Carnivorous Plants and our Terrarium

Posted: 21st March 2017

Cross-Curricular activity

Our 2017 school production ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ and its rapidly growing carnivorous character ‘Audrey II’ inspired much cross-curricular activity here at St Augustine’s Priory. Here, Mrs Bennet, Head of Maths, reveals all that was involved:

‘As soon as we knew that the school drama production this year was to be Little Shop of Horrors, the Science, Maths and Computer Studies Departments began planning an ambitious cross-curricular project. We wanted to be involved in this wonderful tale of carnivorous plants and together we planned the construction of a terrarium housing our own plants. However, rather than being just a container for plants, we used a project featured in the Raspberry Pi magazine that showed us how to build one that kept the temperature controlled by computer, and that would upload all our sensor readings to a cloud-based data service.  The Raspberry Pi is a tiny computer that we use to teach Python coding and which is popular with children up and down the country, as well as with adults, who want to understand more about programming.

The Science Department sourced the container and the plants and set about installing the sensor to monitor the humidity and temperature, together with the light and the fan.

Carnivorous plants grow in the tropics and prefer hot and steamy conditions rather than typical English weather. The Computer Studies Department set about installing the Raspberry Pi, along with some additional libraries from Adafruit which would allow us to monitor the conditions inside the terrarium. There was great excitement when we got the first reading of temperature and humidity:

Once all of that was done, the Maths Department signed up Thingspeak, an open online data platform that enables real time data collection, and pasted the channel information into the Python script.

The terrarium now sends reading every two minutes over the internet to our Thingspeak channel (243699) and you can see real time graphs of temperature and humidity. If the temperature rises above 26°C then the fan turns on.  Have a look at the graphs and see if you can explain what happens where.

One of the overarching themes coming out of Ofqual with regard to maths is the use of technology, coupled with the study of real and rich data. Hopefully this will be the first of many such inventive projects designed to enhance our girls’ learning and equip them for the world which is more and more data-driven.’

 

 

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