering graphs and producing original artwork using the graphing website www.desmos.com.
The effort and enthusiasm of students was amazing and we have decided to award prizes in school to Elena I for her Pizza Party picture and to Charlotte W for her intricate design of a necklace.
Engineering Team Takes on Bomb Disposal
From October 2018 to May 2019, the Year 12 Engineering Team took on the Engineering Education Scheme task, set by their mentor partner company BAE Systems in Rochester, to look for ways to improve robotic arms used in bomb disposal robots. The team, consisting of Ibukunoluwa S, Alice D and Shannon P, successfully developed a robot claw controlled by a glove, with built in flex sensors so that the claw mirrored the movement of the glove.
First controlled via wire, they went on to develop a wireless version. This would greatly improve the safe operation of the robot and accuracy of control. The team were thrilled when the claw first responded to the moving glove on the other side of the workshop. To improve this still further the team experimented with haptic feedback solutions that would give the operator live touch feedback sensations through the glove enabling them to feel what the claw is holding.
On Friday 3 May, the team presented their project to an assessment panel of engineers during the scheme Celebration and Assessment Day at the School of Engineering & Digital Arts, University of Kent, Canterbury. The engineer assessors were very impressed with the depth of research, experimentation and iteration carried out during the six month project. In those months the team visited BAE Systems where they had a tour of the facility, flew a flight simulator and were introduced to coding. From 10-11 January, the team also attended a two-day residential workshop, along with several other schools, at the School of Engineering, UKC where they used the facilities to develop the claw and won the annual inter-team general knowledge quiz.
Highsted has successfully run an Engineering Education Scheme team every year for many years as part of enrichment, offering students the chance to participate in a national scheme that gives them the experience of real life engineering problems, industry and a taste of university life. The purpose is to encourage young people, particularly girls, in Highsted’s case, into choosing an exciting and fruitful career in Engineering.
Year 7 Trip to Discovery Park
On Friday 1 March, Year 7 students at Highsted visited the Discovery Park in Sandwich to attend the Big Bang Event and experience a day of hands-on science activities. The day was divided up into a series of talks from representatives; opportunities to visit stalls promoting various aspects of science; and the chance to participate in scientific workshops.
Highsted students were able to meet representatives from companies such as EDF, the University of Kent, the Royal Society of Biology and the Royal Engineers, as well as discover what science careers were open to them in the future. They were able to get involved in activities which included 3D printing, gene analysis, using ultrasound machines, coding challenges and exploring the human body. There was also an exhibition aimed at getting students thinking about cyber crime and cyber security – encouraging them to consider their own activities and behaviour in online spaces.
The day was a great success and students all thoroughly enjoyed their trip into the world of science.
Evie Wins Robot Design Challenge
Highsted student Evie S, Year 8, has recently been awarded a certificate for the Third Best Overall Design for Years 7-13 in the University Robot Challenge Competition 2019 – run by the Faculty of Engineering and Science at the University of Greenwich. Last year there were over 900 entries from 22 schools, and this year the competition has proved just as popular.
The competition asks students to design and build their own robot with the aim of taking part in the BBC series Robot Wars. Students have to consider what their robot will look like, how it would work and the kinds of materials needed to build it. Most importantly they need to decide what its ‘weapon’ will be in order to compete in Robot Wars.
Evie’s robot, Plasma, was given a suitably green and black design with protective metal spikes around the edges. Its weapon was a brutal looking twin-forked axe and the robot was also equipped with a clever protective lip at the front to avoid being flipped or tossed around by other competitors. Her designs also gave an insight into the inner workings of the robot, showing where the motors, wheels, batteries, hydraulic pumps, lights and remote control box would be placed.
The school is immensely proud of Evie’s achievement and her efforts show how young women like her can successfully enter the exciting world of science and engineering.
Mad Science Saturday 2019
On Saturday 9 February, budding scientists visited Highsted to participate in a day of fantastic activities. Forty-six pupils from fifteen different primary schools took part in the science spectacular – watching exciting demonstrations and taking part in a wide variety of different challenges themselves.
The day started with demonstrations from Highsted science staff including the reaction of alkaline metals in water and oxygen, looking at the properties of various metals and, finally, exploring the wonders of elephant toothpaste. Following this were a series tasks for students to get involved in such as maggot racing, circuit building, specimen examination, slide making, pH testing and activities using dry ice.
All pupils thoroughly enjoyed the day and were happy to share their reactions: “The maggot racing, elephant toothpaste and the spiders were great! I loved everything…” and, “I enjoyed it because we got to see different metals and different flames and I had a lot of fun going around with my new friends.”
