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GIFT Summer School 2018, August 5th to 10th, Grendon Hall Northamptonshire, Yr7s to Yr13s

Numbers are limited on this residential course, so we hope to have an intimate week with lots of individual attention. There’s a wide choice of projects on offer, of which you choose one each day. Then there are the usual disarming mix of early- and late-evening activities to enthral you. On the Wednesday, we take a day trip to a mystery location...

Here are the course options for you to chose from - you'll need a first and second choice for each day. There's a print-friendly version here. 


Dig for History! (Mon and Tues)

By kind permission of Grendon Hall, we will be excavating archaeological pits in the grounds, uncovering artefacts to help shed light on the history of Grendon Hall and the surrounding area. After an introduction to archaeology and the history of Grendon Hall, you will follow professional protocols to create several pits in the ground. Finds will be cleaned, recorded and after the site is ""made good"" we will get an overview of where our work helps the understanding of the history of the area. As far as we know, this is the first dig undertaken at Grendon Hall, which has a history stretching back to at least 1570. Bring strong shoes suitable for digging, wellington boots and waterproof clothes.  All equipment will be provided but if you have any trowels, mattocks or old toothbrushes please bring them with you. You should put this as first choice for both days as it is a two day course.

Sixty Meanings in Search of Words (Mon)

Do you like words? If you are a word-lover, a logophage, a verbifabricator, spend a day exploring where words have come from, where they are going, and meeting some beautiful words and phrases that have sadly shuffled off this mortal coil, gone the way of all flesh, succumbed, croaked, pegged it, died. We will create words and find meanings for them, and scour the human experience for meanings that are yet to find words. Some of them might even make it into the dictionary!

Rocketry (Mon)

Wernher von Braun and Sergei Pavlovich Korolev, pioneers of the American and Russian space programmes respectively, both started by experimenting in their back gardens with toy rockets that they’d made when they were very young. That’s how far they went. How far can you go?

Size Matters (Mon)

Metrology is defined by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) as “the science of measurement, embracing both experimental and theoretical determinations at any level of uncertainty in any field of science and technology”.  Numbers have a magical quality, the invention of man, numbers are used to define: art; computing; mathematics; mythology, science and technology…..!  Humankind has tried to impose order through the classification and measurement of all things both natural and manmade using numbers.  Is Zero a number? There is no Zero in the Gregorian calendar, however the ancient Mayan civilisation began at day Zero, this date is equivalent to August 11, 3114 BCE in the Gregorian calendar or September 6 in the Julian calendar. Paradoxically energy and matter are used to measure that which we seek to define! A day of numbers, exploring how we are catalogued as humans, the mysteries of humankind’s most powerful numbers and how numbers and numbering systems evolved.


World in Action (Tues)

The ground beneath your feet seems pretty firm and solid (unless you’ve ever been in an earthquake), but it isn’t! The continents are involved in a lunatic Demolition Derby, forever colliding with each other and being responsible for most of the world (and its seismic troubles) as we know it as they appear and disappear. You will reconstruct the arguments used by the people who discovered this, and maybe end up proving that they got bits of the story wrong........Where are we really heading?

Behind the Headline (Tues)

Newspapers are mirrors in disguise. Ever wondered how newspapers choose the different stories on their front pages? Or how they spin the same story in such different ways? In this course, we’ll examine how different newspapers have responded to the previous day’s events and develop an understanding of the different tribes of readers that buy each newspaper - and get sold to its advertisers! We’ll end up constructing our own newspapers, each of which presents a selection of the same (fictional) events in its own way. Let there be subjectivity!

Advanced Rocketry (Tues)

More rocket technology…only for those whose compulsion is propulsion…but this time learning to use altimeters, exploring and developing location and retrieval methods, building and designing your own flying rockets and rocket cars, experimenting with flying cameras, and lots more…after all it’s not rocket science, is it? (Students wishing to take this course MUST have completed a Rocketry course with GIFT before)

The Flight of the Phoenix (Thurs)

Struggling to survive their aircraft's emergency landing in the Sahara Desert, a group of men realise that they are unlikely to be found as their aircraft was driven off course by a sudden sandstorm which disabled the engines. One of the passengers on the plane is an aeronautical engineer, he believes that the passengers can build a new aircraft from the wreckage of the Fairchild C-82, the survivors would then ride on top of the wings as they fly out of the Sahara! One of the features of the C-82 is that it has twin booms extending rearwards from each engine!  Is this possible? Can a small aeroplane be constructed in the dessert from one large crashed one? We shall investigate! We will spend the day experimenting and identifying the components that make flight possible; drag, lift, thrust and weight.

