Science: Fiction: Make: Believe

Recently the school entered a Scotland-wide creative writing competition for S2 pupils, organised by St Andrew’s University, called Science: Fiction: Make: Believe. Pupils were to write a 750 word creative piece about any Scottish scientist, alive or dead, or the impact of their discoveries or inventions. Through the collaboration of the English Department, Science Department and Library Resource Centre, all of our S2 pupils participatedwith staff selecting the work of Morgan Mackie (Alexander Fleming) and Andrew Ross (Dr Knox) as the two entries from Our Lady’s High School.

The judges have awarded Certificates of Commendation to both Morgan and Andrew, and they are invited to attend the award ceremony on the 4th March, at St. Andrews University School of Physics & Astronomy. A representative from the Royal Society of Edinburgh will present the prizes before an audience of pupils and their families who are warmly invited to the all-day event.

Well done, Andrew and Morgan! You can read their essays on our school website shortly.

Literacy across learning

S2 are working hard on a writing competition organised by St Andrew’s University. The aim of the competition is to put Art into STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. Pupils have to link their Science and English learning by researching their favourite Scottish scientist and using the information to write a creative piece.

So far, we have been entertained by essays on Alexander Graham Bell, Alexander Fleming and John Logie Baird. Mrs Millar, Mrs Sinclair, Mrs Macfadyen and Mr McKendrick will judge the essays and choose the best two to represent the school. The overall winner will receive a voucher for £50 and the four runners-up £25. Good luck everyone!

Meanwhile, all of S1 were presented with their Pocket Literacy Guide, kindly bought for them by the PTA. These handy books contain rules for punctuation, grammar and spelling, as well as hints for writing in different subject areas. We know that S1 will put these guides to good use in all their subjects.

Go4SET Launch Day 2016

On Wednesday 23rd November at Almada Hall, University of the West of Scotland (Hamilton) a group of pupils attended the Go4SET launch. This is a project organised by EDT (Engineering Development Trust) and involves engineering challenges over 10 weeks.  Participants must produce a written report, a presentation to the judges and then build a model of their project.

Launch day involved an introduction, some advice on how to proceed, meeting with industrial mentors  and 2 engineering challenges: building a marble rollercoaster – which we named Thunder – from cardboard and sellotape, as well as building a chair made from balloons. Our Chair of Air lasted well until someone had to sit on it. We had a wonderful time, and can’t wait for the next challenge.

Team: Blair Cook, Ciaran Hendry, Holly Irving, Erin Keating, Olek Kyc, Ethan Law, Paul Murphy

Google Expeditions

Pupils went exploring today through Google Expeditions, an app that allows classes to visit coral reefs, the Moon, the Grand Canyon, Rio de Janeiro, World War I trenches or the rainforest through Virtual Reality.

Over 200  pupils participated from departments including Social Subjects, English, Modern Languages, Science and Nurture. Staff were equally keen to try out the technology for themselves, so there was a steady stream of adults wandering around with the viewers too.

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Google Expeditions

On Friday the 25th of November the Social Subjects Faculty will have the privilege of hosting a team from Google Expeditions who facilitated Virtual Reality (VR) learning experiences for a number of our pupils. This unbelievable system allows those taking part to actually experience what it was like to be a soldier in the trenches during the First World War.

A number of different subject departments are involved: Social Subjects, English, Modern Languages, Science and Nurture. Over 200 of our young people will get the chance to be involved in a worthwhile and memorable experience. We hope it helps to bring their study of the First World War to life! #pollitolhs

Professor Martin Hendry

Report by John Galloway

On Tuesday the 25th of October, pupils from local secondary schools in North Lanarkshire, studying Physics at Higher level, attended a lecture at Our Lady’s High School from Martin Hendry, Professor of Gravitational Astrophysics and Cosmology in the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Glasgow.  Professor Hendry’s lecture consisted of information regarding Gravitational Waves, Dark Energy and The fundamentals of Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Hendry’s efforts in Astrophysics and Cosmology have allowed him ,and the team at The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), to accomplished the great feat of helping confirm Einstein’s theory of Gravitation. In detecting evidence that Einstein’s theory is correct, they have further increased our understanding of the universe and the ways in which time, matter and space ,as we perceive them, operate. Professor Hendry’s efforts and enthusiasm in physics are sure to inspire a new generation of physicists who will eagerly further our knowledge of the universe.

