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The La Garenne Blog


Space - where IS the final frontier?

Spoiler: it's closer than you think ...

Planning a space project and bringing it to fruition is no mean feat for anyone, even Elon Musk. At La Garenne we have our own budding space exploration team, led by 14 year old Mathieu. The team recently built a Space Balloon on their own initiative and launched it into space, with fascinating results. We asked Mat how the project started:

“I've always been fascinated about Space. As a kid I always dreamt of sending something into space, or somehow getting myself into space. A few months ago I was speaking to a friend of mine when we came up with an idea to launch a weather balloon to space. I discussed it with Adam Jozef [Head of Secondary School] and he said he was in to help us.”

How did you go about putting the plan into action and what was your aim?

“We started by buying the balloon, and the parachute, along with the module that records data. I then built a mini computer which was then put in the craft which would use a LTE/4G antenna to stream back live video from the craft. We then streamed the footage back to my computer and onto Youtube for everyone to see. Our aim was simple. We wanted to learn as much about space as we could, and, of course, get some good footage of space!”

What sort of balloon is it and how do you track it?

“The balloon is able to go up to 36'000 metres, but we aimed for 35'000 metres, as it was too complicated otherwise. We bought a GPS Tracker that uses satellite communication to find its position to track the balloon, and I must say it worked very well. We got updates on the whereabouts of the balloon every 5 minutes, which allowed us to pinpoint its location for us to go retrieve it and get all the footage back.”

So what happened when you sent the balloon into space?

“Unfortunately, things didn't go according to plan. Our balloon slightly drifted off course and ended up in Italy, yet to be retrieved. The GPS has given us the coordinates of the box, now we need to find a time to retrieve it.”

What has the team learned from this incredible experiment?

“This is an experience not just for the team but for everyone to find out about our world and how it works. We are hoping that in the future when we retrieve the data, we are able to show it along with the footage for everyone to see. Our mission was focused on the data and the footage, so those are the two most important things that I wish to recover. The last thing now to do is drive to Italy and go get the box, hopefully that goes well.”

How do you feel about the project as a whole and what are your plans for the future?

“I must say I am very proud of the team that has worked to make this possible. We worked hard for 2 months to make sure everything went well, and although it landed in Italy, I am still very happy about the way things turned out. It was a lifelong dream for me to send something to space. I hope to inspire other people to do the same and to launch their own balloons to space.”

We’re all very proud of Mat and his team. This was a brilliantly well planned and well executed project and we are all on tenterhooks for the final outcome. Congratulations to everyone involved and never, never, never give up!

Categories: Academic


Big Bangs or Little Bubbles?

Primary Science

science teacher La Garenne

This week our primary school children have been focussing on science - looking at the tiniest creatures, investigating how materials change from liquid to solid, and what makes something acidic or alkaline and how to tell the difference.

Litmus Test

Observing science in real time helps embed learning in young children’s minds. For example, watching an indicator stick (litmus paper) change to red to indicate a more acidic content, or to blue for more alkaline, or stay white to indicate a neutral result - is knowledge that is far more likely to be remembered than merely learning it from a book.

From this experiment we get the metaphor “Litmus test” - an effective and definitive way of proving or measuring something. For example, you might find it used in politics to assess the value of a policy, or in conservation, to determine if the extinction of a species is related to the climate emergency.

Using Microscopes to see the hidden world

Using microscopes to look at the smallest objects always makes for a fun classroom activity. The children carefully put small amounts of fresh water onto microscope slides and using the lenses to fine tune the focus, they were able to identify mini invertebrates which they couldn’t see with the naked eye.


This experiment shows children that there is a hidden world out there - beneath their feet, in rivers and streams, and in the vegetation and trees. Biodiversity isn’t always immediately visible and it’s important not to forget that it exists even when we can’t see it. Classifying creatures teaches children that labels matter - whether it’s a common object like a book, or the name of a living creature like a worm or a snail or an insect.

Boiling water

As if that hard work wasn’t enough, our children also learned how materials can change from one state to another - liquids, gases and solids. Using heat and dry ice they watched as water froze, melted and then evaporated. Observing changes at first hand enables children to make predictions about what will happen next.

Making foam bubbles

Come next winter this week’s science will be at the forefront of our primary children’s minds when they observe how water turns to ice, how water vapour falling from the sky becomes snow, and why their warm breath is visible as it evaporates in the cold air.

Using checmiclas to make sparks

Many thanks to our Senior School science department and especially to super teacher Paul Minton for creating such fun and exciting lessons for our primary children.

Categories: Academic


Welcome home

Service and action in Tanzania

It's been a busy but exhilarating time for La Garenne students who have been in Costa Rica, Tanzania, France and Portugal on our annual school trips.

From building chicken sheds and installing solar lights in a remote African village, braving the chilly Atlantic surf in the Azores, enjoying close up views of wildlife (not all of it friendly), to having fun at the Puy du Fou theme park, all ages have made the absolute most of their experiences. Even the unexpected weekend in Amsterdam (thanks to issues at Schiphol Airport) didn't phase us. In fact it became a fabulous opportunity for exploring such a beautiful city. Sunny Amsterdam

Sadly the school trips are now coming towards their end and we expect some of our students back in school in the next 24 hours, no doubt exhausted but full of reflection about what they have seen and learnt. France School Trip Parc Puy du Fou

They will spend the next few weeks writing up their journals and putting together presentations for their IB exams and assessments. We can't wait to see them.

Costa Rica waterfall

Thank you to all the staff who led the trips for their encouragement, care and support of La Garenne's students.

Welcome home

Categories: School Trips


And we're off!

There's been a palpable sense of excitement across La Garenne for the last week, as students and staff prepare for the best event of 2022: the School Trip. Our buildings and boarding houses have been ringing to the cries of "where's my passport?", "I can't find my flipflops" and, most importantly, "will I be able to sleep on safari?"

This year we are going to Tanzania, Costa Rica, Portugal (actually the Azores) and France. Even our youngest children from age 5 have days of activities planned including trips to Aquatis, a chocolate factory and the beautiful floral sculptures down by Lac Léman (Lake Geneva).

Like every school trip, there is always a reason behind choosing the destination. Our students will learn about biodiversity, ecology, conservation, and in Tanzania, they'll be helping on humanitarian projects such as installing solar panels and renovating a school. Privilege comes with responsibility.

The reason for so much excitement - after all, school trips at La Garenne are compulsory - is because we haven't been able to go to faraway places for almost two years. Finally though, with restrictions lifted, bags are packed, plane tickets are bought and yes, those flip flops have been found.

You can follow the progress of our students across La Garenne's social media, particularly Instagram and Facebook, where we will be posting regular updates and highlights.

off to tanzania

And we're off!

Categories: School Trips


Back to school Term 3

When the hard work really starts

Welcome to what is optimistically known as the Summer Term*. Our students have been enjoying a good break with their families but that comes to an abrupt halt this weekend as we open our doors once again for Term 3.
We really hope they've found time to complete all their holiday homework, because this term is crucial for grades and progression to the next academic year. On the timetable are French, high school diploma and IB exams, and all manner of tests and assessments.
That's not to say there won't be time for relaxation and fun, because boarding school life is never just work and no play. So in a couple of weeks' time, our students will be complementing their classroom learning with trips to Tanzania, France, Portugal and Costa Rica.
Follow us on social media to learn more.

* In the last week we have had heaps of snow, lots of rain and hail and also some very welcome sun - normal for the Alps of course.

Back to school Term 3

Categories: Academic

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