Dr Jo Blogs

Daffodil Dissection

Some recent windy weather had left some bent and broken, sad looking daffodils in my garden. So that they didn’t go to waste, I put a few in a vase inside and also thought it would be good to take a closer look. I normally use alstromerias for plant and flower dissections (lots of flowers per plant so plenty for a class), however, daffodils work well too. Just remember to wash your hands well afterwards, or wear gloves, as daffodils can irritate the skin and are poisonous, so keep away from your mouth.

Remember not to pick flowers when you are out and about and always ask a grown up if you can have one from the garden. You could also use tulips or lilies, but these are also poisonous so keep them well away from your mouth and wash your hands really well afterwards or wear gloves.

Taking a closer look

Now, let’s take a closer look at that flower. The daffodil has two layers of petals, including the modified inner corona (crown), or trumpet, which gives the daffodil it’s classic shape. At the base of the flower is a papery covering, called the spathe. this wraps up the bud before the flower is ready to open. You can carefully pick the spathe and the petals off and lay them out so that we can see the shape better. When I’m doing this with children in school, I usually have a piece of double-sided sticky tape across the page so that students can stick the flower parts directly onto it to keep them safe. If you’re doing this at home, you don’t need to stick them down as you are less likely to lose them when there aren’t 30 other children!

You can now see that the corona looks like a tube enclosing the inner part of the flower. Carefully cut or tear this to remove it and lay that out on the piece of paper too. We are left with the inside parts of the flower, the male and female parts, which are needed to make new daffodil plants. 

Arranged around the outside are six stamens, comprising the filament (the stalk-like bit) and the anther – the pollen-covered end. The pollen is needed to fertilise the female part of the plant, to make seeds to grow new plants*.

*As well as growing from seeds, plants such as daffodils, lillies and tulips also grow from bulbs. A bulb is a storage organ, allowing the plant to be dormant over winter and then grow again in spring.

The female part of the plant is called the pistil and comprises the style (the long tube) and the stigma at the top, as well as the ovary and ovules. The stigma is sticky and you might find some grains of pollen stuck here. The pollen then travels down the tube (style) to the ovules inside the ovary at the base of the flower.

The pollen fertilises the ovules to make seeds. 

As the flowers die, the ovary swells as the seeds develop.

You can see all the different parts of the flower laid out on your piece of paper. Can you label them?

As daffodils are insect-pollinated, they rely on insects travelling from flower to flower collecting nectar, picking up pollen from the anthers along the way and depositing it on the stigma of other flowers. Other types of plants might be wind-pollinated, or even use birds or bats (or other insects) to pollinate their flowers!

Another way to get a closer look at the parts of a flower is to carefully cut the flower in half. Ask a grown up to use a sharp knife to carefully cut down the middle, including the ovary and stem. You can see the different parts clearly:

Why don’t you have a go at investigating the different parts of a flower today? You could use a magnifying glass, take a photograph and label it, and have a go at some observational drawing, too.

#ScienceFromHome #ScienceInYourGarden #Daffodil #Dissection #Plants #Year 1 #Year2 #Year3 #Pollination #FloweringPlants #BeCurious #DrJo #DrJoScience #HomeSchooling #DistanceLearning #HomeLearning #HomeSchooling2020 #PrimaryScience #PlantScience #Botany 

A real-life story of a forgotten (female) science pioneer!

I heard the most incredible story from one of my science club children this week (we’re connecting virtually during these times of school closures) about his Great Grandmother.

We have been wearing our lab coats in science club to protect us when we do experiments and Z wanted to tell me that his Great Grandma, Dr Elizabeth Dowsett (known as Dr Betty Dowsett), actually invented a much better lab coat for preventing cross contamination in the lab!

It’s called the Dowsett-Heggie lab coat – although I know it as the Howie labcoat, named after a 1978 report commissioned by the UK Department of Health and Social Security to set out standard clinical laboratory practices, chaired by Howie. Nicknamed the “Howie-Style” coat to indicate its compliance with the provisions of this report, it has wrap over closings, elasticated wrists and a mandarin collar1. I wore this style of lab coat for microbiology practicals when I was at University.

However, Z told me that his Great Grandmother was annoyed at how many male doctors were cross contaminating the samples with their ties and their sleeves touching everything, so she designed a lab coat with slimmed sleeves, elasticated wrists, and a closed neck with poppers for easier access (and quicker removal) than buttons. It also had a pocket for pens. Apparently, she invented it by herself (in 19722) but asked her male colleague, James Heggie, if she could add his name to it as she feared it might not have been published in the medical journals of the time. He reluctantly agreed, although he had nothing to do with the design at all. 

