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:
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!
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?
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!
Did you know that the Royal Institution (Science Lives Here – home of the Christmas lectures) has upped its support for science education with even more grants available of up to £500 for schools to spend on science activities listed in the STEM directory?
I had a really productive, and mutually enlightening, consultation with a primary school today who are looking to improve their science provision. Different schools are on very different points of their journey to support science teaching but the importance of science education as a core subject has been highlighted this week by Ofsted’s primary science research report.
We talked about empowering staff through support and CPD, as well as raising children’s engagement in science through inspiring, hands-on investigation – both during curriculum lessons and as whole school science days or weeks.
As in many schools, a culture of fear towards science seems to have developed in this school – research suggests that up to 40% primary school teachers lack confidence in teaching science. Teachers are juggling so many hats on a daily basis that there often isn’t the capacity to think about anything additional and the mountain can seem insurmountable. I was able to suggest some quick and easy practical strategies to initiate change and to spark the scientific imagination.
If you feel that you, or your school, would like some support around using practical science in the classroom, training and CPD for staff, hands-on workshops in your school or advice on how to deliver a science day or week, then do please get in touch to see how I may be able to help.
I still have some availability for fun and engaging hands-on science workshops for schools during science week 8th-17th March and National Careers Week 4th-9th March. Raise science capital in your school and promote STEM careers, providing an enriching experience for pupils.