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Newcastle girls get chemistry lesson down Pennine Mine

Twenty three budding chemists from Sacred Heart High School in Newcastle swapped a lovely warm lab for a Chemistry lesson deep under the North Pennines at Killhope Leading Mining centre.

The intrepid 14 and 15 year olds were the first group to take part in a purposely designed science lesson on the GCSE Science topic ‘extracting metals’ at the centre.

Designed by their science teacher Mick Barr the pupils found out how metal veins were formed, and, with a few chemical equations to make things clearer, they explored the techniques of mining, purifying and extracting metals from ores. They got to see, close at hand how limestone and sandstone were built up in layers over thousands of years, and how miners had to extract 27 tonnes of ore to make just three tonnes of lead.

Mick Barr said: “This project is an excellent example of how we can make science more exciting for students and then through Newcastle Science City, help ensure other schools benefit from this lesson, so its content can be used time and time again.

After lunch, the students saw how scientists, who specialise in analysing  materials, carefully choose metals to meet specific requirements, and to appreciate how the economics of metal extraction have changed considerably over time.

The school’s science project is supported by Newcastle Science City and One NorthEast’s skills strategy, which aims to encourage young people to study all science subjects and consider the careers they could lead to.

Peter Arnold, chief executive, Newcastle Science City said: “Science can be one of the most amazing subjects on the curriculum and this live chemistry lesson is a perfect example of how to really give the topic the ‘wow’ factor.  I am sure other Newcastle schools will be keen to follow Sacred Heart’s example and bring science to life through this visit.”

All of the students who took part in the trip said they would recommend the visit to other students across the city.

said: “This trip was much better than sitting in the lab at school.  It’s great to have a chance to see where stuff really comes from.  The best part was when we turned out all our torches and saw how completely dark it was without any light at all! It was a bit scary, but quite cool.”

As a lead school in the Newcastle schools’ Science Excellence and Innovation Partnership, Sacred Heart RC High School has been collaborating with Killhope Lead Mine to develop this exciting experience for young  Chemistry students across Newcastle, and invitations to attend will be passed to other schools throughout the region.

Dated: 11/12/2008

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