Monday, October 14, 2019

CIEC Role Badges - Promoting Teamwork and Roles from the World of Work

Introducing Role Badges
This week we are featuring our very popular resource - Role Badges. These can be used in any science lesson, and as an advisory teacher for our Children Challenging Industry (CCI) programme, I’d like to share with you my own experience of using them in schools.
While carrying out a CCI science activity, children are given the opportunity to work in small ‘companies’. Each child chooses a role within the group, for example,  Health and Safety Manager or Resources Manager. The children wear a lanyard with a badge showing their role within their ‘company’.
There are five role badges - Health and Safety Manager, Communications Officer, Resources Manager, Administration Officer, and Personnel Manager

The Role Badges provide an excellent opportunity for the children to focus on working cooperatively as a team, whilst highlighting real jobs from the world of industry. The roles can be swapped each lesson so that the children can experience different tasks. Pupils enthusiastically enter into these roles and the badges add an extra buzz of excitement to the lesson!
Children at a school in the North East of England
So How Do The Badges Work In Practice?
Each badge carries a set of responsibilities which are outlined in the resource information. Once the badges are explained the children very eagerly assume their roles.
We strongly encourage teachers to carry out science in groups of four, and provide the fifth role badge purely for classes where the occasional group of five is required. Otherwise, the responsibilities of the Administration Officer are merged with those of the Communication Officer.
The Personnel Manager is responsible for eliminating any disputes within the group and ensuring the team works cooperatively.  Great for developing teamwork skills.
A particularly popular badge is that of Resources Manager. The pupil who is assigned this role is solely in charge of collecting and returning all the resources needed.   This promotes independent working as the children select their own resources.
The Communications Officer elicits the group’s ideas and responses and reports back to the rest of the class whilst the Administration Officer is responsible for keeping pictorial or written records during the activity, e.g. predictions, tables of results, lists of resources, diagrams, conclusions or evaluations for the group.
Lastly, we must not forget to mention the all-important Health and Safety Manager who is responsible for overseeing the safety of the group and assessing any risk involved in practical activities. The pupils are interested to hear that in every UK company today, the Health and Safety Officer is a vital role! Another great topic for discussion.
The badges reflect the CCI programme’s emphasis on careers in industry and prompt the children to begin considering work roles before they encounter ambassadors from industry, or if they are lucky, meet adults on visits to the workplace - as we are able to offer through CCI.
A CCI ambassador, Stephanie Udeogu from Johnson Matthey, talks to a group of children about her role in industry.
An Excellent Tool for Classroom Organisation and Confidence Building and Teamwork
The Role Badges aid classroom organisation by ensuring classroom areas don’t become overcrowded as only a few children need to move around to get the resources they need.  There are nominated people in each group to feedback and record, which ensures a smooth lesson.  
Children can sometimes initially lack confidence when assuming a role but often rise to the challenge and discover that they can do something new.   Prompting each other about their roles enables heightened interaction and promotes good teamwork. Children develop social skills when working in their roles in all sorts of unexpected ways, for example, learning to be less ‘bossy’ or more encouraging,  learning to support others in their roles if they need it, sharing and making decisions. They enjoy the feeling of being given an adult role and feel empowered by it. The badges foster independent work and develop organisational skills.
As one expert testifies: "I have been using the CCI role badges for many years and they are a brilliant way to organise practical science lessons. The children often remind each other of when it is their turn to respond or collect equipment or record some important information. The personnel manager is a fantastic way to ensure teamwork such as turn-taking, sharing and working together." Nicola Waller, CCI Advisory Teacher.

Full details of the role badges are available in the CIEC Primary Resources section which can be downloaded from

Monday, June 10, 2019

CIEC resources in action

Jenny Martin shares her expertise with children from Challoner Primary School
This month we feature a guest post from Chartered Chemical Engineer Jenny Martin.

As a chartered chemical engineer who moved into “semi retirement” (otherwise known as “maternity leave”) many years ago, I have made it my mission to spread the wonders of science to all young minds who cross my path.  I have been working as a childminder and volunteering at several local schools so the young minds available to me have been many!

Several years ago, I discovered “Children Challenging Industry” while it was being presented to the Year 6 pupils at my local primary school.  I delved into the bank of resources available on their website and have continued to do so at regular intervals ever since.

I have used the “Tidy and Sort” resources with groups of Reception/Year 1/2 children.  The resources were clear and simple to follow; the story book being a great visual guide to set the scene and start the children thinking.

The front cover of the Tidy and Sort resource that Jenny has used with EYFS and  KS1 chidlren to 'get them thinking'.