The Lecture began with an introduction into the fundamentals of Einstein’s theory of  Relativity. Einstein’s theory gives light to the idea that the laws of physics are the same for stationary observers, and the speed of light in a vacuum is independent of the movement of observers. Hendry explained the ways in which Einstein’s theory allowed a perception of time and space to be created and the ways in which the universe ,as we know it, can be distorted by cataclysmic events;  The formation of a neutron stars, supernova explosions and the collisions of black holes. Professor Hendry continued his lecture by giving a brief account of dark energy and dark matter, and the effects of this undiscovered matter and energy in our universe. Dark Energy is theorised to be a form of energy which sort of opposes gravity and causes the universe to expand at an exponential rate. At this current moment, dark matter and dark energy are unexplained but with the recent discovery of gravitational waves it it’s thought that further discoveries in this perplexing field may be uncovered. This led Professor Hendry to his key talking point of the lecture; the discovery of Gravitational waves

Gravitational waves are distortions in the fabric of space and time given out during high energy events in our universe. During these high energy events, ‘ripples’ of gravitational waves are emitted and travel at the speed of light a little bit like dropping a pebble into a pond. Professor Hendry and the team at LIGO developed and improved the technology used to detect these miniscule distortions in space-time. By reducing uncertainty in the collected data and improving the sensitivity of the equipment used it led to the discovery of gravitational waves early this year. The discovery of these waves is characterised by a chirping sound which Professor Hendry so eloquently recreated. Hendry and the team at LIGO did what many Physicists thought was impossible, to prove Einstein’s theory. There are increasing detections of gravitational waves with more being discovered each year. Furthermore, Hendry discussed the further implications of Gravitational waves and the extent of how ground-breaking this discovery of gravitational waves are in the world of physics.

It is possible that the team at LIGO may be in the running for the Nobel Prize in Physics. On behalf of all the pupils who attended Professor Hendry’s lecture, we would like to thank him for his time and entertaining talk and to wish him and the Team at LIGO every success.

WoSPEG Quiz 2016

Report from Mr Law

Without a doubt, the highest standard first round of the competition I’ve witnessed over the last ten years.  Teams of three students, each answering three questions, no confering, for a total of 6 marks apiece over three rounds.  With another 6 marks possible for the written answer team round, that brings the total available for National 5 Physics related questions to 24.  We lost a mark for forgetting to include the unit in the team round.  Hopefully a lesson learned for their SQA exams.  Notre Dame performed flawlessly on these directed questions.  Bearsden and Dunblane only lost 2 marks apiece.  In total therefore, the 4 teams scored 95%, an impressive knowledge of their work up to now.

With a four mark anagram round and the competition opening and ending with a buzzer round worth 20 marks, the outcome was determined by reflex as well as general knowledge and familiarity with current news items.  As far as memory serves I can recall only 3 questions in these rounds that the teams couldn’t answer correctly.

After the 1st round Bearsden and Dunblane were ahead by 5 marks.  By the last round Bearsden had a slightly reduced lead with Dunblane a couple of points adrift.  A good last round from Our Lady’s High and they were level with Dunblane with only one more question to answer.  As the words of the immortal Scottish Bard wrang out, I was screaming for our team to just buzz in … screaming inside my head that is … and I watched as one of them pressed their buzzer.  Their buzzer light did not stay on and I waited to hear which school had buzzed first.  It was Dunblane.  Sure enough they had the correct answer and along with Bearsden, the clear winners, two very worthy teams progress to the semi-finals.  With Notre Dame only a couple of points behind us the heat was not only of a very high standard but also very evenly balanced.  Well done to WoSPEG for delivering such a vibrant celebration of Physics.


Our team of Patrick Quinn, Emma Dolan and Heather Nugent were an absolute credit to our school.  They couldn’t have performed better other than perhaps having cybernetic implants to improve their speed of reflex.  Along with the excellent cheerleading reserve Ryan Kane they seemed to thouroughly enjoy the competition, the experiments laid on prior to the quiz (mainly involving liquid Nitrogen) and the complimentary drinks, chocolate and WoSPEG mugs for participants.  There’s always next year.

Summer School 2016

Report from Mrs King

The annual summer school at Our Lady’s High School took place on August 8th with twenty new first year pupils and four senior pupils enjoying four days of activities. The summer school allows the young people to become more familiar with the secondary school setting and to meet some of the school staff before the new term begins. Being more confident and self-assured at the start of secondary school gives the S1 pupils a positive step towards a successful transition from primary school.

The S1 pupils took part in team building with the Partnership Staff on the first morning followed by a workshop of pottery with Ms Steinert where the pupils made clay hedgehogs in the afternoon.

On Tuesday, the pupils learned to play the ukulele with Mr McVeigh followed by a session on how to create scars and bruises using special effects make up with Kirsty McCabe.

On Wednesday, the pupils were treated to some Science experiments with Mr Law from Physics and after lunch, Mrs Smith from Performing Arts gave the pupils an opportunity to practice their voice and acting skills.

