Science in the Primary School

For most of my school friends, the highlights of our week were going to science lessons and seeing what experiments we could beg our teacher to do with us. I always loved science. It wasn’t something that I can remember doing in the classroom of my primary school, but I have great memories of going to Smyths and buying all of the bath bomb and bouncy ball science kits as I was just fascinated by it all.

I think that is one of the key things from studying science – the pure fascination of how amazing our world is! From going into space to a simple activity like baking a cake we can open our minds to think about why things happen; a skill that is so important to have.

When we were discussing why science is important it really clicked to me how cross curricular it actually it. Jonathan likened it for us to a simple everyday example: If two pupils had a fight at break time and came up to you, you are asking them, “What happened?” which is the scientific hypothesis, “Why did it happen?” which is the critical thinking of the experiment and “What could you do next time?” which is the conclusion. The skills from science are applied in our everyday lives whether we see them or not, so it is really important that we emphasise STEM right from the beginning of learning to ensure we spark interest in our pupils.

In a STEM and language choices in school:Young People in Scotland Survey 2017 it was found that over half of young people choosing to take a STEM subject said they did so because:

  1. They enjoyed it (56%)
  2. They felt it was important for their future career or employment (52%) or they felt it was important for what they wanted to study in the future (51%).
  3. Boys were significantly more likely than girls to select the following reasons for choosing/intending to choose a STEM subject: ‘I enjoy
    it’ (61% vs 52%); ‘I’m good at it’ (45% vs 33%); and, ‘It fits well with other subjects I want to study’(41% vs 34%).

 

Scotland is working to close the attainment gap in STEM between boys and girls, and those in higher levels of deprivation:

  • There were no differences in the number of girls and boys (67% vs 63%) reporting that they had chosen or were intending to study STEM. However, girls were more likely than boys (13% vs 8%)to report that they had not chosen or were not intending to choose a STEM subject.
  • Young people from the most deprived areas (SIMD 1) were less likely than those in the least deprived areas (SIMD 5) to report that they had chosen to study or were intending to study a STEM subject (57% versus 71%).

(https://www.gov.scot/publications/young-people-in-scotland-survey-2017-stem-and-language-findings/  Accessed 02/02/2019)

 

From reading ‘The Sciences 3-18’ from Education Scotland, I believe the key features of a good science lesson are:

  • Challenging, engaging and enjoyable learning and teaching activities with flexibility and choice
  • An encouraging learning environment
  • Fruitful investigative work
  • The opportunity for scientific communication through presenting
  • Stimulating group discussions, debates and decision making  exercises around topical issues
  • Open ended investigations fro higher order thinking
  • The use of ICT for stimulating supporting and reinforcing learning

(https://education.gov.scot/improvement/documents/sciences/sci14_sciencescurriculumimpact/sciences-3-to-18-2013-update.pdf  Accessed 02/02/2019)

 

The ‘Sciences: Principles and practice’ document sets out why STEM, and in particular science, are so important in the curriculum:

“Science is an important part of our heritage and we use its applications every day in our lives at work, at leisure and in the home. Science and the application of science are central to our economic future and to our health and wellbeing as individuals and as a society. Scotland has a long tradition of scientific discovery, of innovation in the application of scientific discovery, and of the application of science in the protection and enhancement of the natural and built environment. Children and young people are fascinated by new
discoveries and technologies and become increasingly aware of, and passionate about, the impact of science on their own health and wellbeing, the health of society and the health of the environment.

Through learning in the sciences, children and young people develop their interest in, and understanding of, the living, material and physical world. They engage in a wide range of collaborative investigative tasks, which allows them to develop important skills to become creative, inventive and enterprising adults in a world where the skills and knowledge of the sciences are needed across all sectors of the economy. ”

(https://education.gov.scot/Documents/sciences-pp.pdf  Accessed 02/02/2019)

I am really excited that I have the opportunity to share more about our amazing scientific world to help inspire a greater love for STEM amongst our pupils.

