Tuesday, June 12, 2018

What is your school doing to prepare children for a life beyond education?

The role of primary schools  in developing children's aspirations is becoming increasingly recognised.
Teach First is working in collaboration with Education and Employers to understand the role of primary schools and teachers in preparing young people for future success beyond school. 
This research will be used to begin to define best practice and make recommendations for the support schools and teachers need. Please share your views to ensure the research is as reflective as possible of school and teacher voice.
The survey takes 7-10 minutes and closes on 29 June https://bit.ly/2IZXuoD

This picture: Children on a CIEC site visit to Chemoxy
At the top of the page: Children from St Patricks enjoying a CCI lesson


Friday, May 25, 2018

School visit to Sartorius Stedim Biotech


Children are captivated when they see the sophisticated Computer Aided Design programme that is used when designing the machines that are built by Sartorius Stedim Biotech

After taking part in several science lessons which reinforce their understanding of the science learned in school, as well as preparing them to get the most out of the Children Challenging Industry (CCI) experience, children are ready for a visit to the company that they have been partnered with.  

The children from St Thomas More RC primary school have been partnered with Sartorius Stedim Biotech and recently the day of the eagerly anticipated visit to the Sartorius site in Royston arrived.  As soon as the coach pulled up children were given an introductory talk which reminded them of the work that they had been doing in school and how it related to what they would see at the Royston plant.

Children then went for a tour of the factory and were shown the different stages in the production and testing of the Ambr machines which are built at the site and used for growing the microbes that are needed to make some medicines.  The tour began with a demonstration of the sophisticated Computer Aided Design programmes that are used to design and test the machines.  The children were all given the chance to try manipulating the images on the screen.  As they left this department they were given a list of parts that they would need to collect in order to build their own pump.

Children watch the pump that they have built being tested

Next they were taken to the stores where they were amazed at the fully automated parts collection process; they only had to key in the serial number of the part that they needed to have it delivered to them by the machine!  They then took their parts to the department where the pumps are assembled and tested.  They worked as a team to build their pumps and then to progamme the machine to test it under several different conditions.  This was a tense moment for the children as they knew that the results of all the pumps were being recorded and compared.

Children watch a demonstration of a full scale Ambr in use.

For the last stage of the process children donned white coats as they took part in an activity which involved handling microbes.  They learned that you do not always need to wear white coats when doing science but only where there is a good reason.  This might be to protect themselves from micro-organisms or harmful substances - or it might be to protect the experiments; in this case the children need to be careful not to contaminate the yeast that they were working with, with dirt from either themselves or their clothes.

Wearing white coats so that they do not contaminate the samples.
The visit ended with a well earned snack as they found out how well their pumps had performed.  Afterwards children said how much they had enjoyed the visit and many said that it had made them think about pursuing a career in science.  It was also clear that children had revised some of their preconceptions about industry as before this experience many had had a very negative image.


Friday, April 6, 2018

Children Challenging Industry Class Visit

Children from St Thomas More RC primary school during a recent CCI lesson

In a previous blog post we described how Children Challenging Industry (CCI) schools participate in a staff meeting run by one of our advisory teachers.  Additionally, Y5 children from participating schools have the opportunity to visit a local industry where they see science in a real life context.  Prior to the industry visit the children enjoy a series of lessons, some of which are run by one of our advisory teachers.

The lessons are made up of several engaging practical activities which help children to understand the industrial scale processes that they will see taking place, and also helps them to make relevant links with the science that they do in school.  Su Mennie has been working with St Thomas More RC primary school prior to their visit to Sartorius Stedim Biotech in Royston.  The activities that she and their class teacher have been doing come from the CIEC resource Cough Syrup which can be downloaded for free from our website.



Sartorius Stedim Biotech make machinery which is used to grow the microbes that are needed to make the active ingredients in some medicines; these microbes then need to be filtered out of the liquid in which they are grown.  A relevant activity for the children involves testing different filters to see which would be most effective for harvesting the microbes, although instead of microbes the children filter flour from a mixture of flour and water.

The children worked in groups of three or four to choose their equipment and decide how they would measure the effectiveness of the filters being tested.  Some groups decided to time how quickly the substance passed through the filters while others devised a scale to measure the clarity of the water after it had passed through the filter.  Because the children were given a high amount of autonomy they did not always immediately work in the most efficient or accurate way.  However, this led to discussions within the group which were then picked up by Su towards the end of the session.  This approach leads to a much deeper understanding of, for example, the most important criteria for assessing the effectiveness of a filter, than if children had been following a more structured method which told them exactly what they had to do and how to present their findings.  The activity also gives the children a lot of opportunity to apply the materials strand of the Y5 science curriculum and to rehearse some of the vocabulary.

The session ended with children being given the opportunity to handle and talk about industrial scale filters and to discuss the qualities of the materials that they have been made of and the reasons for their shape.  At this point several children were keen to point out how they would like to be able to modify their experiments if they were to do them again.  This was a useful assessment opportunity for their teacher as it showed how they were able to apply their content knowledge to the situation as well as demonstrating their growing confidence in working scientifically.