The family knew nothing of this until she died a few years ago and at a memorial for her run by her patient groups (she was a leading researcher of the causes of ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), a member of the Heggie family was there and told them this amazing story about the lab coat.

Dr Xand van Tulleken (Operation Ouch) even tweeted about supporting all the hidden women of science and recognising their achievements after wearing one of Dr Dowsett’s lab coats on TV! 


1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_coat

2 https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(72)90988-9/fulltext

Resources for schooling at home #Covid19

I’ve put together a comprehensive set of useful websites and resources for primary science activities, primarily for parents to use with children whilst self isolating/social distancing/supporting schooling at home during the coronavirus situation, but they may also be of use to teachers providing content in schools and online.

You can find them on my website at https://drjosciencesolutions.co.uk/workshops-2/resources/

Have lots of fun – make it memorable, experience-led and not worksheet heavy! I can’t take responsibility for content of external sites. Stay safe – and wash your hands!

Oh my goodness, Dr Jo has won an award!

I was absolutely delighted to win the STE(A)M Education Blog Award at last week’s @NexusEd #NexusAwards2020 for my post on where to find help and support for teaching primary science

In 2019, Nexus Education asked me to write a guest blog post for them on primary science. Inspired by a keynote lecture I gave at a Science Learning Partnership Primary Science conference last summer, I decided to consolidate my thoughts and suggestions for primary science coordinators and primary teachers on where to go for resources for planning, teaching and assessing primary science. It’s a bumper post signposting useful organisations, websites, resources, ideas and individuals.

Teachers are busy people. I like helping people. Especially fellow teachers. I’m honoured that this blog post was so well received and is offering help and advice, and I’m even more delighted to have won an award for it. Thank you so much Nexus Education.

You can watch the awards ceremony here (I’m on just before 1:16:00)

You can read the original post here: https://www.nexus-education.com/find-help-support-primary-science/

As educators, there’s always more to learn and I’ve been busy collating further ideas and suggestions so watch this space for an update coming soon!

#PrimaryScience #STEM #STEAM #primaryschoolscience #primaryschoolscienceworkshop #scienceteacher #primaryteacher #scienceeducation #STEMed #STEMeducation #UKedChat #DrJo #DrJoScience #BeCurious #teachersfollowteachers #NexusEd #NexusAwards2020 #sharingiscaring

Kitchen Science – a guest blog post

It’s only 4 weeks until British Science Week and so I was approached by home educating experts, The World Is Their Classroom, to write about some easy to do ‘kitchen science’ experiments to prepare for science week.

I’ve put together some fun and thought-provoking ideas for a guest blog post for their followers – but it’s full of great ideas and explanations for teachers, schools, parents, children and home educators alike.

You can find the kitchen science guest post by Dr Jo here and some sneak peak photos below.

#schools #schoolscience #primaryschoolscience #primaryscience #STEMeducation #homeeducation #scienceiseverywhere #scienceteacher #scienceisfun #kitchen science #kitchen chemistry #solidsliquidsgases #chemicalreaction #changingstates #chromatography #pH #acidsandalkalis #fizzingpotions #effervescence #density #viscosity #BeCurious #DrJo #DrJoScience

Reflections and highlights from ASE conference 2020

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!

#ASE #ASEconf2020 #PrimaryScience #PriSci #DrJo #DrJoScience #BeCurious #handsonscience #scienceisforeveryone #scienceiseverywhere #STEMed #STEMeducation #scienceed #scienceeducation #UKEdChat #ASEchat #teachersfollowteachers #teachersofinstagram #teachersonfacebook #teachertwitter #tweachers #scienceteacher #teachingideas #EYFS #year1 #year2 #year3 #year4 #year5 #year6 #primary #schools #education #science #STEM

Visit www.drjosciencesolutions.co.uk/workshops to see if there’s workshop I can provide to support your current teaching topics.


Investigating plants: seeds and seed dispersal

It’s the perfect time of year to be collecting conkers, finding seeds, thinking about seed dispersal and observing seasonal changes. There’s so much science to be found outside at this time of year! Whether you have a huge rural space or your children walk past a tiny urban park on their way to school, there are so many opportunities to be had.