While teaching States of Matter to a group of Year3/4 children, I used the “Whip or Squirt?” test from the Kitchen Concoctions resource pack.  This was an excellent experiment comparing dairy cream and artificial cream.  It encouraged some great discussions and ideas for recording their results.

Learning about states of matter using the whipped cream activity from the CIEC resource Kitchen Concoctions.
 I am currently working with a group of four Year 5 “Science Ambassadors” to help them deliver science activities across the whole school.  So far they have led States of Matter themed experiments with Years 3, 4 and 5 classes and all involved seem to be enjoying themselves.

A Year 5 science ambassador shares his enthusiasm for science with some younger children.

It is so rewarding when the children rush up to me in the playground to ask when I am coming back into school to do more science.  Historically, science has been perceived as the “boring” or “hard” subject, it is great to see the tide turning and it now being promoted to the fun topic it so rightly deserves!
Mission accomplished!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Science of Healthy Skin: Investigating what happens when oil is added to water

Full details of the activity can be found in the CIEC resource 'Science of Healthy Skin’ which can be downloaded from:
Based upon the extraction of lanolin from wool grease, the activities in this resource include testing immiscible liquids using oil and water and investigating the effects of adding detergent to produce emulsions which in turn reduce the efficiency of the separation of oil from water.

The Activity: Fleece to Grease


  • 300 ml water
  • 300 ml sunflower oil
  • 50 ml clear water - sample A
  • 50ml clear glycerine - sample B
  • 50 ml clear detergent - sample C
  • 50 ml white vinegar - sample D
  • 4 clear plastic mini pop bottles or lidded containers around 30ml per group of 4 children
  • Pipette x 1 for each child
  • Teaspoon or similar for stirring
  • 100 ml measuring cylinder 


  • To describe changes that occur when materials are mixed
  • To make systematic observations and measurements
  • To know that that some liquids do not mix, can be separated easily and are termed ‘immiscible’
  • To observe that detergent can cause immiscible liquids to mix, producing an emulsion

What happens when oil is added to water?

Each child in the team of 4 to pour 10ml of water and 10ml of oil into one of the containers.
Ask them to wait for 1 minute to see what happens to the oil and water.
Tip the containers upside down four times and ask the children .....
  • Did the oil and water mix?
  • Did shaking make the liquids mix?
  • Why do you think this happened?

The oil and mixture quickly separate when they are on their own.  But will adding any of the other ingredients make a difference?

Investigate whether adding sample A, B, C or D affects the separation of water and oil.

Using the pipette, add 10 drops of sample A to one of the bottles, 10 drops of sample, B to another bottle and 10 drops of samples C and D to the other two bottles.
Ask children to observe how long it takes for the oil and water to separate after 4 shakes.
Ask them to consider how they will record their observations.

Health and Safety
Remind the children not to drink their samples.

  • planning different types of scientific enquiries to answer questions, including recognising and controlling variables where necessary
  • Taking measurements, using a range of scientific equipment, with increasing accuracy and precision, taking repeat readings when appropriate
  • Use observations, measurements or other data to draw conclusions

Subject Knowledge

Learning Objectives
  • Know that changes occur when materials are mixed and some of these are reversible

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Thinking, Doing, Talking Science

CIEC has recently been involved in the latest trial of a flagship professional development programme in science teaching – Thinking, Doing, Talking Science (TDTS).  TDTS aims to support teachers to make science lessons in primary schools more practical, creative and challenging - with a focus on the development of higher order thinking skills. It does this by giving them lots of ideas for engaging practical lessons combined with strategies which provoke reasoning and creative thinking.

One of these strategies is called PMI (plus, minus, interesting).  Teachers suggest a scenario to children and then invite them to work in small groups to think of all of the positives that they can about the scenario.  They are then asked to think about all of the possible draw backs, or negatives, of the same scenario.  Finally, they are asked to think of any interesting questions or thoughts that the discussion have given rise to.

One possible PMI question is What if we lived in a world without gravity?  
(picture sourced from pixabay)           

Well, for one thing, there’d no longer be a market for helium filled balloons! PMI is such a successful strategy because there are no right or wrong answers and this gives children the confidence to contribute their thoughts and ideas.  However, the children will use, and reveal, a lot of their scientific understanding as they take part in the discussion.  As well as giving teachers a valuable assessment opportunity the discussion can help to move children’s thinking forward as they explore their ideas together.

TDTS has been developed by Science Oxford and Oxford Brooks University and initial trials have shown that it has the potential to increase children’s engagement with and attainment in science, especially for vulnerable groups of pupils.  The impact has not been so marked with the roll out stage of the trial.  Nevertheless, results are promising enough that the EEF are continuing to fund trials of this low-cost intervention as “the available evidence indicates that the programme can be implemented at scale through a train-the-trainers model, that it is valued by teachers exposed to the programme, and it changes their teaching practices in a manner consistent with the hypothesis.”  CIECs Nicky Waller will be continuing to work with the core team during this next stage of the pilot.