Each day, the pupils gathered to have lunch together and to make new friends and meet various teaching staff

On the final day, the entire group, Ms McDonald, Ms King and Mr Smith had a successful day trip to Blair Drummond Safari Park where they enjoyed seeing all the animals, especially the sea-lion show, and had some free time to explore the park.

Visit to New Lanark

Report from Mr Law

On the 1st and 2nd of June this year, over 100 of Our Lady’s High School students visited the New Lanark World Heritage Site.  Just under 100 S1 Science pupils along with some S3 Geography students experienced learning about the history of the Mills and their use of renewable energy.

There was a very clever use of gravitational potential energy, as water flowed from the lade (a canal that was cut parallel to and higher than the Clyde) down through the water wheels of the Mills and back into the Clyde.  The cogs, ratchets and gears that then transferred this free energy into working the spinning machines helped make New Lanark such a success story.  The social history tour helped put the science into context.  The village that supported the mills had their own shop, church and doctor under the direction of mill owner, Robert Owen.  Although the working week was long and more arduous than the vast majority of jobs in the UK currently, it was a vast improvement upon that experienced by many of their contemporaries.  They even had a school where children could receive “free” education until their teenage years!  With Sunday off each week, a couple of extra days off during the year, a shop that sold quality produce at cheap prices and pleasant countryside to walk through, it must have appeared a dream employment for many ordinary working people.

Our pupils were very well behaved and a credit to our school and thoroughly enjoyed themselves while learning science, geography and history.  A beneficial synthesis for learning! Thanks go to all our tour guides from the New Lanark Trust and especially to, “Historic Environment Scotland”, for their travel subsidy.

Titanic Project Week 1

Our Titanic Project pupils spent a week investigating facts about the ship and ship-building. They worked with storyteller, Allison Galbraith, to learn what makes a decent story, and visited the Titan Crane at Clydebank and the Denny Tank at Dumbarton, part of the Scottish Maritime Museum. The Science Department demonstrated buoyancy and helped pupils investigate floating (see below) and then pupils built a copy of the Titanic with Social Subjects.

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From Mr Law

The Science Department asked pupils to design a ship so that it wouldn’t sink.

The Groups did very well.  There were some excellent designs and some nervous and excited participants during the second phase of the challenge when designers add mass to the boats to see when they sink.

Results :

  • Johann & Harry: 1,200g
  • Nicole & Natalie: 2,000g
  • Gary & Dean: 2,000g
  • Zac, Shannon & Sammi:  2,800g

Forfeit for the others is that they have to refer to the winners as Captain for the rest of the day.

Rocket Science

Pupils in S1, S2 and S3 have been planting seeds from space. Packets of rocket seeds were sent to the International Space Station under the care of astronaut Tim Peake. Those seeds were then sent back to Earth and delivered to schools with another packet of rocket seeds from the Royal Horticultural Society. Schools only know that there is a blue packet and a red packet; we don’t know which seeds have been in space.

Pupils and staff will now measure the blue and red trays of seeds and identify any differences between them. Pupils suggested that the lack of gravity in space may have impacted on the growth of the seeds.

Rocket Science report from the BBC.

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Go4SET 2016

Report by Mr Law

After ten weeks of effort, the Our Lady’s High School S2 Go4SET team presented their findings to a panel of judges at the Banqueting Hall, Almada Street in Hamilton. Researching, report writing and model building completed, the 5 members of the team displayed and explained their findings in an enthusiastic and professional manner.

Thanks to John McIntyre of the competition organisers (EDT) we were able to have a “Launch Day” at the school. He presented them with a choice of options. They decided to progress an investigation into an environmentally friendly railway station. Roles assigned, they each took on responsibility to enable a full report to be completed, detailing any visits and research conducted in order to arrive at recommendations. A trip to Glasgow Central Station proved extremely difficult to organise. Although staff appeared enthusiastic, no arrangements could be provided to enable information or a tour and in the end we decided to visit on our own. One afternoon the students collected footfall data in order to determine potential energy gains from power mats at entrances, exits and escalators/stairs. A visit to the New Lanark World Heritage site was arranged by our industrial sponsor, Mr. Stephen McCann of Morrison Construction. This proved to be an excellent introduction to the generation of electricity via water power. His advice also proved very beneficial with regard to life skills such as meeting deadlines, organisation and delegation of tasks.

These students gave up a great deal of their own time in order to fully engage in the tasks. Breaktimes and after school, especially with the final deadline looming, resulted in a very rewarding mix of effort, enthusiasm and co-operation in order to complete the challenge. They finished 4th out of 11 teams, losing by only 3 points. Well done to all the students participating, including the 3 members of the team that couldn’t make the finals day. Thanks go to Morrison Construction and the competition organisers, EDT (Engineering Development Trust) for their much appreciated contributions.

Edinburgh International Science Festival Sci-Kus

From Miss McGinty’s S2 Science class.

Spaceships are flying
Lots of humans are dying
People are crying


Is it really true?
Alone in the Universe?
Is there really life?


The Planets spin round
A yellow ball of fire
Burning bright and high


Planets and Comets
In the Dark Solar System
Surrounded by stars


From Earth, Space seems far
Beautiful planets like Mars
Don’t forget the Stars!


Stars are nice and bright
Stars are really cool at night
Shooting stars are alright


Shooting stars are bright
They move very very fast
then they burn away


Stars are shining bright
Planets are moving around
The moon is quite bright


Stars shine the brightest
Lifting high with gravity
shine in the darkness


White, Quiet is the moon
Red, yellow, orange is the bright sun
I’ll go see them one day!


I like space stations
I think aliens are real
Stars are up in space


The spaceships are cool
I will be an astronaut
I will go to space


Top of the Bench 2015

Report by Ms McGinty 

Last week, four pupils from Our Lady’s competed in a Chemistry competition at Glasgow University. The team consisted of Dominik Pradzynski, Sean O’Neill, Morgan Deakin and Damian Bonnar. They all performed brilliantly and came 5th out of twelve teams with St. Aloysius’ High School in Glasgow taking top prize. Well done to everyone involved!

Martin Hendry

Report from Mr Law

Martin Hendry (MBE), Professor of Gravitational Astrophysics and Cosmology and Head of the school of Physics and Astronomy at Glasgow University came to OLHS on Friday to enlighten students of the new Higher Physics course with particular regard to the cosmology unit.

Topics explored included black holes, red shift, Hubble and the expansion of our universe. Further discourse was generated from the existence of other universes and dimensions, the concept of a rubber universe and even touched upon the LIGO project and gravitational waves.

The audience included Higher Physics students from schools around the Motherwell area: Brannock, Braidhurst, Dalziel, Clyde Valley, St Aidans, Coltness and of course OLHS. Many thanks to Professor Hendry for taking the time to come along and engage with so many of our physics elite.  Very entertaining and certainly instructive.

Higher Human Biology Experiment

Report from Mrs Gallagher

The Higher Human Biology class are participating in a very interesting experiment over the next few days involving a bit of genetic engineering.

On Friday they put a gene from a jelly fish that codes for a green fluorescent protein into a bacterium called E coli (not the dangerous one!) and then gave the bacterium the required conditions to multiply over a period of about 3 days.

After the weekend they will examine their plates for fluorescence to find out if the transformation experiment has worked. by examining the bacteria glow under a UV light.

Sterile conditions are being used throughout and the pupils are dressed and acting as young scientists.

STEM Workshop

Report by Miss McGinty

On Tuesday 4th November, ten girls from S2 were invited to take part in a workshop organised by EDF Energy. The girls has a busy morning building and testing a variety of circuits and used what they had learned to design and build a product they would like to invent for their bedrooms. The girls made use of laser cutting and modern technology to build, promote and present their products. A fantastic day was had by all!

WoSPEG Quiz 2015-16

Report from Mr Law

After a valiant and very close contest, the OLHS Physics quiz team narrowly missed progressing further in the competition.  Two of the four teams were to advance into the next round and OLHS tied for second place with Rosshall Academy once the normal set of questions had been answered.  Heather Nugent, Damian Bonnar and Ryan Kane were just a fraction of a second too slow on the buzzer for the tie-break question.

In second place for most of the time, they answered individual and team questions on Physics as well as buzzer round questions on general knowledge, current affairs and Science.  The last round of 20, “on the buzzer” questions was an exciting conclusion to the contest.  With only three questions remaining, Oban were four points ahead of OLHS.  A further three points adrift were Rosshall Academy with Gleniffer HS close behind them.  As the tension mounted, not only were Rosshall quickest to buzz, but they answered all three questions correctly.  A similar result in the tie-break saw them deservedly through.

Congratulations are also due to the OLHS team however as they were S4 students competing against S5/6 competitors.  Being asked questions about parts of the course that they hadn’t yet studied was testament to their dedication and reading ahead skills.  Despite the disappointment of not getting through, they thoroughly enjoyed the pre-quiz interactive experiments made available for them.  Rarely can a secondary school afford the equipment and liquid Nitrogen required for some of the more exciting displays, so thanks are also due to the University of the West of Scotland.  Supercooled magnetic interactions, infrared video and pulse detection were all avidly experienced.