Here are just a few ideas:

  • Collect a whole host of different seeds: group them; observe them; draw them; think about them; how do they work? What happens next? How do they get to where they need to be? Do they use the wind? Do they use animals?
  • What are seeds? How do plants reproduce?
  • Explore how the seeds might be designed eg. sycamore seeds, aerodynamics etc, make your own paper helicopters; which designs work best? What happens if you make the ‘wings’ bigger/smaller?
  • Explore how animals might be involved, link to food chains, nutrition, healthy eating, digestion, characteristics of living things. 
  • What is fruit? Does it contain seeds? Why? What happens to the seeds? Who eats it? You could investigate transit of ‘seeds’ through the digestive system using sweetcorn – and time how long it takes to re-appear 😉
  • Do bigger apples contain more seeds? How could you find out? Pattern seeking
  • What about changing states? What happens when you cook fruit? Make jam – what changes can you observe?
  • What’s eating the pine cones? What else do squirrels eat? Do squirrels really stash food for the winter? Do they find it again? 
  • Play conkers – could you investigate what makes the best conker? Biggest? Smallest? What about ‘traditional’ treatments such as soaking in water or vinegar or baking? Do these help to make it harder? How could you test it? (Hint: they harden as they dry out, but also become more brittle so can shatter. Always take safety precautions eg. goggles. Fresh conkers have a waxy cushion layer to help protect them as they fall from trees)

Check out these links to find even more fruit and seed information, activities and resources:




#conkers #seeds #seeddispersal #foodchains #foodwebs #plants #plantreproduction #plantscience #fruit #pinecone #sycamoreseed #helicopter #seasonalchanges #autumn #harvest #digestion #digestivesystem #changingstates #propertiesofmaterials #eyfs #ks1 #ks2 #primaryscience #stemeducation #DrJo #DrJoScience #BeCurious

Science week and the importance of volunteering

I’ve been volunteering at scientific events since my undergraduate days more than 25 years ago – long before it was fashionable, popular or even that common to find events. I feel that it’s really important to give something back and to share my passion and excitement for science. Since then, public engagement – or public understanding of science as it was known then – and science communication has blossomed and there are now more and more people sharing their love for their subject and helping people to understand science, increase scientific literacy, science capital and to consider it as a career. Many of these are linking with schools and beyond through STEM Ambassadors .

We are exceedingly fortunate in my hometown of Cambridge to be surrounded by amazing scientific research, scientists and public events and activities. In this academic year alone, I have enjoyed being involved with LifeLab events (including a new one for me leading historical scientific guided tours around Cambridge), Big Biology Day, Twilight at The Museums at the newly re-opened Zoology Museum, Schools’ Day this week and the biggest event of the year, the Cambridge Science Festival , starting this weekend!

These events and activities are an opportunity to engage with people of all ages, find out new things and to spread the joy of science. Wherever you are in the UK, British Science Week this week is a chance to get involved. If you’re local to Cambridge, do look up the myriad amazing events happening over the next two weeks of the Cambridge Science Festival – and maybe I’ll see you there!

National Careers Week 4-9th March 2019

It’s National Careers Week in the UK, as well as National Apprenticeship Week #NCW2019 #NAW2019, and my thoughts have been turning to careers advice and provision. There has been much discussion on #edutwitter about when is the optimum time to talk about careers with children and young people. The ASPIRES report suggests that we should certainly be doing this before the age of 11, and research also indicates that children are starting to rule out job areas from the age of 8. Why then is so much careers advice focused on secondary school students?

searching for answers

It is obviously appropriate to be talking about careers and next steps for young people making decisions about their futures, but it is also imperative that we start to expose children to a wider sphere of influence at earlier ages. If you don’t know what different jobs and careers exist, how can you possibly decide if it’s for you or not? I’m not suggesting that this is yet another item to add on to the already overcrowded primary curriculum or to be yet one more thing for primary school teachers to be responsible for. Like so many other skills and experiences we want our young people to have, this is everyone’s responsibility: parents, teachers, grandparents, school leaders, companies and organisations, communities and the wider society. We need to raise aspirations and, more importantly, to widen aspirations, influences and exposure to the big, wide, exciting world out there; to inspire children and young people to explore their interests and strengths, to experience new ones, and even to create new roles for themselves and find fulfilment in the wondrous world out there. I would obviously advocate that an interest in science can lead to many exciting things, but there are valuable and rewarding niches for everyone – if only you know about them!