Catherine is a teacher at Hodthorpe Primary School in Derbyshire: a small school with just four classes from Nursery to Year 6. “We pride ourselves on our holistic approach to education and our family atmosphere, everybody knowing each other and sharing experiences,” says Catherine.
Catherine applied to take part in I’m a Scientist with one class of students, but then realised it was a great opportunity to get the whole school discussing STEM subjects and careers.
“We started with a whole school assembly, where we informed the children about the activity and shared the scientists’ profiles and pictures. We discussed their work and explained how the scientists would use the prize money for research projects. The stereotypical image of a scientist as a middle-aged man in a lab coat with wild hair was quickly dispelled!”
Students in the Year 5/6 top class took part in a live chat with the scientists and were given their own votes to cast, but Catherine wanted all the children at the school to be involved and have a say in who they thought should win.
“We put up a display in the main corridor, using the profile pictures and the scientists’ own description of their work. The top class were encouraged to add post-it notes next to each scientist whenever they found out a new piece of information from their online chats, as a quick way of sharing their knowledge. The rest of the school was then given a counter to place in a plastic wallet underneath the profile pictures, so that they could register their vote too.”
Evictions were announced in the second week of the activity, and as the final drew nearer Catherine says they had a clear school favourite. “We gathered in the hall to see the winner announced live in the chatroom. It wasn’t the scientist that most of our children had voted for, but we were gracious in defeat and gave each runner up and the winner a round of applause!”
From screen to school
One of the scientists in the zone, Rebecca Gosling, lived close to the school, and it was one of the students who asked her during a live chat if she could visit. “We were incredibly fortunate that Dr. Gosling lived within travelling distance and that she was so generous with her time,” says Catherine.
A fabulous opportunity to discuss a plethora of professional vocations and open the children’s eyes to more career opportunities.
“Her visit enhanced the children’s learning enormously: by the time she arrived, the children felt as though they knew her. She was greeted with shouts of “It’s Rebecca! Rebecca’s here!” from the minute she entered the playground!”
Catherine says that Rebecca brought equipment that she used in heart surgery to show the students, and prepared a PowerPoint to deliver in assembly to show the workings of the heart, with sound recordings of healthy and unhealthy heartbeats, so everyone could listen to the difference.
“The whole experience broadened the children’s knowledge of jobs available to scientists and gave them an understanding of why they are learning science. Over 30% of our children are from disadvantaged backgrounds, we are constantly looking for opportunities to inspire, motivate and encourage our pupils to aspire to careers, which they may not have thought about.
“The I’m a Scientist activity was a fabulous opportunity to discuss a plethora of professional vocations and open the children’s eyes to more career opportunities.”