Art & History

What is the Mexican Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos)?

On  1st and 2nd of November, Mexico celebrates its Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos). This is a festival that begins on 28th October and ends on a public holiday on 2nd November. During this time, Mexicans believe that the deceased have permission from God to visit friends and relatives on earth, and once again enjoy the pleasures of life. It isn’t seen as a time of sadness and mourning but as a celebration of life.


Where Does the Tradition Come From? 



The Aztecs believed that death was just a part of the circle of life and offered gifts to the goddess Mictecacihuatl (“Lady of the Dead”) for deceased children and adults. This tradition was incorporated into the Catholic celebration of All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day when the Spanish conquered the country. You might know All Saint’s Day by its other name – Halloween!



Stories from the Stables Part 2 – Topper. Ouch!

Our Stories from the Stables series from Carolyn Ward continues with a  flea-bitten grey with a shocking attitude.


Topper.  I swear that pony could scowl.

It was my week to ride him, and I had just hauled him all the way down to the outdoor school and stood him in the middle to check his girth and stirrups.  As I reached under to tighten up the girth he turned his head toward me and eyeballed me, then stepped over with his nearside foreleg; and stamped on my left foot.

I hissed a very rude word and frantically pushed him to move him off. My foot sunk into the woodchip surface with his heavy weight crushing it down.  By now he was still looking directly at me, so I started punching his shoulder to try and get him to step off.  Today’s teacher was a crosspatch I have no fond memories of; if she had found out about it I’d have been bawled out for having my foot in the wrong place or something.


School & Career

Movie Making Camp for Girls – Camp Reel

Have you ever thought about the people who make movies? Did you know that less that 20% of the main decision making positions in the media are held by women? This obviously affects the way that women and girls are portrayed on screen.



With media platforms like YouTube or Vimeo,  its easier to get friends together and write, direct, edit your own shows and distribute them for the world to see, but where do you start? How can you make a movie? One way is to take part in a Apple Camp – check the link to see if there is one in your area.

Once you have been making films for a while, you may want to learn more about how movies are made, and how to put them together. A new venture in California aims to help girls do this – on a one week camp.

Our contributor Annie May had a chat with Esther from Camp Reel to find out more.


School & Career

A Day In the Life Of…a Biologist


Ever wondered what being a biologist might be like? No two scientists work days are the same but I’m going to take you through my typical day to give you an idea

7 AM: I get up and eat breakfast (toast and a cup of tea) before travelling to work.

8 AM: I arrive at work (this is early for scientists, most of my workmates arrive at about 9 AM but I like to get up early!) After checking my email the first job of the day is to turn on the microscope above.


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The plant root surface is covered in root hairs. This is what they look like under a microscope.To get an idea of the cells, les than 1mm of plant root can be seen in this image

It is similar to microscopes you may have used at school but with a few added features including a special camera. I am fascinated by plants and in my research I am trying to find out more about how some plants (including peas and beans) can form a friendly relationship (known as symbiosis) with soil bacteria, which provide nutrients that the plants need to grow. I use the microscope and camera to study living cells in plant seedling roots (where the symbiosis is set up).





10:30 AM: Tea break and seminar. I have a tea break with some of my workmates and then go to a seminar where other scientists talk about their research and we discuss it afterwards. Seminars are a great way to find out what experiments other scientists are doing, and to get ideas for new experiments to try.


12:30 PM: I have lunch with my friends.

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1:15 PM: More experiments. For some of my experiments I have to grow plants in greenhouses. Today I visit to check on my plants and collect some to take measurements. This involves digging up the plants and cleaning them to look at their roots. This is fun, but messy! 

3:30 PM: Afternoon tea break.

3:45 PM: Data analysis. I spend the last part of the afternoon drawing graphs of the data I have collected today and thinking about what it shows (does it answer the research question? Do I need to do further experiments?). I also spend some time reading research articles to find out about experiments other scientists have been doing.


5:30 PM: Hometime! Once I am home I have dinner and then relax.

One of the things I love about being a scientist is the feeling of discovering the “unknown”. The experiments I carry out reveal little details that when combined with other scientist’s data can help us build up a picture of how the plant-bacteria symbiosis is set up so that pea and bean plants can get the nutrients they need to grow. We hope that this knowledge might be able to help improve farming in the future.


About the Author

Sarah Shailes is a plant scientist working at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK. She studies how some plants can form a friendly relationship (symbiosis) with soil bacteria, which help the plants gain nutrients they need to grow. When she isn’t in the laboratory she enjoys knitting and hiking, and helps run a local Brownie Guide unit.




Art & History

Historical Fiction for Kids – A Book Review

What better way to #jumpintohistory, than to immerse yourself in historical fiction for kids… but where to start?
With so many great titles to chose from, you might find it difficult to plump for one of them. Louise is a life-long bookworm, and lover of historical fiction, and has some great tips.

I have always loved reading fiction books about history, especially books about girls.

I grew up reading fiction books about the lives of girls: Johanna Spyri’s Heidi, L.M Montgomery’s Emily of New Moon and Anne of Green Gables, Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, and Susan Coolidge’s What Katy Did series. I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods series, which is the story of Laura’s life growing in 19th century America. I always wanted to be Laura and have adventures living in the middle of nowhere surrounded by woods, although I am still not very keen about the lack of indoor plumbing.