Wonderful EngineHeads

We love the EngineHeads!


Some of these lovely young people offered to run some SOLE sessions for staff from both Greenfield and Sunnydale campus during a CPD today on their day off….Amazing!

The two schools (Greenfield Community College, Newton Aycliffe and Sunnydale Community College, Shildon) are coming together as one School from January 2015 which is very exciting and we were able to spend a great CPD day together reflecting on teaching and learning today before the school broke up for the Winter holidays.

Millie, Jasmine, Lucy and Emily made a suggestion a few weeks ago that the teachers should experience SOLEs, as they think it might help their understanding and help them feel more confident to run SOLEs with classes. They offered to run sessions for the teachers and came in again on their day off.


They explained the principles of SOLEs to the staff ( in a ‘speed SOLE’ session) and set the self organised staff groups a big question. They ran two sessions. The first question was ‘Does a frog know it is a frog?’ And then they asked the next group ‘Why do we dream?’

These were fabulous questions and created a lot of debate, googling, interaction and fantastic thinking amongst the staff.


The feedback was really interesting. Staff were surprised by the breadth and depth of answers that they came up with. They seemed to enjoy the experience too.

The EngineHeads thought the staff made great points and were fascinated to hear from one group in particular that frogs might act like frogs because they need to survive in the conditions they find themselves in….

The EngineHeads also enjoyed taking on the role of the ‘granny’ on the robot and being in the session to praise the staff and ask them how they were getting on. It was also a great opportunity for staff to ask questions about SOLEs and to hear how the young people feel about it and why they value it so highly.


The EngineHeads were fantastic and led the whole thing so professionally. They supported staff to learn more about the process, to challenge their assumptions and to engage with some great questions. So proud.

Amongst other things, Emily did a fantastic job of exploring the principles of SOLES. Jasmine helped the staff think about how they can use SOLEs in their own lessons with their own classes. Lucy was a great Robogran and Millie explained that she believes SOLEs is great as it encourages you to ask more questions and explore ideas which leads to more questions. The girls discussed SOLEs with staff and explained why they believe in the principles of SOLEs. They said it is a really great way to learn and a SOLE can help you find out more and different information than you might not get with a teacher leading a lesson.

A powerful point very well made. The EngineHeads rock!





Fabulous SOLE sessions this week with the robot. Liz, Richard, Sally, Suneeta and Catherine all commented on how great it was to get in amongst the group and be almost an equal in amongst the group. The robot seemed to help eliminate that potential hierarchy as it was able to discreetly manoeuvre in amongst the groups at their level and interact.

It has been brilliant to explore how the robot can be used in Room 13 during a SOLE.

It surprised me that the young people seemed to take it all in their stride, and yes they found the robot different and unusual briefly to begin with, but very quickly got on with exploring their question and didn’t seem to be bothered or phased by this new gadget being in the space with them at all.



Thank you to all of our ‘grannies’ this week that have helped create such great sessions. Some fantastic questions too!

It was also wonderful this week to work with Suneeta who was spending time in Area 4 Phaltan, India. Many of the students had stayed back after school to work with us! They worked with 12/13yr olds from Greenfield via the robot and did a joint SOLE session together. It was fantastic!! They explored the question ‘should there be one universal language?’

It amazed me how easy and natural it seemed to be to carry out a SOLE in real time in two countries simultaneously across the world and also how language wasn’t a barrier to making it a great success.




Looking forward to experimenting with ‘robotgran’ doing its thing a bit more in January!

Happy holidays.

SSAT Conference

We were invited alongside Professor Sugata Mitra to lead a SOLEs workshop and present within his keynote speech at the National SSAT Conference 2014 in Manchester this month.

Greenfield and George Stephenson (the 2 UK TED prize winning labs) worked together with Sugata to share our experiences and understanding of SOLEs in practice and share how we have both developed the principles of SOLEs with young people and colleagues in our context.

