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       

Friday, September 29, 2017

What’s in a bar of soap?

Last week we announced the relaunch of our popular Kitchen Concoction resource which can be found at .  This week we are featuring the activity What’s in a bar of soap? In this activity children focus on developing the skills needed to follow and amend recipes, linked to the industrial context of soap manufacture. 

Children in Ashwell School Hertfordshire developing soap bars

Through practical activities children develop their understanding of accuracy, measuring, reading scales, ratio, collaborative working and product development. They also experience irreversible changes through the manufacturing process, as they combine solid and liquid ingredients together.

Children are shown a ‘Strictly Classified recipe’, to stimulate a class discussion about how precise recipes ensure product consistency, and how unnamed ingredients, labelled a-k, can help develop recipe confidentiality in an industrial context.

Using the Strictly Classified recipe encouraged the children to think about how products are made in industry, combining liquids and solids together by following a step by step process. This was useful as it identified some of the skills needed for their own soap activity.                                                                             Year 5 Teacher

While carrying out the activity children are given the opportunity to work in small ‘companies’; each child is assigned a role within the company  such as  Communications Officer or  Resources Manager.  They then work to develop their own soap bars from soap noodles, glycerine and cosmetic ingredients. 

An element of competition is introduced, as the finished bars must be able to be handled, as well as looking and smelling appealing. Although the children are given a recipe and process to follow, an element of product development is also involved, as they decide which colours and fragrances to use.

We loved developing our own soap bar, ours used strawberry and blueberry fragrance and we added blue colouring, so we called it ‘Berry Bliss’                                                    Year 5 girl, Mary Exton School, Hertfordshire

A benefit of the updated resource is that teachers can click on a video link within the notes which demonstrates how the soap noodles and soap bars are made in industry. This enables the class to see how the processes they use in the classroom are also used on an industrial scale. At every stage of the recipe the children are encouraged to make careful observations and discuss how the mixture is changing.

Of course, often the key learning comes when mistakes are made. Failed recipes, that are too wet or crumbly to handle, provide great opportunity for discussion and develop problem solving skills. The children are then given the opportunity to adjust their recipes, using the knowledge gained of the ingredient functions and processes from the activity, to amend and improve their bars of soap.

 An important feature of the resource are the ‘Questions for Thinking’ which support teachers to ask open ended questions which  assist with the discussions that arise.

The key questions allowed some super discussions about how to change the recipe to improve their bars of soap and how to plan an investigation into this in a systematic way. 
                                    Year5/6 Teacher, Foxton School, Cambridgeshire

As soap is made through an extrusion process, the resource also provides a quick and easy link to the Industry – Animated website, opening up online interactive follow up activities, where children can learn about industrial extrusion via interactive animations.

So, if you are looking for a resource to help develop the skills of product development, apply mathematics and create opportunities for working scientifically then don’t delay and explore Kitchen Concoctions today!

Su Menine

Friday, September 22, 2017

Kitchen Concoctions - Bubbles! 2017

 Collaborating and manufacturing bubble mixtures, altering ratios of materials

We are delighted to announce that CIEC’s popular resource for primary teachers, ‘Kitchen Concoctions’, 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 5: ‘What’s in a bubble mixture?’ has been one of the most popular activities and can easily be adapted to suit to the full primary age range. The updated version begins with the new, eye catching competition poster in order to promote class discussion focusing on how industrial scientists continuously research and improve recipes, including bubble formulations. Teachers might also wish to download and use the new Kitchen Chaos cartoon strip as a starting context.

The activity culminates in the engaging challenge of children creating their own ‘best bubble’ mixture by trialling, adapting, recording and evaluating different ratios of liquid ingredients. The revised activity sheets and interactive planning tools offer support for those children requiring a structured approach to planning, carrying out and recording throughout the challenge and there are also new resource sheets enabling children to work in a more open and creative way.

Further features of the revised Bubbles activity include: signposts to prior learning, science vocabulary, extension or home-based activities, questions for thinking and updated safety guidance. The activity ends with some innovative suggestions for linking with industry and working with STEM ambassadors as well as links to another popular CIEC resource and website The Science of Healthy Skin.

Timing how long each bubble lasts, repeating for accuracy

Jenny Harvey and Nicky Waller

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Careers Days proved a big hit in York and Middlesbrough

The final two STEM careers days for this academic year were held in Middlesbrough and York on the 3rd and 10th March respectively.

These two sessions were for the younger age groups (11-14 year olds) – sessions for 14-16 year olds and A level students had already taken place.

Students from Wetherby High School enjoyed the day and their teacher, Jenny McCartney said, I would like to thank you and your students for putting on the STEM day for our students yesterday, they were truly inspired and came back so eager to talk about what they had done and what they wish to do in the future. “We are definitely going to take triple science; we didn’t know that there were so many interesting jobs" which is fantastic to hear. And their body lotion smelt lovely!”

Pupils at the YSOC facility taking part in the Smith & Nephew adhesives  activity

Joy Parvin, CIEC Director, is already planning for a similar series of days for 2016-2017.

The Careers Days this year were generously supported by Cogent and other, local, industries delivered the various workshops. If your company would like to be involved in either sponsoring all or part of next year’s workshops or become involved by delivering workshops showcasing an aspect of your industry please get in touch with Joy Parvin at

Joy was delighted with the feedback from this year’s events “Many of the schools that have taken part have now been inspired to think about STEM careers. At a time when there is a serious skills shortage in the process industries this is very encouraging.”

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Claire Seeley joins the CIEC team as the new Advisory Teacher working in Royston

CIEC are delighted to welcome a new member to the team. Claire Seeley joins CIEC to deliver the CCI project in the Royston area in partnership with Johnson Matthey.
Claire explains in her own words her extensive primary teaching experience and her hopes for building on the strong links between CIEC, Johnson Matthey and local schools in the Royston area.
“I have been a teacher for over twenty years in a wide variety of contexts including both inner city and rural schools. For me, I feel the best learning is happening when children bring in something from home linked to our explorations in the classroom. That's when I know that science as caught their imagination!
Over the last five years, alongside my classroom practice I have been extremely fortunate to work alongside teachers as a Primary Science Consultant; providing both a wide range of CDP and ITT courses across East Anglia - both through Science Learning Centres and as an independent consultant.  I am a also hub leader for Primary Science Quality Mark in Suffolk and am the secretary of the Association of Science Education Primary Committee. 
My work as a consultant has included working with a number of Educational charities, writing materials and providing bespoke training courses; working with them to improve their services to schools. Latterly I have been working with industry on various primary science education initiatives, providing advice and support to create materials for use by primary schools. I am really interested using children's natural curiosity in science to boost their aspirations for the future. I am looking forwards to working with CIEC and learning more about developing meaningful links between industry and education.”
By Claire Seeley, CCI Advisory Teacher for the Royston area