New STEM Lectures Begin on Friday
Curious about science.... the environment.... the natural world.... or just your own future?
Come and see what the world of science and technology is going to mean for you through our brand new series of STEM research lectures beginning this month at Highsted! Whether you are in Year 7 or 13, or any year in between, this promises to be an exciting and stimulating way to spend your time. The first session will focus on the development of new drugs from very unexpected sources... to find out more about this important enrichment initiative, click here to take you to our new webpage.
Grease at Highsted - Creation of the Car
Over the last eight weeks, Highsted students from all year groups (along with the support of the Design & Technology Department) have been working tirelessly to create a car from scratch for the school’s production of ‘Grease’.
The team created the body of the car out of papier-mâché and a wooden support frame, using screws to hold it all together. This took almost 10 litres of glue and 4 litres of red, black and white paint! They made the number plate using a laser cutter and yellow acrylic and a vinyl cutter to make the lettering. Constructing the wheels was also a challenge as the team’s first attempts were too round in shape and had to be re-moulded to ensure the correct wheel curvature. They completed their creations by using silver coloured bowls for the centres of each wheel.
An important task was creating the grill. In 1978 (the era when Grease was released), the grill would have been made out of stainless steel and taken up the majority of the space on the front of the car whereas cars today have much smaller grills. Students utilised a 2D Design computer program to get the measurements of the grill right and then cut it out of cardboard which was then painted a steel grey colour. In the end, this wasn’t used as part of the car’s final design but students had a lot of fun creating it.
Every little detail was carefully and painstakingly put together by the talented team including a bumper (with paint used to create the two different types of bumper needed in the musical – the rusty old one and the transformed new and shiny one), a windscreen and even working lights.
On top of this mammoth job, students also created all the period signs and props used in the production. Students all demonstrated their amazing artistic and problem solving talents and should be incredibly proud of their efforts in the making of the Grease car.
Sixth Form Visit Science Symposium at Sevenoaks School
On the 26 June 2018, key stage five students taking a science subject for A-level had the opportunity to listen to university researchers giving talks about their current research at Sevenoaks School. After a lengthy journey (time not distance) they took their places in a lofty lecture theatre along with students from several other schools in the area.
The first talk discussed the opportunities that are arising from the increasing understanding of the human genome and the influence of the relatively new area of epigenetics on drug discovery and the molecular targeting of small active compounds. This talk was quite in depth but there were many areas mentioned that will be covered by biology A-level students in Year 13.
The second talk was presented by a forensic science lecturer from the University of Kent, Canterbury. This talk focussed on how science from all three disciplines can be brought into developing a crime scene description; with the third describing cutting edge research directed towards understanding how living cells, able to replicate, evolved – the pre-biology origin of life. The final talk described the different types of prion diseases and how researchers are still trying to visualise the erroneous proteins involved. Steps have been made towards this objective but no mechanism is yet understood that shows how these proteins are formed. Prion diseases are involved in the aging process of many people and once the cause can be identified and the mechanism of formation understood, it hopefully will be possible to interfere with the processes and affect a cure.
Listening to scientific talks like these is a valuable opportunity for students at Highsted since it allows them to experience the types of short talks that are available in all university departments on a weekly basis. The day was highly informative and students were inspired by the many career prospects and exciting new developments in science.
Ecology Field Trip
The A-level biologists carried out their required practical at Longbeech North Wood, just to the north of Ashford on Monday 2 July. They arrived by minibus to boiling hot weather and lots of insects. The day began by a walk and talk of the woodland (owned by the Woodland Trust). The South East Area Manager, Clive Steward, described the plans of the Woodland Trust to change the Sweet Chestnut and Larch coppice back to native broad leaved woodland. He also pointed out many of the unique archaeological artefacts at the site that stem back many hundreds of years.
The ecological work began with the collection of data for a Spearman’s Rank correlation, linking tree circumference with tree ring number and hence, tree age. This was followed by a BBQ lunch, cooked over open fires by Ms Coles and Dr Clapp. A range of food was provided – rabbit tikka skewers, bunny burgers and game burgers.
The afternoon temperatures soared even higher resulting in higher than normal lethargy in the students but all worked extremely hard to complete their work. Overall, the trip was a success and students thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
Students Prepare to Battle it Out – Robot Style
This year Highsted students won a place in the Robot Wars Schools’ Competition 2018, being chosen as one of only 22 schools out of the 244 schools who entered the competition. In order to win this place they had to design a robot that could battle it out against other machines in the arena. They have had the opportunity to work the Science & Engineering faculty at Greenwich University in Medway on this project and been inspired to want to achieve the first ever win for a girls’ school.