Our lab, Room13, has been open since February 2014. Since that time young people from Greenfield have experienced SOLEs as well as many other schools and community groups including local primaries, regional primary and secondaries plus international partners.

There has been so much we have been learning and there are so many more questions that we are generating through SOLEs. It was good to share some of that learning with over 800 other educationalists and reflect on our learning so far.

Two of the Engineheads, Mille and Jasmine, volunteered to represent Greenfield at the conference. They were amazing! The boys from George Stephenson were an absolute delight too. They made a great team.


The young people explained how a SOLE works and then led a session. They asked the question “why are there other planets if no one lives there?”


The delegates explored the question and gave many different types of answers including physical, scientific, theological and philosophical ones.


The young people used the feedback as examples of the way SOLES can work in all subjects, how young people can answer complicated questions and how a session can lead to more questions.

The keynote speech was superb as well. Was brilliant to hear from some of the young people from India too via Skype!

We had a fantastic time and I’m so extremely proud of the young people. They are amazing.

Look who else we bumped into while we were there too…!



We have had lots of primary school groups using Room 13. Recently we have had Chilton Primary who have been investigating what you need in space to survive and Byerley Park have just discovered whether humans were liquid, solid or gas!

It was great to see “Granny Ping” during year 5 the Byerley Park session.


It was interesting during this session because the children decided they’d finished the question part way through and asked granny ping (aka Catherine) for more questions! The teacher wondered if this was perhaps because they were not clear about what they were doing. The teacher wondered if they had fully understood they were going to feedback at the end of the session about the answers to the question.

They all had something different to add but they all had the same answer in many ways too.

Every group stated that your body is made up of 70% liquids, 22% solids, 8% gas in your body.
Other answers included:
The Sun is made out of gas.
There are lot of metals inside your body and living things inside your body too. Skin is the biggest organ.Bones and hair are solids, blood and fluids are liquids and intestinal gas is gas.
We are mostly made up of water 70% liquid.
What do the metals do in our body?
Sweating is a cause of the balance of liquids changing.
Sun burn can affect liquid levels.

The teacher had a discussion with the group afterwards about their 1st SOLE experience. They said they really enjoyed the session. They liked room 13 as it felt like they were outside. They said they felt independent. They described how good it was to have the freedom to work on their own. One girl explained that it was good to be able to concentrate in room 13 because they have an open plan school and this room was very different. They liked being able to look at any website and have that freedom. They said next time they could share answers and move around so they get more answers and lots of different ones and they liked not having a teacher there. They did explain that they worked with granny ping as if she was a teacher a little and wanted her to give them more questions.

They also gave us a list of fantastic questions of things they’d like to explore in Room 13 another time! Will definitely be trying some of these for a SOLE, plus if I’m ever stuck for a SOLE question in the future I will know who to go straight to. Take a look at these!

Why do we celebrate Halloween?

Why do we have bugs on our eyebrows?

Why are other countries so far away from us?

Why can’t aliens live on Earth?

Why do hyenas laugh? Why do lions roar?

Why do we have two eyes?

Why do we all have different talents?

Why are people different heights?

How does the Earth spin?

Why do some animals lay eggs?

Why do some people need glasses?

Why are there different planets if no one lives on them?

Why do we have diseases?

Why do we ‘dodge’ when something hits us?

Why do we eat and drink?

How do we get oxygen from the trees?

Why do people have different coloured eyes?

Why do some people have freckles?

Why do people from different countries speak different languages?

What determines the colour of a baby’s skin?

Why do we all look different?

Why are some twins born physically connected?

Why are some planets called ‘dwarf planets’?

Why do we have hair?

Why do we have muscles?

Why do we have ear wax?

Why do we have electronic devices?

Why do we grow? How do we grow?

Why do we have animals?

How do plants and flowers breathe?

Why are there different planets if no one lives on them?

Why do we have diseases?

Lots of great questions to explore. Thank you year 5!