I’ve just come back from the Association for Science Education (ASE) Annual conference #ASEconf2020, this year at Reading University. It’s an inspiring, if exhausting, coming together of science educators to share ideas and passion. It’s an excellent chance to be inspired and challenged to think, to network and share best practice. As well as enjoying some fantastic sessions from others, I also made my #ASE presenting debut this year and ran a session on practical primary science (see below).
In addition to a useful and informative exhibition, there are so many concurrent sessions, that it’s difficult to get to everything you want to. Here are some of my highlights:
I had the pleasure of hearing Lynne Bianchi’s keynote speech on ‘connecting the dots’ in our own personal professional journeys, including the amazing Great Science Share for Schools, a free, inclusive, non-competitive, child-centered annual event.
Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT) fellows Paul Tyler and Alison Trew showcased their latest #CuttingEdgeScience #IBetYouDidntKnow resources to inspire Primary Science – taking current research topics, summarising them to make them accessible and designing accompanying activities for primary pupils, such as the design a sieve activity to separate everyday items such as pasta and rice, to help understand the graphene sieve innovation to provide clean drinking water.
I also popped into the Science and Plants in Schools (SAPS) drop in Lab to explore a plethora of plant science based enquiry, most of it aimed at secondary, but also plenty of ideas to adapt to fit the primary curriculum and extend the plant workshops I already offer.
During the Primary Teachmeet, there was an opportunity to meet and network with new and old connections and to hear updates on resources, such as:
- #FarmerTime – the initiative previously known as #FaceTimeaFarmer linking real life farmers with school children to enhance the curriculum
- The related @NFUEducation offering #Farming STEMterprise
- Updates on new features on the Explorify website
- #TopicalScienceUpdates a free summary of topical science stories for a primary audience from @Glazgow
- How @CLEAPSS_Primary can support risk assessments and health and safety in schools
- New environmental resources from Practical Action
- STEM careers linked to topics in the primary curriculum from @SciKathryn
- New activities from @Gratnells #WhatsInMyTray
I finally got to meet two online twitter contacts in real life in the final session of the conference for Rose Edmondson and Liz Chilvers’ session offering guidance on running a STEM club in school. They gave lots of information on why and how to run a STEM club, including lots of go-to activities which work well.
Practical primary Science with Dr Jo
My session, called Practical Primary Science with Dr Jo, was well attended (something I’m thankful for as there is so much to experience at #aseconf and the way the packed schedule is devised means that there are often clashes of similar topics and you never quite know who will turn up!) and my attendees were enthusiastic and joined in with the hands-on activities. The session focused on the key themes of encouraging discovery/investigation and questioning in children, addressing misconceptions and sequencing learning, all via practical activities as examples to highlight points and as a scaffold to the narrative. I talk and explain as I go, demonstrating and providing opportunities for hands-on learning and dual coding, whilst making children – and adults – think!
Feedback from attendees suggests that they valued the opportunity to get hands-on with practical activities, including some new tweaks to tried and tested ideas and the prompts to think about sequencing learning. There was a mix of experience in the room, including in years of service, keystage and country of teaching. Through a mixture of differentiation, direct teaching, scaffolding, extension and paired work, everyone was supported to achieve and learn something!
As a bit of background for those who don’t know me, I’m a qualified primary teacher and a research scientist, with more than 20 years experience delivering science in schools with children and for teacher CPD. I’m passionate about practical science and about maximising it’s impact. It’s not just about taking a practical activity out of the box and running with it. You need to really understand the science about what’s happening, and why, in order to encourage questioning and address any misconceptions. I find that interleaving knowledge-rich content, with context and explicit instructions works well to ensure children understand and know what they are doing. It’s about ensuring that children are learning the things we want/need them to learn. There’s always a place for open ended discovery – indeed that is how we learn about many things – but when addressing a specific learning objective within the curriculum, it’s important that children learn that mixing an acid and an alkali results in a chemical reaction producing carbon dioxide gas if that’s what the teaching is, and not just “We mixed some things and it fizzed”.
If you’ve read this far, then thanks for your endurance! The ASE Annual conference is a welcoming, inclusive, vibrant and busy event with something for everyone. It’s incredible CPD. If you haven’t been before then do look out for Birmingham 2021 and I hope to see you there!
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Visit www.drjosciencesolutions.co.uk/workshops to see if there’s workshop I can provide to support your current teaching topics.