In 6SA, we were faced with the environmentally themed challenge of how to clean up after an oil spill on water.

We looked at examples of such disaster on a global scale and the problems created for environmentalists. How do you separate oil from water without wasting water or polluting it further?

On a smaller classroom scale, in groups we were tasked with how to clean up oil from a tray of water (we added feathers to mimic the effects on marine wildlife such as sea birds). We were given a variety of materials to help us such as: spoons, filter paper, cotton wool, strips of cotton, and card. Additionally we needed to retain as much clean water as possible in the tray!

It certainly was a challenge!

The children set about their task, working in pairs or groups of three to try and separate the oil from the water. There were lots of different approaches: some were messier than others! After their first attempts, the children then had time to consider what changes they could make to their approach, sharing their ideas and experiences to move forward with the challenge. One point made was that the more the water was disturbed, the more the oil ‘spread’, therefore creating even more problems.

By the end of the challenge, the class had experienced some success! However, the difficulty of the task cast a new light on the problems experienced in real life oil spill situations.

Finally, the class came back together to discuss how they thought the challenge had turned out. The discussion revealed that the children hadn’t realised how problematic the task would be.


Mrs Vaughan set a challenge for 2LV to build a structure with one cube as the base.  Yes, just one cube!  Each table had a materials pack which included; lollipop sticks, small cubes and plastic cups! They began their planning process by discussing their initial questions, thoughts and ideas about the challenge ahead!

2LV began their challenge working individually trying to build a structure without much clear direction or plan. It soon became apparent that using one cube as a base was very tricky and unstable.  Some children became frustrated and disheartened when their structures kept falling down, but soon realised that if they paired up, joined forces and shared resources it was easier to balance their structure on one cube. 

Throughout the building process, the children experienced unsuccessful outcomes and developed the resilience and perseverance to continue their attempt to build a strong structure. They learnt from their unsuccessful attempts and adapted their approach to improve their technique.  By the time they attempted the second challenge of using any size base to build the tallest possible structure, the children were working as a team applying what they had learnt!

A fabulous growth mind set demonstrated from all.


The Pyramid Cups Growth Mindset Challenge 

3DB were set a challenge of stacking 10 cups to make a pyramid in groups.  Easy, I hear you say but wait... the children could not use their hands! 

The children needed to move the cups from one formation to another using only the elastic and string - at no time can their hands (or any body parts, for that matter) touch the cups.  Mr Barber gave no hints or instruction about how to move the cups – the groups needed to figure out what strategies work for them as part of their team-building. 

If the stack fell while they are making it, they had to work together to get it standing again.  All of this happened without any teacher instruction or input, outside of showing them what the final stack should look like, they had to figure out how to move the cups using only string and elastics. 

We talked about challenges - sometimes the stack fell, just like we sometimes encounter problems, but by working together, we can build it back up again.  

Through resilience, perseverance, creativity, co-operation and independent thinking, the children all tackled the challenge with the special tool that they made which enabled them to successfully build the cup stack. Well done 3DB!


Miss Brown challenged 6JB with the ‘blow cup challenge’ – a new craze which is sweeping the internet. The challenge involved combining two lightweight cups into a stack and blowing against the surface of the top cup to sling it out of its place with the aim of landing it into a third cup at a distance away.

Initially, when the class first attempted the challenge, Miss Brown heard a range of language being used as she walked around the classroom. Some were determined to succeed and some were baffled as to how it was even possible! However, little, handy tactics and methods to make the task slightly easier – such as placing a small object under the second cup to prop it up, making it easier to blow out, and adjusting the angle to which we blew at the cup – were soon being applied. Together, the class discussed these different approaches and spoke about their experiences and what they had found out so far. They shared what methods helped and also what  methods didn’t, making sure that they were learning from any ‘mistakes’. This was the prime example of the well-known growth mind set quote ‘I haven’t failed – I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

As the minutes went by, the children were getting closer and closer to succeeding, until eventually some of them did! The class definitely demonstrated their growth mind set this afternoon: the task was a challenging one and the children certainly had to show a great deal of determination and perseverance in order to succeed. Miss Brown was thrilled that even though the lesson had to come to an end, that many of the class chose to take their cups home so that they could continue to try master the cup-blowing challenge! What great can-do attitudes! Well done 6JB!  