The team comprises of: Tolu Oseni, Alexandra Godawski, Kiruthigaa Arunan, Abigail Pike, Aimee Watt and Jessica Wiesmath. All the students on the robot building team are in Year 10 and have been working on this project as part of Highsted’s focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in the curriculum to raise the profile of careers in Engineering and Design. Each student was awarded a trophy to recognise their excellent designs – which are now on display at Highsted.
The robot showdown starts in September and the school look forward to seeing the students’ robot in action. Visit the link below to learn more about the competition and how to purchase tickets:
Big Bang Fair: 27 June 2018
On a sunny and warm June day, 37 students from Years 7 & 8 boarded a bus for a STEM adventure in Sussex. The activities on offer were spread out over ten different locations within the main Sussex showground.
There the girls watched several exciting and interactive shows such as: engineering from the cradle to the grave, which showed us how science has enabled us to see into the womb; trap urine in nappies; secure children when travelling; and develop crumple zones and cryogenic freezing techniques for humans for the future.
The magic of science wowed with a display of chemistry and physics; with big bangs and flying saucers; and a very large saw being played with a violin bow, to demonstrate sound and resonance.
Around the site, tents and buildings housed more than 100 representatives from universities to industry and more; with interactive challenges from British Airways to Hadlow Agricultural College. Some of the most exciting displays seen were the non-Newtonian fluids on the speaker, a 27kg Boa Constrictor, Archimedes’ screw, metallic felt tip pens to make circuits and programme actions with different colours, and various live animals.
Overall, the site was an incredible display of innovation and the students agreed that they had all had a brilliant time.
Cambridge Chemistry Challenge: 22 June
This year at Highsted, 12 science students took part in the Cambridge Chemistry Challenge on the 22 June. There were a total of 7951 entries this year across the country and from these, 63% achieved specific awards: 54 students won Roentgenium Awards (scoring 49 points or more), 644 students won Gold Awards (30-48 points), 1418 students won Silver Awards (22-29 points) and 2901 students won Copper Awards (14-21 points).
At Highsted, Erica Ogbomo, Charley-Mae Owen, Khivani Patel, Khusbu Patel and Laura Stokes all achieved the Copper Award; Heather Wilson gained a Silver Award and Rosie Millns achieved the Gold Award, scoring in the top 5% of all entries. The school is incredibly proud of these students’ achievements – well done to everyone who took part!
UKMT Junior Mathematics Challenge
All Year 8 pupils sat the UKMT Junior Mathematics Challenge on 27 April during a warm Period 4 lesson. The event took place in the hall and involved pupils answering 25 multiple choice questions. The catch? It’s in the name. The questions required some creative thinking from the pupils and in most cases some extensive problem solving. Couple this with the risk of penalty deductions for incorrect answers or guessing and pupils had to be very accurate and thoughtful about their work.
Shortly after, Highsted received the results: 17 students received a Bronze Award (requiring 49-60 points), 12 students received a Silver Award (requiring 61-74 points) and one outstanding student received a Gold Award (requiring over 75 points) – Elena Ingram.
Elena also qualified for the Pink Kangaroo. This is an additional, harder challenge that pupils sit should they exceed a certain threshold in the main challenge. This means that she scored over 82 points in the initial challenge. Elena (and the school) are awaiting the results of the Pink Kangaroo challenge with anticipation.
Mad Science Saturday 2018
On Saturday 24 February, budding scientists visited Highsted to participate in a day of fantastic activities. Forty-one pupils from 15 different primary schools took part in the science spectacular, watching exciting demonstrations and completing a range of challenges.
The day started with a history of fire, fuels and explosives as told by ‘Mad Scientist’ Mr Stanley. Following this were a series tasks for pupils to get involved in such as: experimenting with solid carbon dioxide using bubbles and dry ice; measuring cockroaches; testing the acidity of household chemicals such as vinegar and toothpaste; making rainbow towers using different densities of sugar solutions; observing tarantulas under a microscope; and creating electric circuits.
All students thoroughly enjoyed the day, happily sharing their thoughts and reactions, “All of the stations were so unique and covered a different aspect of science,” and “The people running the stations were so nice and friendly – thank you!”