Carefully pouring the mixture of flour and water into one of the filters






Friday, March 23, 2018

Job Opportunity at CIEC





If you live in the Hertfordshire area and would like a new challenge you may well be interested to learn that there is an opening for a new advisory teacher to join the CIEC team.  The vacancy is for two days a week and previous post holders have successfully combined it with a continued classroom commitment, although other advisory teachers make this their sole job.

Children working with science ambassadors as part of the CCI programme.


The successful candidate will be working with partner industries and schools on the Children Challenging Industry (CCI) project.  They will have the satisfaction of knowing that they are involved in an initiative that evidence has shown, over many years, has a measureable impact upon the aspirations and attitudes of primary school children.  You can read more about some of this work in Hertfordshire and in other areas in previous posts.

Children watch a science demonstration at the start of their visit to Johnson Matthey in Royston.


You can see more details in the job advertisement and in the candidate brief. The closing date for applications is April 4th.    

Friday, March 9, 2018

A Pinch of Salt


As part of her work with St Thomas More primary school,  Su Mennie recently led a staff meeting to share some CIEC science activities with the teachers.  St Thomas More has a gold Primary Science Quality Mark and they were keen to add to their existing smorgasbord of engaging ways to teach the science curriculum, including 'Salt for my chips' from the free CIEC resource 'A Pinch of Salt'. They particularly appreciated that this activity provided a real life context in which children could apply  learning objectives and practise vocabulary from the science curriculum.

The teachers first compared a sample of pure salt with some rock salt and considered how they could extract salt that was pure enough to use on food from the rock salt.  They started by dissolving the rock salt sample in water before filtering it to remove all of the undissolved solids.  
Then they evaporated the water from the salt solution to leave behind salt. Of course, important discussion should also focus on whether this salt could actually be used on chips, therefore providing an opportunity to discuss microbes.   Teachers also discussed whether it would be safe to use a candle in class; the teachers decided that, with an appropriate risk assessment, they would be happy to do this with upper KS2 children, but other heat sources could be used, such as a radiator.
If you would like to try this, or any other activity, from A Pinch of Salt you will find that it is fully supported with teachers' notes and activity sheets for children.

We would love to hear about your experiences of using this, or any other CIEC resource, and will send a hard copy of our acclaimed 'Working Scientifically' to anyone who shares their experiences with us.



Friday, February 2, 2018

Children Challenging Industry in action


Su Mennie is our advisory teacher in the South East.  This week she has been working with STEM ambassadors from Johnson Matthey and children from Mary Exton school in Hitchin.  The ambassadors were supporting the children to investigate viscosity and filtration and to make links between the science that they do in school and what happens in a real life context in industry.

Did you know, that even if you do not live in an area where our acclaimed Children Challenging Industry programme is in operation you can still take advantage of our resources which are available free on the CIEC website?



For example, the activity that Su was using at Mary Exton school was taken from Runny Liquids which can be found by clicking on 'Primary' to the left of the CIEC home page, and then scrolling down to find a list of all of our primary publications.  Why don't you go and check it out?  It is well worth a look.



Friday, January 26, 2018

The Science of Storytelling





Next week (January 27th to 3rd February) is National Storytelling week.  Human beings, of all ages, love stories and have done since the dawn of time, although these days we are more likely to be waiting for the next episode of our favourite soap opera than sharing tales around a log fire.

One of the ways that teachers can ensure that stories are given the prominence that they deserve within a crowded curriculum is to combine them with other subjects; stories make a fantastic starting point for science. Research shows that combining subjects in this way leads to improved outcomes in both.  Moreover, in their report, 'Maintaining Curiosity', OFSTED suggest that some of the best science happens in schools where links are naturally made between English and science. 

The structure of a story usually involves a situation or problem that needs to be solved and this is where science comes in!  Science is a means of investigating ways that problems can be solved, whether it is exploring the most effective material for making a house for the three little pigs or discovering which bowl of porridge will have cooled down the most before it is tasted by Goldilocks.

The CIEC resource Pencils, Poems and Princesses has a host of ideas for basing science investigations on three books; Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole, Grandfather’s Pencil and the Room of Stories by Michael Foreman and Out and About by Shirley Hughes.    



One of the investigations, prompted by Princess Smartypants, is to test different bags to see which is strongest and most suitable for carrying a lot of heavy shopping; this investigation is particularly pertinent in light of current interest in plastic waste and pollution.  It is important to give children time to plan the experiment for themselves.  For example, they may suggest testing bags to breaking point by filling them with heavy weights.  In this case they need to be encouraged to think about the safety implications of having heavy weights suddenly drop, and plan what they will do to make sure that no one is hurt.  This activity will give lots of opportunities for maths; perhaps children can make graphs to show how much each bag held before it broke?

Further cross curricular links can be made as children are supported to write to Prince Grovel to advise him of the best way to carry the Queen’s shopping.  If this is done during an English lesson no time need be taken from children’s science entitlement, and the teacher will be able to concentrate on supporting children with their English targets. Consequently, the writing is likely to be of a much higher standard than that done during a science lesson when the teacher is focussing on children’s science learning.   Nevertheless, the subsequent letters may well reveal children’s progress in science understanding and be a rich source for science assessment.


We would love to hear how you combine science and stories with your class.  Please let us know by leaving a comment below or tweeting us @ciecyork.