Monday 17th June 2013
I really enjoyed my visit to the zoo but what I enjoyed most was the ‘Meet the Monkeys' session. I enjoyed this because I had a funny experience when I was videoing a monkey which was in a tree. It swung down onto a pillar close to me, I knelt down to video it. As I did this, I put my finger out and the monkey climbed onto it. He was so delicate and his little hands were so soft! The monkey then snatched my notes and tried to run off with the piece of paper. Luckily, I grabbed the paper back because I didn't want to lose it and I was worried that the monkey would try to eat it! This experience was very comical.
On the trip I realised that some animals need personal space and it is often better not to crowd around them. I think it is important for people to realise that the animals are being seen day after day by us humans and they would much rather be swinging away in the trees.
Susannah, Year 8
Monday 10th June 2013
One Saturday in May, a group of us were introduced to the mysterious world of Zen calligraphy by Rosalind Wyatt. The day began with a formal entrance into the work-room, bowing to each other and a shrine dedicated to past Zen masters, followed by a period of meditation and meditative exercises to prepare for the art itself.
Zen calligraphy is a joint experience, each member of the group is there to support the others and the artwork of one person is the achievement of everyone. The nature of the ink is such that you cannot go back to correct anything. This was very liberating and drawing the brush-strokes became more a formal dance than an exercise, as each person stood over the paper and flung their arm back before bending to write the phrase: ‘Mu Ji Dai - The Unchanging One' in the flowing Japanese kanji. We were constantly reminded by Mrs Wyatt "whatever you draw is perfect" and this sums up the Zen mind-set. The focus is on the moment of creation and the thoughts of the artist at that moment, not on the outcome. In this way, art becomes a spiritual exercise.
Once the calligraphy was complete, the next stage began: appreciation. Each piece was examined and its qualities described. It was astonishing how varied all the pieces were, despite all being the same words, and fascinating to hear the impact your own artwork made on other people. The day finished with the ‘cha-no-yu' - the tea ceremony and a final meditation. The workshop was an amazing experience, like entering another world and I left with a great sense of achievement and stillness.
Eleanor, Year 12
Thursday 2nd May 2013
Mr Andy Mortimer, an eminent geologist, came to talk to the Minerva Society on 24th April about the science of shale gas and the controversy that surrounds it. Firstly, Mr Mortimer gave us an insight into the importance of geology to the human world and specifically to us in Great Britain, for example, how copper and iron used to be extracted in Wales. He also explained that geology can tell us a great deal about climate change and about meteorites that have hit the Earth.
He then explained how shale gas was formed and how it has only recently been possible to extract it. It can be only 1.5m below the Earth's surface and the deposits can be up to 50 m thick. The ‘fraccing' process is when water is pumped down deep wells and a liquid called ‘flowback' emerges containing rock fragments and the gas which is directed into pipes. He compared the shale gas to other energy sources including nuclear energy, oil, wind and biomass and pointed out that no energy source is without its negative environmental impact.
To read more of Millie and Rosie's account, please click here
Thursday 2nd May 2013
Year 10's Sanskrit group went on a trip to the British Museum on 24th April. We looked at many ancient artefacts and discussed their background and rich heritage. In particular, we looked at the ten incarnations of Vishnu. Mr Jessup spoke to us about each one and the symbolism behind them. During the trip we also looked at several other ancient icons such as those of Siva and Parvati. We took a moment to think about and compare the major differences between western and eastern art.
We came to an understanding that eastern art does not focus on portraying realistic images, but more on how forms can symbolically convey the significance of certain qualities. We also considered Buddhist and Jain images and tried to deepen our understanding of these traditions. Overall, I found this trip very educational and most enjoyable.
Innoka, Year 10
Monday 29th April 2013
On Friday 26th April Rabbi Barry Marcus of the Central Synagogue in Great Portland Street came to speak to us about Jewish heritage and the message of the Torah. We felt the warmth and immediacy of his presence as soon as he started to speak: he drew us in by inviting us to ask anything at any time during the presentation. He also had a wonderful sense of humour which made communication with him very easy.
He said that Judaism was not a religion in the sense that Christianity, Islam and others are because it is about how to live life well; furthermore it does not proclaim to be the only way to God.
He asked us what we thought prayer was and we said that it involved praise, gratitude and sometimes asking for things. By the time we left the assembly hall we had an understanding of the true meaning of the Hebrew word for prayer, ‘le-hit-palal' which is a reflexive verb meaning to judge oneself. This was an entirely fresh view. Rabbi Marcus made it clear that this practice exists at the heart of Judaism; when ‘praying' one must assess one's actions and expectations, not unlike the famous Socratic saying, an unexamined life is not worth living. A lack of ‘le-hit-palal' can result in tragic human suffering. Rabbi Marcus used the Nazi period as an example of this; even today, any group in society could be a victim of this human evil. On a small scale it is bullying, for example through social media. There is always a risk that a human being's ability to judge and reflect on his or her own actions will fall short of the mark, resulting in the perpetration of injustice. The need to pray in the sense of teaching is, therefore, a duty of the highest order.
A Year 13 pupil asked how one can keep a strong faith in God in the midst of tragedies inflicted on humanity by humanity; as is so often asked: where was God during the holocaust? Rabbi Marcus gave an inspirational response saying that the question ought not to be: where was God but where was man? Man must take responsibility for his actions. Self-judgement would make all the difference. He also warned about the dangers of making a ‘wish list' for God.
Equally enthusiastically, Rabbi Marcus talked about the traditional simplicity of the synagogue and the Hebrew words that are in our language today, for example, alleluia and amen. Perhaps, most importantly, we were struck by the universal morality of the Jewish religion.
Rabbi Marcus' talk was a whole-school open conversation which engaged every year group equally. He made us laugh and think deeply; and the end came too soon because we wanted to hear more!
Lauren, Year 13