Teachers on one of the TDTS training days in Lincolnshire

Feedback from teachers has been very positive.  After attending the training with CIEC one of the teachers from a Lincolnshire school wrote

My head teacher thoroughly loves the new way of teaching science that I am doing since coming on the course, she loves the way the children have such high level thinking, the questions they asked and the previous lessons that they were drawing up on. So thank you for giving me knowledge and inspiring me to teach science in a completely different way!"

For more information on the TDTS project, go to

Monday, December 10, 2018

Cough Syrup: Investigating viscosity

Full details of the activity can be found in the free CIEC resource Cough Syrup which can be down loaded from

he activities in this resource look at the way a new cough syrup can be developed. Children work to identify the best conditions for growing micro-organisms to produce the active ingredient in the medicine, the best way to collect it, and the ideal consistency for the syrup. Economic and commercial factors are also considered. The activity described here invites children to investigate the effect of altering the ratios of specific ingredients on the viscosity of the resulting syrups. The aim is to find the best consistency for a cough medicine.

The Activity: Viscosity Testing

  • Activity sheet 5 (1 per child, optional)
  • 50 ml liquid glucose (available from most supermarkets or pharmacists)
  • 50 ml glycerine
  • 50 ml water
  • 20 ml measuring cylinder                                                                  
  • Small containers                                                                                           
  • Plastic spoons or stirrers
  • Measuring spoons
  • Pipettes
  • Blank sticky labels

  For the viscosity testing (depending on the test chosen)
  • 3-4 marbles
  • 1 plastic funnel
  • 1 stop clock
  • 1 30 cm length of dowel marked in centimetres
  • 1 30 x 20 cm board (or other smooth surface)

  • Begin the lesson by discussing the meaning of ‘viscosity’ with the children and explain that it is the scientific term used to describe the ‘runniness’ of a liquid. Encourage discussion about how runny a medicine would need to be, based on the children’s own experience. 
  • Show children the three ingredients that could be used to produce a syrup to carry the active ingredient in the medicine they are producing: liquid glucose, glycerine and water.
  • Next, ask the children to explain why, in a commercial environment, it is vital that a recipe is systematically recorded and reproduced so that it is identical each time? Is it important to accurately measure and record the amounts of the liquids used?  How can we ensure that the runniness is the same.
  • Ask the children how they are going to measure the viscosity of the cough syrup samples they make. Show the children the equipment listed above and get them to work in groups to think which items could be used to test viscosity (e.g. timing a marble sinking through liquid).
  • Once they have decided on a way to test viscosity the children can now begin their investigation. Encourage them to use different proportions, combinations and ratios of liquids (a total of 50 ml of any of the liquids combined is enough to obtain results).  Once a sample has been tested and recorded it can be changed to dilute or thicken and then retested provided the changes are recorded.
  • Ask the children to explain results, which combination do you think would make the best cough mixture?   Explain your conclusion. 
  • Ask the children to think about whether their tests were fair, their results reliable and whether there are any improvements that they could make to their tests.

  • Link this activity to the subject of ratio in maths.
  • Discuss the use of glucose in the recipe and the fact that sugar in medicines and food stuffs is bad for our health.

Health and Safety
  • Remind the children not to drink their samples.

  • planning different types of scientific enquiries to answer questions, including recognising and controlling variables where necessary
  • Making measurements, using a range of scientific equipment, with increasing accuracy and precision, taking repeat readings when appropriate
  • Use observations, measurements or other data to draw conclusions

Subject Knowledge

Learning Objectives
  • Know that changes occur when materials are mixed

Monday, November 26, 2018

Is Anyone Out There: Investigating craters

Full details of the activities can be found in the CIEC resource 'Is There Anyone Out There?' which can be downloaded from
The activities in this free resource, written in conjunction with the UK Space Education Agency and ESERO UK, look at the ways that scientists carry out investigations, using data such as photographs and other images, to find out about Mars and other places that are too far away for humans to visit.  Activities include looking for signs of life, comparing samples of Martian soil with soil from earth and finding out about volcanos and lava.  The activity described here invites children to investigate the effect of meteor size, mass and the height from which the meteors have fallen on the resulting craters.