Maths

Maths has always been one of my favourite subjects! Although I loved it, I wouldn’t say I was amazing at it, I really had to work on different topics to improve my grades and understanding in school, but it was always something so rewarding to me. Every problem is like a puzzle – there is a solution and there are many different ways to get there. I can always remember the feeling of staring at problems in my GCSEs for ages and the moment it clicks and you can get started you really feel like you accomplish something.

Tara Harper’s love for maths has really encouraged me and excited me for teaching maths to children. For me, the beautiful part of maths is the feeling when you (finally) solve the problems that you have, whether that be on the first attempt or more likely after a few goes of trial and error. Maths is different in that there usually a set answer of right and wrong. Before the inputs, I think I had been stuck in the academic way that maths is only about getting the right answer and that’s it, however, Tara has shown me that there are so many opportunities to connect maths across the curriculum! One particular method was where she asked us to work out a simple problem and told us we would be feeding back. However, before we all shouted out the answer, she told us it. To some this may seem pointless, however, this opens up a door to so much more. From this, we had to use our communication skills to show how we solved the problem through critical thinking which can also be applied to every day life for example, working out the best pizza deal or phone contract.

It’s time to dispel the myths that ‘I’m rubbish at maths’, ‘You’re either good at maths or literacy’ and especially from parents ‘I was awful at maths.’ I believe that if you approach everything with an open mind and a positive attitude, it will go better! If someone tells you you are bad, or you have a thought in your mind that you can’t do something then it will likely prevent you from succeeding.

I know from experience that maths isn’t just going to click for everyone. I loved algebra, however when it came to circle theorems I just couldn’t get my head around them. For me, the difference here to perhaps the experiences of others was an amazing teacher. My GCSE (Nat 5 for all the Scots) teacher gave up so much time to help me with the same topics over and over again, and put up with me having my hand up every five minutes in the classroom. I wasn’t afraid because I knew I wanted to succeed in maths.

In the classroom with our future pupils, we need to make sure that there is an open space to discuss our problems and ask questions, no matter how basic or complex they are, because any question is better than no question. One thing that helped me, was not just looking at maths from the one set way the teacher did calculations, but looking and trying a variety of ways to find which one was the best for me. Everyone can do maths and has the ability to do maths, their approach may take longer or it might take them longer to grasp a topic but that is completely okay! Encourage their work, if the answer is wrong, don’t just mark a big cross over it and tell pupils to try again! Commend their efforts in trying to solve it and walk through the solution with them. Through these approaches I hope my pupils can have the same feeling when doing maths as I do.

Semester 2 – Week 1

Amongst the fun of seeing my friends again came the realisation I would actually be teaching a class of up to 30 children in a few weeks!

Dance Workshop – Eilidh Slattery

I was really looking forward to this workshop, particularly because the expressive arts weren’t a huge part of my personal primary curriculum in Northern Ireland. The thought of having to teach dance sat well with me as it is something I really enjoyed, however I didn’t realise how connected it was to the other areas of the curriculum! A particular point that stood out to me was when Eilidh made us think of various ways to travel across the room. Some ways were very basic like walking and running, while some were more advanced like rolling across the floor or cartwheeling. Although this was a funny task seeing what everyone decided to do, I didn’t really see the connection until Eilidh pointed it out. Everybody has their own ways and methods of solving problems and approaching tasks; some may be easy, and some may be more complicated, however we all have our own preferences. Some things may work and some things may not work, but the best approach is to keep trying until you find the best one for you – just like our travelling across the room.

 

Professional Practice

Placement is likely the most exciting, yet nerve wracking thing for student teachers, and it really hit home how much responsibility I’ll be having in the classroom. I really need to make the most of every opportunity and really get involved with my pupils on my first placement. I need to allow myself to be nervous as this will be the first time I am teaching full lessons so I have to remember I will never be perfect at it and I will make mistakes, the important thing is learning from them for my future pupils.

Our Society is Failing

I’m aware that’s a pretty bold statement to make, especially considering that the UK provides the likes of the NHS and Education to us for free. However, in a continually changing world, it seems increasingly more difficult to help everyone who is in need. This failure does not lie solely with just the Government but with every single citizen residing in society, including me.

