Mad Scientess Jane Expat (nanila) wrote,
Mad Scientess Jane Expat

The Tragical Lives of the Minted Children.

I paid a second visit to Wellington College this week, accompanied by our shiny keen new PhD student Daniel, to run workshops on Space for "Gifted and Talented" students from the neighbouring state schools. (I was more anxious to see that they exhibited the properties "Interested and Awake". Despite the heat, most of them did.) Since this visit involved an overnight stay in lodgings equipped with a full-sized snooker table, darts board, plasma-screen television (with Sky), comfortable beds and an ample supply of tea, I was able to document the hardships endured by those who regularly attend Wellington College.

First there's the little matter of the Great Hall. You'd be ashamed to have to drive up a wide, tree-lined avenue with that obnoxious monstrosity looming directly ahead, wouldn't you? Not to mention the scaffolding marring its symmetry. Dreadful.

The physics classrooms are equipped with projection systems and "smart" whiteboards, which allow a speaker to add coloured drawings to a presentation on the fly. This sounds useful until you realize that the first thing any serious physicist, such as Daniel or myself, will do with a presentation about the potential for finding life elsewhere in the universe is illustrated above. I'm sure you will agree that such "enhancements" do not improve the learning experience of the deprived students of Wellington College.

The quarters in which I stayed, as mentioned previously, seemed generously supplied. However, I must point out that the tea remained unaccompanied by an assortment of biscuits, the switch on the bedside lamp stuck and the water from the tap was not drinkable. Most unforgivably, it was papered with peeling pink roses. See how I'm suffering?

The college grounds, which encompass the local rail station, boast a functioning observatory. Before you get too excited, let me point out that it is 150 years old and though it stands on the highest point on the grounds, that is about 20 metres above the rest of it. The 7-inch telescope must be aligned by hand and cranked to track objects, which it can do for a maximum of 20 minutes. For £26k per annum per student, you'd think they could afford some flash new kit, but apparently they prefer to spend that money on serving jam sponges and syllabubs with every meal. I'd say something scathing about their priorities, but I think I'll opt to remain tactfully silent and instead show you what they've got to keep time in the observatory.

This is a sidereal grandfather clock. (See, they don't even have a clock that keeps time properly!) If it weren't too large to nick, I would have stuck it in my rucksack. Purely as a service to the students, naturally, to force their keepers to buy them something a little more up-to-date.
Tags: england, outreach, science
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