The Activity: Investigating Craters

  • Challenge cards from activity sheet 8 (see image below)
  • Tray half filled with sand
  •  A variety of ‘meteorites’ (eg. marbles, rubber balls, stones)
  • Tube for safely directing/dropping/rolling ‘meteorites’
  •  Measuring device (see online resource for instructions to make one of these)
  •  Ruler·        
  • Meter stick

  • Children start by investigating the effect of dropping various masses into a tray of sand.  They then discuss which variables effect the size, shape and depth of the resulting craters.
Different groups of children are given one of the challenge cards and invited to design a fair test in response to the challenge posed.

  • Groups of children then plan and carry out different investigations depending upon the challenge card that they have been given.·         
  • After they have completed the investigation and collated their results children are invited to compare the craters that they have made with photographs of craters on Mars, to comment upon whether or not they are similar in appearance and to discuss how useful they are as a model to find out more about real craters
This table shows the depth of crater produced when dropping meteorites of identical volume but increasing mass.

  • They are also asked to think about whether their tests were fair, their results reliable and whether there are any improvements that they could make to their investigations.
  • Because this activity provides lots of scope for taking measurements and making tables it could usefully take place in a relevant maths lesson. The ensuing discussion could then take place in a subsequent science lesson.

  • To make meteorites which are the same size but different masses try wrapping objects of different mass in plasticine    

Health and Safety
  • To increase the height dropped put the tray on the floor rather than standing on a raised surface.
  • Dropping the meteorite through a tube can help to ensure that it lands safely in the tray.

Working Scientifically:
  • Take measurements, using a range of scientific equipment with increasing accuracy and precision, taking repeat readings when appropriate.
  • Report and present findings from enquiries, including conclusions, causal relationships and explanations of and degree of trust in results.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Oil for Beginners

Full details of the activities can be found in the CIEC resource 'Oil for Beginners' which can be downloaded from

The activities in this resource tell a simple story of oil, beginning with its recovery from beneath the sea bed, to its uses. The activities ‘Hard or soft?’ and ‘Making Holes’ would provide a real-life context to teach the materials strand of the science curriculum for Year 1 and Year 2, with excellent links to design and technology.      

The Activity: Hard or soft?
  • Children are asked to discuss the meanings of the words 'soft' and 'hard' and are then provided with a range of common materials, such as sponge, rubber, clay, soil, sand, cardboard, stone, cardboard etc to help extend their discussion further.
  • Children are challenged to sort the objects into ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ categories and encouraged to suggest ‘tests’ that might help them with their classification, such as scratching each object with a finger nail.
  • Confusion of categories will be addressed through further discussion and clarification. Young children often confuse properties such as ‘softness’ with ‘flexibility’ or ‘smoothness’.
  • During the activity, there are plenty of opportunities to think and talk about things, such as: How will you sort things which are soft or hard? • Why are some things soft? • Why are some things hard? • What do we use soft things for? • What do we use hard things for?
  • Children will consolidate their learning by exploring hard and soft materials in the classroom. They could sort items into P.E. hoops and learn to place items with both properties in the intersection of hoops.

The Activity: Making holes
  • Children learn that underneath the soft sand of the sea bed there is hard rock. This hard rock must be drilled through in order to reach the oil.

This image shows a 'Derrickhand' handling the upper end of a series of connected pipes as it is hoisted out or lowered into the hole.
  • Children will then use their knowledge about ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ properties to explore the effectiveness of a variety of tools (nail and hammer, scissors, junior drill, pencil, hole punch etc) to make holes in different materials.
  • Children investigate making holes in each material provided, using their suggested methods. They should decide which methods children can be attempted safely, and which methods need adult supervision.
  • Children can further their understanding of classification of objects and materials according to their properties by suggesting which tool is the 'best' for making holes in each material and why.
  • During the activity, there are plenty of opportunities to talk and think about things, such as: Which tool could make holes in the most materials? Why? • Which tool could make the least holes? Why? • Which tools were made from hard materials? • What do you think you would need to make holes in bricks or rocks?
Activity sheet 7 can be used as both prediction and recording sheet.
     Links to the National Curriculum for Science:
Y1: Everyday materials
  • distinguish between an object and the material from which it is made
  • describe the simple physical properties of a variety of everyday materials
Y2: Uses of everyday materials:
  • identify and compare the suitability of a variety of everyday materials, including wood, metal, plastic, glass, brick, rock, paper and cardboard for particular uses
  • find out how the shapes of solid objects made from some materials can be changed by squashing, bending, twisting and stretching

Working scientifically:
  • ask simple questions
  • observe closely, using simple equipment
  • perform simple tests
  • using their observations and ideas to suggest answers to questions


Key Stage 1

  • select from and use a range of tools and equipment to perform practical tasks [for example, cutting, shaping, joining and finishing]
  • select from and use a wide range of materials and components, including construction materials, textiles and ingredients, according to their characteristics