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.