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Written in Stone Project Visitors

Last week Barr Beacon hosted 19 teachers and 10 students from around Europe for the next phase of our ‘Written in Stone’ project.  The 10 students (5 from Italy and 5 from Spain) were joined by teachers from all European countries involved in the project to meet and discuss future tasks and visits in the coming year.  Barr Beacon pupils hosted a pupil each in their home, immersing them in the English culture, helping them to develop their English language.

Our pupils prepared for the hosting by completing tasks (including building castles out of a range of materials) to meet the objectives set out in the history-based project, for when our partners arrived.  Throughout the week, all pupils and teachers were involved in a range of excursions, visiting Dudley and Warwick Castle and learning all about our more local history with a day at the Black Country Museum.  

It was fantastic to see all pupils get along and enjoying the hosting experience, which culminated in a final meal which was attended by all parents, teachers and pupils involved in the project.

Our next journey in the project will involve another 5 pupils travelling to the east coast of Italy in March 2020, to experience the regional history of castles and to learn about ghost stories and the legend that surrounds them.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all parents for their amazing time, effort and hospitality in making the visit a real success.


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Italian Adventure

15 pupils left school in the early hours of Wednesday morning to start their Italian adventure!

Day 1: We were taken to Naples City, where we had an overground tour of the famous city sites and saw three of the 40 churches in the city. We also had an underground tour of the ancient tunnels and chambers which were used by the Greeks and Romans. We ate fresh Napoli pizza, which was the ideal first meal in Italy. We rounded off the day with a refreshing swim in our hotel pool.

Day 2: What a jam-packed day! We started by climbing Mount Vesuvius. At the crater of the volcano we learnt about past eruptions and how the volcano is monitored. In the afternoon, we visited Pompeii which had been completely covered by an eruption from Mount Vesuvius back in AD79. We were in awe of the well-preserved buildings and were able to see the world’s oldest surviving ‘beware of the dog’ sign. On the evening we went to a Gelateria where we produced and tasted real Italian gelato.

Day 3: Firstly, we visited a buffalo mozzarella farm where we were able to pet the buffaloes and taste mozzarella, cheese and chocolate made with buffalo milk. The pupils really enjoyed petting the buffaloes, who were very friendly and calm.  We then spent the afternoon exploring Ancient Greek ruins and underground natural caves. For our final meal in Italy, we made our own pizzas which were delicious.

Miss O’Connor and Mr Nunn would like to congratulate pupils for their excellent behaviour and participation on the trip. Well done!

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Helsinki, Finland

First days in Finland: After a long day’s travelling, we arrived in Finland to be greeted by our host teacher Anni. Staying in Helsinki for the two nights enabled us to get to know this beautiful city and its rich history.

Tomorrow, we move towards the home town of our hosts – Nivala.  Students will then move in with their host families for the next four nights, working closely with other students on one of the key project skills: ‘Communication’.

Our students asked questions at every opportunity, leading from the front in keenness and interest! Our first stop was the Parliamentary building, with the ministers meeting at a different location, hoping to form a new government after recent general elections.

Following our visit we then made our way to Helsinki University’s Faculty of Agriculture, where we learnt about how they prepare their students to cope with the demands of life in a farming-dominated industry.

Day 2. After a 5 1/2 hour journey through central Finland, our pupils finally arrived in the small town of Nivala. The pupils and staff were greeted by host families who were very pleased to see our students.

Day 4 – Today, our students went to the local agricultural college to discover how they are training their next generation of workers. They found out about how they develop biogas, look after cattle and what machinery is required on a modern farm.

Later, we drove (in a coach, not a tractor) to the forest where we investigated how trees are cut down and replanted so the forest is sustainable. Two students from Beacon and two from Finland rode in the specialist machinery designed to cut down and strip trees.

On Friday, the students from all countries participated in the Erasmus Olympics. Students took part in very traditional Finnish games like Finnish baseball, floorball, tug of war and the welly throw!

In the afternoon, students learnt more about traditional Finnish life in 1800s, being taken back in time to the way they use to live. The last stop on the tour was the beautiful local Nivala church which has stood for over 150 years.

I’m unsure of where to start when it comes to talking about Finland. I genuinely had one of the most fun experiences of my life thus far. Not only was I able to meet new people who were absolutely lovely, I also re-connected with some of the friends that I made in Denmark last year. These people made leaving Finland incredibly hard, but I’m excited to see them again as soon as possible; we’re already planning on meeting up with some of the Danes this summer! In addition to this, I had some really fun experiences that I doubt I would have had otherwise, such as visiting the Finnish parliament building and playing Finnish baseball. Overall, Erasmus has been a fantastic way for me to view the culture and lives of other countries, and explore what is important to them. I can’t wait for them to arrive in England and I am grateful to have had the experience. Thank you Erasmus!

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New Hampshire Ski Trip

February half-term saw Barr Beacon School travel to New Hampshire, USA, for their first-ever ski trip to the States. It was an early start on Friday to ensure that we got to Heathrow in plenty of time to board our flight. Following all of the travel, we finally arrived at our hotel late on Friday evening. There was a huge mix of emotions between the pupils. Some were tired from travelling across the Atlantic but most were very excited at seeing snow deeper than themselves. 

Saturday morning was an early get up in order to get breakfast and get to the mountain ready for our ski fit. Once all of the pupils had been issued with their skis and boots, they were eager to hit the slopes. What followed was five glorious days of skiing where all pupils made massive progress. This enabled all pupils by the end of the week to get a lift to the top of the mountain and make their way safely down a variety of slopes with their instructors. The maturity and politeness of our pupils was commented on by all of the ski instructors.  

Throughout the week we also completed a number of evening activities. These included visiting a local cinema, snow tubing, and drinking hot chocolate and marshmallows. We also incorporated time in the evening for the pupils to use the amenities of the hotel such as the swimming pool and games room.

The end of the week saw us depart New Hampshire and make our way to New York City. On the way to NYC, we had programmed a stop off at a local outlet village to allow the pupils to go shopping for themselves and their families. Upon arriving in NYC we swiftly dropped our bags into the hotel and started to make our way to The Hard Rock Café. On the way to Hard Rock, we stopped off at the iconic Times Square for the pupils to take photos in this iconic location. Following a lovely meal in the Hard Rock, we made our way to the Rockefeller Centre in order to scale the 68 floors and see the NYC skyline by night.

On our final day in the States, we started by making our way to Central Park to complete some ice-skating. Following on from this we then got picked up and travelled to Lower Manhattan to the iconic 9/11 memorial site. This was a very humbling experience for all and the pupils conducted themselves in an appropriate manner. From the memorial site, we made our way back to JFK airport in order to get our return flight home.

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Orlando Nasa Trip 2019

Day 7: This morning we went out on an airboat at Boggy Creek alligator spotting – we spotted 6! The largest was 9 foot long! We also saw 2 baby alligators. We then had a pit stop at Walmart to stock up on candy before we embarked on 3 hours of shopping at Orlando Premium Outlet and boy did we shop! A great end to an amazing week. We are now homeward bound. 


Day 6: This morning we returned to Kennedy Space Center. We spent time viewing the exhibit of space shuttle Atlantis. We learnt about NASA’s 30-year space shuttle program. We took part in the Shuttle Launch Experience – a simulation of the space shuttle’s eight-and-a-half-minute ascent into orbit! We listened to a pre-launch briefing by veteran space shuttle commander Charles Bolden before boarding the shuttle for an experience that veteran NASA astronauts call the next best thing to flying aboard the space shuttle. It was out of this world! We then returned to the classroom where the robotics competition continued. We used ‘Lab View’ to navigate a realistic mock-up of the Martian surface, navigating around targets and gaining points.  This exercise required a lot of skill and patience. At the end of the competition, all pupils were presented with a certificate before the winning team was announced. After lunch we spent some time on the beach and jumping the waves in the Atlantic Ocean. We spent our last night in Florida sat around a fire pit at the hotel, talking about the amazing experiences we have encountered this week. We then made s’mores from marshmallows, chocolate and crackers. We are looking forward to our final day before we start our journey home.


Day 5:  Our second day at Kennedy Space Center started off with a robotics competition – Space Trek Robotics. We learnt how to program a robot using ‘Arduno’. Our mission was to navigate the robot around quite a complex route involving a few sharp turns.  The competition was fierce but fun!We then attended a private event ‘Lunch With An Astronaut’ where we enjoyed some delicious food whilst Scott Parazynski gave a short presentation before taking questions from the audience. We learnt a lot about life in space.  After lunch we went on a NASA bus tour of Launch Complex 39. WOW! We saw the tallest single storey building in the world, aligators, rocket launch stations and we sat in  the control room where Saturn V was launched from.  We learnt about all the failed attempts that were made to reach space and then  enjoyed hearing about the successful attempts. A very interesting and informative tour.On our way to dinner at a local restaurant, we stopped off for a spot of shopping at Ron John’s Surf Shop. After dinner we took a stroll down to the beach where we saw a ‘super moon’. This is when the full moon appears larger in the sky because it’s orbit is closest to the earth. We saw its reflection in the Atlantic Ocean. It was stunning. We then had fun jumping waves in the ocean.


Day 4: Today we had our first session at Kennedy Space Center.  We had a lesson on the history of rocketry before getting into teams and building our own rockets ready for a launch competition. We were also privileged to listen to a speech delivered by astronaut Scott Parazynski. He told the audience about how his dream to become an astronaut started at the age of 5 years. We also heard about all his space missions. After his speech, Scott Parazynski posed for a photograph with us.


Day 3:  We have had a long but very enjoyable day. We started off with a ‘Behind the Adventures’ programme, at Islands of adventure, where we found out about what goes on behind the scenes, where the ideas for the rides come from, how the special effects are added and the costs that are involved.We were then given VIP treatment and we were allowed to take a ride on four of the big attractions without having to queue! These were: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk Coaster, Reign of Kong and Jurassic Park River Adventure.We then had the rest of the day to explore Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. After dinner we returned to the park and watched the very colourful and entertaining Mardi Gras parade.


Day 2:  After a long day of travelling yesterday, we arrived at the hotel and enjoyed our ‘pizza party’.Today, we up early ready for an iFly experience this morning followed by an afternoon at Universal Studios.

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Sicilian Exchange

On Sunday 8th December, we arrived at school all packed and ready to go. Despite being 3:30am on a Sunday morning we were extremely excited for the journey ahead of us. 9 hours later we had arrived in Catania and met all of our host families who were waiting right outside of the airport with a huge banner saying ‘Welcome to Sicily’. This is where the amazing six days spent in Italy began.

During our time on the island we got up to a multitude of different experiences, trips, and activities. From cooking, to site-seeing, to climbing up one of the most active volcanoes in the world (Mount Etna). We managed to cram every single thing that Catania had to offer into only a few days.

For me the best part of the whole experience was meeting all of the fantastic Sicilian people in the school who welcomed us with open arms. This was especially useful to me as I study Italian at school and this trip enabled me to practise what I have already learned but also teach the students over there how to speak English in return.

Here is a short quote from one of the group who travelled to the Island of Sicily:

‘I’ve made so many amazing friends and me and a few other Beacon students have even planned to return to Sicily in the summer holiday’

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German Exchange

Tuesday 21st November

We were thrilled to welcome our exchange partners to Barr Beacon school on the evening of Tuesday 21st November. Pupils were thrilled to see each other again and went straight to bowling!


Wednesday 22nd November

This was the German students first day in school. They were greeted for a breakfast in the bistro with members of the Barr Beacon leadershipBefore spending p1 and P2 planning their project work. The exchange has been made possible by support from the Uk-German connection. Pupils have been carrying on their campaign for environmental improvement by investigating the issue of pollution in Birmingham. They spent Wednesday afternoon exploring Brindley Place and Grand central. On Wednesday evening they had free time where they were able to visit the Birmingham Christmas Market and partake in some shopping at the Bullring.


Thursday 23rd November

On returning to school, p1 and 2 were spent putting our projects together. Pupils had a quick tutorial from Mr Wall on how to use the editing programmes before cutting the footage from their project work in Birmingham together. P3 to p5 the german pupils were able to visit the Black Country Museum where they learnt about our areas history including the pollution that gave the area its name.


Friday 24th November

We are on our way to London to investigate the issue of pollution there. We are looking forward to taking in some of the famous sights as we make our way around!

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World Challenge – Nepal

Nepal! 16th July-31st July 2018

Barr Beacon pupils had the amazing opportunity this summer to take part in an extraordinary expedition to Nepal in Asia. The itinerary took the pupils well out of their comfort zones and gave them opportunities most can only dream of experiencing. What made this trip even more fulfilling for the pupils that took part is that they raised the money themselves through fundraising activities like abseiling to win their place on the trip!

The expedition was split into 3 parts. Each Barr Beacon team did the expedition in a different order but all experienced the same amazing expedition.

The project phase took the teams to the outskirts of Kathmandu and this stage of our expedition was certainly the most satisfying and the primary reason for this great trip. Our 2 teams visited 2 different schools, where Barr Beacons pupils and staff helped renovate their very dilapidated school that had been affected by the earthquake in 2015. The staff and the pupils of the schools were absolutely thrilled when they received our gifts of torches and especially excited with the donation of football kits which the team collected through numerous kind donations from the local area and the wider school community. We spent a number of hard days painting, scrubbing and decorating the school – and then on the final day took part in a leaving ceremony with performances from the Nepalese children as well as some performances from Barr Beacon pupils.

The second part of the expedition was the ‘relaxation’ phase which took our teams back to Kathmandu for some much needed rest following the hard work they’d already done on their expedition. Pupils got the opportunity to buy their elephant trousers and visit the famous Monkey Temple in Kathmandu. Nothing could have prepared our pupils for the completely different way of life and hustle and bustle of the city. Pupils also had the opportunity to try out traditional Nepalese dishes as they visited restaurants within the city. Dal Bhat is a traditional meal from Nepal. It consists of steamed rice and a cooked lentil soup called dal. We were regularly served this on expedition and project and pupils were even given the opportunity to try cooking it along with MoMo’s a steamed dumpling filled with curried vegetables – it was delicious!

The third part of our expedition was the “trek phase” the part of the expedition which provides pupils with the biggest challenge. Team 1 and Team 2 both faced the gruelling climb to the top in completely different weather conditions. Pupils had to forget any fear of heights when they climber through the breath-taking mountains, seeing stunning scenery as they went. Our amazing porters provided us with excellent food and our accommodation was fantastic; camping on some nights and staying in tea houses on others. During the many kilometres walking we learnt some Nepali and were treated to some traditional music by the porters. Team 1 were lucky enough to see wild Monkeys as they came back down the mountain. Our base before and after the expedition was Pokhara where pupils were able to see a more relaxed way of life as well as the beautiful Phewa Lake. Team 1 even managed to squeeze in a visit to the Peace Pagoda.

Barr Beacon School would very much like to recognise this amazing expedition and commend the pupils from both teams who gave up their time and effort to aid those less fortunate than themselves on the other side of the world.

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