How easy is it to walk down the street past numerous homeless people and not give them anything or walk past another charity collection bucket? For me, I feel overwhelming guilt walking past those who appear to have nothing, especially when I’ve sat and complained about something they could only dream of having. Sometimes, I even question if their circumstances are really as bad as they make them out to be, partly because I know no different from the media and the people around me.

To me, the media portrays those in need as ‘benefit scroungers’, ‘addicts’ or even simply ‘lazy’ and ‘taking the easy route’, and without a doubt that plays on our unconscious bias to alter the way we see those in need.

Whilst reading ‘The Roles We Play’ by ATD 4th World, one particular comment really stood out to me from a disabled mother of three called Moraene:

“I am of value to my community and to society but I’m invisible to those who do not know me and stigmatised bu the headlines they read.”

It’s so easy to discount disabled, unemployed and homeless people of not fully being able to contribute in a meaningful way, however throughout the ATD report, it became clear that those are the people who are the most generous. They give up countless hours of their time to help those in greater need than themselves, and will persevere no matter the circumstance, to ensure that they and their families can have an ‘adequate’ lifestyle. 

They are striving for adequate. Enough to have a roof over their head and a little to eat. Nothing extravagant or unnecessary, and to me that is definitely something I need to adapt to and strive towards.

As a society, I know there is so much more we can do. Whether it be a kind smile to a stranger on the street, buying someone lunch or volunteering to spend time doing something for other people, we should give it our very best shot because we never know when it could hit us or our closest friends and family.

“There’s no such things as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” –  Scott Adams

Equity and Equality

We live in a technologically advanced society where often your possessions provide the first judgement for people. “Oh you have the Iphone X? You must be rich!” “Oh you still have that nokia? Wow that’s old fashioned!”

In our group project today we were given a task to make something, however, we could see that we clearly had less than the other groups and some people started to grumble and complain that we were at a disadvantage because of our lack of resources. The other groups were unaware of this and happily carried on with their abundance of materials whilst we tried to make the best out of what we had.

Although this was a task for our course, we soon learnt it reflected much deeper into society. For me, I took that not every classroom we would enter would have Ipads or interactive whiteboards etc but regardless of that fact, we would have to make the best possible lesson with what we had. In our classroom, we also need to ensure equity. We should give our children as much support as possible depending on their needs. We also need to ensure that we treat everyone equally the same with a complete disregard from any bias we have. Each child deserves constant encouragement and support. Some may need it more than others but we cannot have favourites in the classroom.

Why I chose to become a primary teacher

The first comment I always get when I tell someone I want to teach primary school is “Wow, good luck with that! That is my worst nightmare.” or “That’s a great choice, you’ll have so much free time! Think of all those summer holidays.” But for me, it came down to the possible impact could have.

My desire to become a primary school teacher really started in primary four where I had the best teacher ever. She was so kind, encouraging and helped me to reach my very best every single day. That was the moment I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great to be just like her and be able to make a difference to hundreds of children?”

Truthfully, I was also motivated by my primary school in general. I always felt like there was more I could achieve and a lot more that I could push myself to understand but it never happened. I was a child that loved homework (especially anything to do with maths) but I always had it done in 10 minutes because it just wasn’t a challenge for me. However, when I moved into my grammar school I really felt the consequences of this. My first term was one of the hardest because I just felt so unprepared compared to everyone else.

Fast forward 7 years and I’ve now made it onto my dream course at Dundee. For me, I hope that I can become a teacher who will inspire and challenge her pupils to be the very best they can be. I want to make sure that I play an important part in preparing them for the many challenges they will face the rest of their lives. I can remember the impacts of my teachers and I hope that I can impact even one child to realise their potential. Everyone has different talents and abilities and I hope to help each child realise their ability.

“Let us pick up our books and our pens,” I said. “They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”

Malala Yousafzai, I Am Malala: ‘The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban’