Friday, November 17, 2017

Fundraising and having fun!

Celebrating ten years of golfing for CIEC in front of Slaley Hall

During September, golfers from across the North-East England's chemical industry hit the courses at Northumberland's Slaley Hall for a day of networking, fun and fund raising in support of CIEC's Children Challenging Industry project.

Lining up before the game starts. 

Billingham-based pump manufacturer, Tomlinson Hall, scooped this year's top prize and was  crowned NEPIC Golf Champion 2017. Through personal contributions, £500 was raised for CCI. The event, which has been running for over a decade, has continually supported CIEC activities.

The Tomlinson Hall winning team

Friday, November 10, 2017

A Creative Approach to Teaching Science

"If you want to know how to make children love science then you must get this book"
Alison Brackenridge     

The front cover of Nicky's new book.

Here at CIEC HQ we are extremely proud that our colleague Nicky Waller has recently had a book published by Bloomsbury!  Those of you that have worked with her will know that she is a very experienced primary science teacher who is brimming with ideas for ways to teach the subject, so you will not be surprised to know that she has produced an extermely useful book.

It is cram packed with fantastic ideas to teach every single element of the primary science curriculum in a meaningful and engaging way.   The layout of the book is logical and straightforward so that teachers can quickly find the learning objectives that they are planning to teach.  There they will find manageable lesson ideas which Nicky has tried and tested with the recommended age group so they can be sure that they really will work as intended.  Teachers will find that the activities, as well as being fun, will support children to develop a secure understanding of the concepts that they are teaching.

Of course, you may think that we are biased because we work with Nicky but if you look at the reviews on Amazon you will see that others agree with us!  

Nicky at a recent event where she met some of her readers.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Tomorrow's Engineers

Children can feel inspired, motivated and spend more time engaged on task when the problems posed involve them searching for a purposeful outcome, particularly when some-one is asking for their advice! The sensor activity on page 16 of our publication ‘Generating Electricity’ (which can be found at  provides this kind of context and would be a useful challenge to give children during ‘Tomorrow’s Engineers Week’ (6th -10th November) while covering KS2 objectives for electricity.

After receiving a letter from ‘Electricaid’ children work collaboratively to design and build a mini working model of a well which includes some kind of sensor to warn when the water has reached a desired level. Each group is given a large beaker (1000ml) to represent their well, one 1.5V cell and the rest is up to them!

The most innovative designs are achieved when children are provided with a selection of basic circuit equipment as well as lots of everyday conducting and insulating materials to choose from - paper clips, drawing pins, split pins, coins, corks, cotton reels, tin foil, bottle tops, glue, blu-tac, sellotape, card, plastic tubes and plastic sheets (A4 overhead projector transparencies are ideal) plus anything else that the children think they will need.

Working collaboratively

Children are encouraged to discuss and swap ideas not just at the planning stage but throughout this activity, jotting and amending notes and annotated drawings on whiteboards and listing the types of equipment they may need to start with and then to modify and improve their designs. Giving children space to make mistakes as they design and evaluate their designs through a process of trial and error helps children to develop a deep understanding of what they are doing as well as fostering real pride in their achievements.

 It can be valuable not to show children the diagram of a successful design which is provided in the resource until after they have made their own sensors.  When they do this teachers are amazed at the variety of ideas and at the ingenuity of children.  Most models have some kind of floating conductor (say a ‘raft’ of corks covered in tin foil) placed in the bottom of the well. When water is added and the level rises, this floats up to touch a carefully positioned contact point near the top of the well which is then connected to a simple circuit built safely away from the water.  

Close up of a working sensor

We would love to see your children’s designs; you can tweet them to @ciecyork for a chance to win a hard copy of some of our resources!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Bring it on!

CIEC has recently been involved in and exciting new science and engineering event.  ‘Bring it On!’ was held at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland on 3 and 4 October this year. It was the first event of its kind in the North East, bringing together national and regional organisations to showcase the amazing career opportunities there are open to young people in the region. The aim of the event was to inspire and motivate young people in primary and secondary education to choose science and engineering as their future career.
Nicky Waller with a selection of CIEC publications and a copy of her recently published book "A Creative Approach to Teaching Science"
Nicky Waller from CIEC was invited to exhibit our resources and materials, as part of the primary day on 3 October, alongside many local businesses with exciting demonstrations and machinery to really show the breadth of engineering activities taking place from the Yorkshire border, to the Scottish border, from the Pennines to the sea.
Many schools that had taken part in the Children Challenging Industry programme in Teesside attended the event with their teachers. Their day involved opportunities to talk to inspirational local individuals who have made a successful career in engineering as well as visiting seven fascinating zones to explore different aspects of engineering and understand the many contexts it is applied in.

Friday, October 20, 2017

CIEC team meeting

Clockwise around table starting bottom right: Nicky, Jenny (with her back to camera), Pam, Maria, June, Joy and Louise
The CIEC team is widely dispersed around the country and much of our contact is by email or telephone.  However, four or five times a year we get together for a team meeting; how lovely it is to meet up in person!

This week all of us were able to get to our office in the University of York except for Su as it was a teaching day for her.   For many of us it was the first chance that we had had to meet our newest recruit in person.  June has been our administrator for a month, but already we feel that she is an indispensable member of CIEC!

June, with Pam and Maria to the left and Jane to the right of the picture.

We also had a progress report from Pam and Maria, our post-doctoral researchers.  It is important to us that what we do is as effective as possible so the work that Pam and Maria is vital.  It ensures that what we do is based upon careful evidence rather than anecdotes.   This time they explained to us how they are ensuring that evidence is collected from as wide a range of those who work in industry as possible.

Maria (left) and Pam

Later in the day we spent some time thinking about the core purpose of CIEC.  This is important as we are involved in such a wide range of different activities such as producing resources for teachers, providing CPD, facilitating links between children and industry and supporting STEM ambassadors to work in schools.  These various activities are carried out by different members of the team so it is vital that we make sure that we are all pulling in the same direction.

Jenny (with back to camera) outlines her thoughs about our team strategy to the rest of the team.
It would be interesting to know how clear our purpose is to our partners and users.  We will send a copy of our acclaimed primary resource ‘Working Scientifically’ to anyone who lets us know what they think it is by adding a sentence to the comments before the end of October.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Thinking, Doing, Talking Science

On Tuesday, CIEC ran another successful Thinking, Doing, Talking Science day.  Thirty teachers from Lincolnshire and beyond came to Bishop Grosseteste University to learn more about this exciting project, and how it could help to improve outcomes in their school.

The project has been developed by Helen Wilson of Oxford Brookes and Bridget Holligan of Science Oxford.  It supports teachers to develop children's higher order thinking skills and science understanding through a mixture of practical activities and opportunities to explore and discuss their ideas with each other.  This is the second year that CIEC have been involved with the project.  Joy Parvin and Jane Winter run the sessions in Lincolnshire and Nicky Waller and Jenny Harvey run them in Middlesborough.

So far feedback from teachers has been very positive.  They say that it has improved their own enjoyment of teaching science and has increased children's engagement.

Early results also suggest that there is a significant improvement in children's outcomes, although there is no data from the latest phase of the trial yet.  In the meantime we are just having fun doing science with so many enthusiastic teachers.

Friday, October 6, 2017

What’s in a Fire Extinguisher?

This week we continue to explore CIEC’s popular resource for primary teachers, ‘Kitchen Concoctions’, which has been updated for the new academic year 2017/18. Nine revised, exciting science activities (with teacher guidance) can be downloaded for free at

Activity 9: ‘What’s in a fire extinguisher?’ has been significantly revised to begin with a class discussion of extinguishers, buckets and blankets, and their use in putting out fires. Children then enjoy the practical aspect of modelling for themselves how one type of real fire extinguisher works by creating carbon dioxide gas from a solid (bicarbonate of soda) – liquid (vinegar) mixture, to extinguish a candle flame.

This exciting activity links perfectly with the National Curriculum for England statutory requirement for year 5 pupils in science which states that pupils should be taught to: ‘explain that some changes result in the formation of new materials, and that this kind of change is not usually reversible, including changes associated with burning and the action of bicarbonate of soda.’

Proving to be a new favourite with Key Stage Two teachers, the activity requires simple equipment (as shown in the diagram) and minimal set up time to provide an almost instant wow factor! Full safety guidance is also provided in this revised version of the resource.

The activity also includes detailed teacher notes with ‘Questions for Thinking’ to probe children’s understanding of the processes taking place. Teachers have commented on the value of having updated cross curricular links to the English curriculum as well as suggestions for progression to outdoor learning and Forest Schools materials.

Nicky Waller