“It was a really easy project to engage with for both children and teachers; it only took me about 30 minutes to prepare for all 3 lessons. I was pleasantly surprised with just how excited students were to get responses from serious adults about their work and the adults’ interests.” – Vicky Heslop, Year 6 teacher
A junior school that meets our widening participation criteria took part in the Climate Zone of I’m a Scientist for the first time in March 2018 with their three Year 6 classes. The activity broadened student aspirations, improved enquiry skills and challenged their perceptions of scientists.
Why apply for I’m a Scientist?
The school is in a small town with low levels of aspiration and social mobility where very few young people go on to higher education. 47.5% of students at the school qualify for Pupil Premium funding and the proportion of free school meals eligible students is over twice the national average.
Teachers were finding it difficult to promote working scientifically skills and to support students in developing an enquiring attitude within the curriculum. “We wanted to provide a broader experience of what science is and to increase student aspirations,” says Vicky.
What did students do?
The activity was spread across 3 lessons on different days which Vicky felt was “particularly good for the anxious students in Year 6, allowing them to ‘take a break’ from SATs preparations with something that was still a valuable use of time.” Students started by considering how to judge the scientists, then got to know them using their profiles and asking questions on the site. The final lesson involved an online chat where students typed their questions and responses to scientists online in real time. “Connecting with the scientists online provided an opportunity to have positive social contact with adults in roles they wouldn’t normally have contact with,” observed Vicky.
Did it work?
Vicky told us science has become more relevant and attainable for students and how their aspirations have broadened to include science – “After the live chat, students were telling me how they’d like to become scientists.”
Students’ perceptions of scientists have changed as a result of taking part – “I thought scientists were boring but now I think they’re AWESOME!” – Year 6 student
What else did students gain?
“Students developed oracy skills,” says Vicky “and the ability to ask appropriate questions.” Vicky also explained how the school has had issues with inappropriate use of instant messaging and how I’m a Scientist was “a great way to demonstrate a positive use of this technology,” helping students learn appropriate online etiquette.
When asked if she’ll take part next year, Vicky says “I hope to and I’ll be telling the other teachers about the activity as it’s such a good one for our students.”
If you’d like to broaden your students’ aspirations with I’m a Scientist activities, register your interest here: imascientist.org.uk/teachers
Already registered? Don’t forget to apply for the next event – we email registered teachers when applications open (about 2 months before the event starts).