Star Wars, Deep Africa & Mario Kart – a Super STEM Event
On Tuesday 23 January, Highsted held a special Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Event (STEM) to develop student skills and encourage the pursuit of future careers in these subjects. The day involved the whole of Year 7 who were participating in a range of activities, across three themed classrooms, run by STEM Ambassadors from Canterbury Christ Church University.
Activity One was themed around ‘Star Wars’ and involved students battling the ‘Dark Side’ by engaging in decoding riddles and breaking codes to work out where the evil Empire’s forces were. Some of the games involved calculating how far ships would have to fly to reach their destinations, others involved giant ‘Top Trumps’ style carts featuring the planets in the solar system – where students had to choose from values such as temperature, distance from the Sun and size to beat each other and claim more cards for themselves. The team with the most points at the end was given the opportunity to ‘destroy the Death Star’ – popping a balloon (all completed to the rousing tune of John Williams’ main theme to Star Wars.)
In the second room, students were taken to ‘Deepest Africa’ to take part in various puzzles and team building activities. Their challenge was to unlock the treasure chest found by African explorers by finding the correct sequence of numbers and letters to break the lock. Puzzles involved: using ropes to lift a small box from ‘the swamp’ without dropping it or getting wet; creating a bridge strong enough to hold the weight of ‘Trevor’ the wooden tortoise – leading to some ingenious ideas and quite a few creative disagreements; calculating how many bricks it would take to build a seven storey-high Ziggurat; and deciphering clues from a cryptic map. Each puzzle rewarded students with a box containing a riddle which they had to solve or face a forfeit – completing the next puzzle blindfolded! The organisers had really set the scene, decked out in full Safari gear and decorating the classroom with crumbling maps, dusty tomes and snakes in jars.
The final room took students to the virtual world of ‘Mario Kart’ where they had to design and create a ‘Kart’ and race their vehicular creations against each other in an assault course. To do this, students had to earn golden coins to buy car parts by solving problems and completing tasks such as: creating lava lamps, solving mathematical problems, and playing a logic game. Each group of four had to be assigned a character from the Mario series and an added twist was that each character was limited in what they were allowed to achieve. Only the ‘Yoshi’ team member could buy car parts; ‘Mario’ had to build the car; ‘Peach’ was the master puzzle solver; and only ‘Luigi’ could dabble in all three. This meant teams had to work strategically to ensure they completed their Kart on time to reach the race track. Race winners received trophies in true Mario Kart style.
Through teamwork and resilience, all students were able to complete the tasks and had great fun in the process. The event was a huge success and an excellent way to get students thinking about and applying their skills and knowledge of science, technology, maths and engineering. Later this year, students from Years 7, 8 and 9 will all have further opportunities to engage in STEM activities including a trip to the Discovery Park in Sandwich, Kent for a ‘Big Bang Event’, experiencing a mobile planetarium and attending a careers fair – all aimed at developing aspirations and inspiring them for the future.
Discovery Park – Year 7 Science Explorers
On Friday 9 March, Year 7 students at Highsted visited the Discovery Park in Sandwich to attend The Big Bang Event and experience a day of hands-on science activities. The day was divided up into a series of talks from representatives, opportunities to visit stalls promoting various aspects of science and the chance to participate in scientific workshops.
Highsted students were able to participate in a number of activities, including riding a bike to see how much energy they could generate – would it be enough to power an entire house? They also got up close to hissing cockroaches; tested out a 3D printer; learnt how to make glow bands; used virtual reality headsets to control a robot; and conducted experiments to identify various chemical samples, to name but a few!
There was also the chance to meet with representatives from the army and the ambulance services, to explore the practical uses for science in society and the world of work – such as bomb disposal and CPR, and students were able to talk with university representatives to discuss scientific careers and higher educational study. Later in the day, they attended a talk with Greg Foot, TV presenter for Deep Ocean Lab, who was able to share his experiences of examining life under the sea, at a depth of more than 200 metres below the surface.
The day was a great success and students all thoroughly enjoyed their trip into the world of science.
Mobile Planetarium – Year 8 see the stars!
On Wednesday 14 March, the University of Kent visited Highsted with their mobile planetarium, aiming to encourage Year 8 students to explore astrophysics and develop an enthusiasm for science. The students are currently studying their ‘Space’ module for physics so the visit enabled them to see the structure and wonder of space on a larger scale.
Representatives from the university set up a huge black dome in the school hall – with only a narrow entrance leading to the skyscape within. Each group of students entered the dome and were treated to a fantastic display, showcasing different areas of the night sky, celestial bodies and beautiful constellations.
The experience was highly informative and the students loved the opportunity to see the stars up close.