As part of our topic, 4JC were challenged by Mr Cooke to create a windmill that could lift-up a plastic cup  when the sails turn. The children were only given a diagram with no real detail and the equipment they needed. Once they had been given the challenge, the children started to note down their initial thoughts (on yellow Post-It notes).

The children then started their task in pairs. There were many different approaches and the children made lots of mistakes: some children stuck the bamboo stick straight to the table, some children didn’t Sellotape enough bamboo to the table so it wasn’t strong enough, some children made their sails too thin and some children made their sails too long. However, they persevered through these mistakes and then amended their approaches.

After a while, we discussed these mistakes as a class and explored how we could learn from these mistakes and change how we would make the windmills. They then decided how to make their windmill so that it was the most effective at lifting the cup.

Finally, the class came back together to discuss how they thought the challenge had turned out and how they feel now compared to the start of the task (shown on blue Post-It notes). We discussed how a growth mindset was very beneficial during this challenge and how their willingness to make mistakes, learn from them and have the resilience to keep on going enabled them to succeed at the challenge.


4JG were challenged by Mr Gibson to make a tower of spaghetti that can support a marshmallow. The children were given no equipment and after a few confused looks they got started!

Working in groups, the children began building! After some quick discussions they each came up with a basic design and elected a spokesperson who were responsible for talking to Mr Gibson and asking for things. Within a few minutes, groups started asking for tape and scissors to help build their tower.

After a few minutes, we stopped and discussed our feelings and ideas as a group. A this point the children were still a little unsure about how to achieve this task with some groups feeling more confident than others. We discussed what we thought was going well and shared some building tips. They came to the conclusion that bundling the spaghetti together and securing it to the table would get the best results. 

After a few more minutes of building time, the towers began to emerge! We stopped again and talked about how we were feeling now after we had had a chance to have a proper go. The children were much more positive about the task and were confident that they could to it. They couldn’t wait for Mr Gibson to stop talking so they could return to the building!

At the end of the challenge, every tower was build, was freestanding and held a marshmallow! Mr Gibson was really impressed with the teamwork and the resilience that was shown by the class. At the end of the activity, the children were really proud about what they had done!

A growth mind-set was key to completing this challenge: many of the children began the challenge nervously and some assumed that it could not be done! By the end, they were confidently building as a team, helping to encourage each other and keep trying until they found success!


6WF took on the Flood challenge! Our task was to create a house which would survive an onslaught of rain! We got together in groups of 3 or 4 and created our ideas. This showed a lot of collaboration skills as we all had different thoughts. After we designed them Mr Fleet told us we had to have a house which could stand up in 5cm of water...how annoying!

So we discussed the best was to do and adapted our houses, hoping that they would work! After making the houses, we tested them in the water and with a lot of rain! This activity was really enjoyable and helped us with our collaboration and problem solving skills! 


RKB tackled the tricky concept of estimating!

We talked about how this means having a sensible guess and that it will not always be exact. We then played a game where we had to estimate how many objects we could see before they quickly disappeared, this means there was no time to count them all exactly!

We discussed what the word estimate really means and how we just need to give it a go!

At first we found it tricky to accept that we might not always get the answer right and had lots of attempts at playing the game. Sometimes we even rubbed our answers out and tried to change them to get the exact answer, so that we could get it right! We played the game again the next day and we talked about trying to get as close as possible with our ‘sensible guesses’ and soon started to accept our answers and not rub them out. All of the children loved trying to be as accurate as possible with their estimations and the comments in our classroom such ‘I can’t get it right’ soon changed to ‘I was so close!’ There were soon smiles all round! By the end of the session all of RKB were proud to say that they did not rub their work out and loved saying ‘I’ll give it a try or I’ll have another go’.

These are now some of our favourite catch phrases, even when we find something tricky!