Lingua Franca (Thurs)

It means ‘default language’ and it’s what the glorious new land of Giftopia needs, having determined that English is the tool of Imperial Oppression. From the very rudiments of grammar to the most elaborate adjectives, we will build a new language entirely from scratch, using our knowledge of English and other tongues but none of their words, having observed meantime the cautionary episode of Esperanto. By the end of the day we should be able to enact some sort of celebratory performance, confirming this Republic’s independence and leaving each of you a nice little phrasebook for the benefit of anyone who now wishes to converse with you. Spend the day analysing how language ‘works’ and is constructed and gain thereby an insight into why you’re doing what you’re doing, when you’re learning French (or whatever) at school…

Game of Tones (Thurs)

The success of a pop song is neither purely coincidental nor entirely based on public relations and marketing. Those elements may play a part, but there's something in the very structure of music itself and the way it works in our brain while we listen to it that's more important. Listening to music always includes being able to recognize something and at the same time being pleasantly surprised. The better the mixture of 'old' and 'new', the more we enjoy a song. But what's the perfect mixture? Bring your instruments and voices and we'll play around with songs and produce our own blends and ‘mash-ups’ that explore the ideas and limits of surprise and recognition.


Self Help or Selfish Helpers? (for Yr9s and up) (Thurs)

From the Ancient Stoics to the self-help shelf in an airport bookshop, thinkers throughout the ages have offered advice about how to live. How can you win friends and influence people? Should you want to? And does any of this advice work out in practice? From 450 BC to 2018, you’ll put platitudes and attitudes under the microscope before creating your own rules for living.

Here There Be Monsters (Thurs)

Unicorns? Vampires? Gorgons? The Yeti? Monsters have haunted our lives since time began. Civilization’s most ancient and enduring myths have told of mysterious, magical and sometimes deadly monsters. More recently the media, through film, television, and video games, have not only revived our ancient nightmares but created new ones that prey on our collective fears. We shall research monsters of old, de-mystify some and create new ones with a twenty-first century twist.

The Cat's Whiskers (Fri)

Heinrich Hertz confirmed James Clerk Maxwell’s theories about the existence of electromagnetic radiation. During an experiment in his laboratory, Hertz saw a tiny blue spark which he described in his diary in 1886 as “vertical electric vibrations”; this was to be the first radio transmission! Hertz’s discovery provided the basis of analogue radio broadcasting. Some years later Guglielmo Marconi developed the technology for its practical use. Find out how to build a crystal radio that requires no batteries or other power source, which can be built out of things you can find around the house!

A History of British Protest (Fri)

Have you ever disagreed with something so much you’d take to the streets to make your voice heard? You’re not alone. From Wat Tyler to the student cuts’ rallies, this project takes a look at the causes, justifications and upshots of many occasions when the British public has seen fit to rise up against its leaders and potentates. And then there’s a chance to organize and run our very own protest at GIFT, complete with flags, banners, musical instruments, chants and above all a cause! Peacefully, of course - we could do without the rubber bullets.

How to Get Rich in the Music Business (Fri)

In order to be taken seriously, the crucial challenge for every pop star is to come across as “real” instead of “fake”. But the things that musicians, producers and journalists conceive to award or withdraw “realness” often look more “surreal” than anything else, almost like in a game. But if it’s just one of the games people play, there must be rules. So, let’s find out what they are, turn the making of a pop star into a real game and see what we can come up with: a board game, a computer game, or a role-playing game…

Diary of a Somebody (for Yr9s and up) (Fri)

Every diary tells two stories: one to the writer, one to anyone else who reads it. Over the centuries, some of the best writers have used fictional diaries and letters  to expose the soul of a character, often by what they choose to hide. There's a particular tradition that shows once respectable characters becoming gradually unhinged as they struggle, often comically, with impossible circumstances. We'll explore examples ancient and modern before creating our own, humorous or horrid.

Unaccustomed as I am to Public Speaking (Fri)

How do you feel when speaking in public? Do you hold your own in round table discussions? Can you communicate the emotions in poetry and tell spell-binding stories? Can you ace an interview? It could be said that the spoken word is our most powerful ally. To secure what we really want in life, there is no doubt the ability to articulate is fantastically important but it can also be lots of fun too. We shall explore many different aspects of the spoken word, getting stuck into poetry, prose, debates, drama, discussion and public speaking. It's all about the spoken word and how we can use it to our advantage or, as the old song goes, “It ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it. That’s what gets results.

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