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Head’s blog

Books, Bangs and Incubators

There was so much for me and my colleagues to share with the pupils at this week’s Whole School Assembly concerning recent events and activities. Dr Damberg reaching out with a lighted taper, on this occasion, to ignite a hydrogen-filled balloon, ably held aloft by her colleague Mr Mackenzie, created a big bang and a flash of flame – the perfect spectacle with which to celebrate Science Week (or fortnight to be precise) which has just concluded.

More gentle, but no less scientific, has been the Biology Department’s live web-streaming of the hatching of two clutches of eggs last week (one of ducklings and one of chicks), available through an online link which I hope you may have followed and also on the wall-mounted screens around the School. Many of us have taken a few moments to pet the three ducklings and seven chicks who are now imprinted Millhillians, another good reason for a thorough washing of the hands! Dr Damberg has no scientist’s qualms about expressing her affection for these balls of fluff and curiosity, and is happy to share video clips of the three ducklings (Vincent, Sebastian and Penelope) swimming in her bathtub at home, having volunteered to look after them over the weekend. As is customary with duckling-related stories, this one ends happily, as they will head off next week to continue their education in the care, and back garden, of our Librarian Mrs Grainger.

Other scientific activities have seen interaction between Mill Hill and the other Foundation Schools, as well as St Paul’s Primary across the road. Grimsdell pupils have learnt to make Robot Bugs; Belmontians made Cloud Chambers and learnt about Women in Science and pupils from Mill Hill International have delved into Psychology. Further afield, our Sixth Formers visited the famous radio telescopes of Jodrell Bank in Cheshire on a Physics Trip. Science and Art need not be mutually exclusive, as demonstrated in the Science in Art: Art in Science display in the Physics Department.

And if ever there was a day to spread the love of artistry then it was World Book Day, which featured in last week’s Chapel Services. Under the guiding hand of the Head of English, Mrs Kaplan, who led the presentation, three teachers and four pupils each explained why a particular book had a special place in their lives. The common thread was the way that books make us look at ourselves through the fresh eyes of the imagination, whether seeing ourselves within the story or floating above it. Last week, thirty members of staff submitted titles of life-changing books, the covers of which are displayed in the English corridor along with a soundbite explaining their special significance to the reader. Under the management of Ms Berry, one copy of each selected book was wrapped in brown paper and secreted around the School buildings and much fun was had in this literary treasure hunt; a great way to combine learning with adventure, and it was, of course, finders-keepers. A further educational excursion, to mark International Women’s Day and organised by Mrs McKay, saw a group of nine pupils visiting our local partner, Copthall School, for an inspirational lecture by Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, a Women’s Rights Activist and Founder of the Women in Leadership publication, which aims to raise awareness of gender equality.

What better link to another hatching last week than in the word Quill, admittedly most commonly made from goose or swan feathers rather than those of ducks – the first edition of our inspiring, moving and beautifully illustrated new termly anthology of pupils’ creative writing has now taken flight. This week’s assembly provided the perfect launch pad, the extracts which were read out resonating no less arrestingly around the Sports Hall than the earlier explosion. The brainchild of Miss Conlon, Quill is a pocket-size celebration of our pupils’ imaginative and creative powers; poetry, prose and striking illustrations, professionally printed in full colour with design and layout by our Marketing Assistant, Ms Nicolaou. Copies are available through the English Department and I would strongly encourage pupils, and parents, to obtain one.

This gem of a book has many intriguing facets, for example the last line of the introductory poem, ‘there is certainly something in here for you’, will become the first line of the next edition’s opening piece, and so on in future issues. As Miss Conlon put it when launching Quill at the English Society’s weekly lunchtime meeting in The Piper Library, “when I was at school no one told me I could be a writer, or a poet, or an artist. Well I am telling you now: you are all writers, and artists, and poets. You are storytellers.” Each contributor, being presented with a copy of Quill and an actual quill pen, held the evidence firmly in their hands.