Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Exciting children about science; promoting industry for a secure future

Pupils from the North East have recently taken part in a Children Challenging Industry Celebration Event.
Children from four primary schools in Tees Valley and County Durham collaborated with industrialists from across the North East to help CIEC, celebrate it's highly successful outreach programme, Children Challenging Industry (CCI).
The celebration event was held at the Wilton Centre, Redcar. A wide range of demonstrations, exhibitions and talks showed how CCI has helped hundreds of primary school pupils, along with their teachers, to learn at close quarters about science based industries.

Children who have been involved in the CCI programme share their experiences with the audience at the Wilton Centre Redcar

Over the years, the CIEC team have worked with over sixty companies in the North East to ensure children receive balanced messages about the region’s industry and related careers. Over 45,000 children have been involved in this substantial project involving practical science work in school and a visit to a local site. This leads to greater understanding and more positive attitudes in children and their teachers. 

Philip Aldridge emphasised what a valuable part CCI played in shaping children's attitudes to industry and how important it was that industry continued to support the programme 
Over 80 attendees from past, present and potential future participants came together to celebrate the successful impact of this great initiative. Children and teachers from Newham Bridge Primary School in Middlesbrough, Bewley Primary School in Stockton, Chaloner Primary School in Guisborough and Heighington CE Primary School in Newton Aycliffe demonstrated recent practicals from CCI sessions.    

Staff from Fujifilm share their positive experiences of working with CCI
 Micropore Technologies, CPI and Fujifilm Diosynth, who host regular visits, also displayed what happens on the actual visits and talked about the benefits of being involved with CCI. 

Dai Hayward from Micropore Technologies spoke about the origins and background of the programme and the need for sponsors and donors to come forward to help us ensure its continuation and expansion.

 Information about Children Challenging Industry is available from or 01904 322 523.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Six goals to England; let’s celebrate turf!

England is celebrating Harry Kane’s hat trick and England’s 6-1 defeat of Panama

While England celebrates Harry Kane’s hat trick and England’s 6-1 defeat of Panama have you ever stopped to wonder about the role of turf in the game of football?  The vast majority of games still take place on grass, a plant so humble that it sometimes seems to have been assigned the role of honorary artificial surface on a par with asphalt, concrete and tarmac. Indeed, many children need reminding that grass is a plant at all!

This free CIEC resource consists of three investigations into the best ways to grow grass.  By the end of it children will understand that more than being just a plant, grass is a whole family of plants which look different from each other and have different qualities and that not all would be suitable for a football pitch.  The grass needed for a bowling green would not be hard wearing enough for example.

Children will understand that more than being just a plant, grass is a whole family of grasses which look different from each other and have different qualities

There are also lots of opportunities for working scientifically including planning fair tests and observations over time.  For example, in one activity children are asked investigate the effects of different drinks that are often spilled on grass in a range of municipal situations.  They are then invited to predict and compare the effect on grass of watering with a range of liquids.  In another they are asked to find out the optimal amount of water for healthy plant growth and in another to compare different growing mediums for a company which grows turf commercially.
Why not involve the whole family and set one of these investigations as a challenge over the summer holidays?
These activities have the potential to raise children’s science capital by helping them to understand the range of applications of science and how it impacts upon their current lives and interests.  If you set it as a challenge over the summer holidays you could even impact upon the science capital of the whole family.  Alternatively, you could take advantage of the lovely warm weather which is providing the perfect conditions for growing and experimenting on grass for an engaging end of term topic.

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

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.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Dr Stan Higgins receives Outstanding Achievement award

Picture taken at 2017 award ceremony
Earlier this month we reported that long time CIEC supporter Dr Stan Higgins has been awarded a well-deserved OBE in the New Year’s Honours.  Now we have heard that Stan has been honoured again; this time by the North East Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC) from which he has recently retired as Chief Executive.  He received an Outstanding Achievement award at the annual NEPIC  awards dinner on Friday evening.

Stan speaking at the 2017 NEPIC award ceremony
Recipients are given £2000 to be spent supporting school children in a STEM related project.  CIEC are incredibly proud that Stan has chosen to donate his prize to Children Challenging Industry (CCI).  Stan explained his reason for this in the speech that he gave as he received his award 

the Children Challenging Industry Primary School Programme is the most effective way to get young people interested in STEM subjects in an industrial context. It really does excite them and we have the evidence to show that”.

As Stan explained to us last time we interviewed him, it is possible for companies to organise their own activity days with local schools.  However, he believes that although these days are likely to be enjoyable for staff and children alike, they are unlikely to have a long term effect upon children’s attitudes to either STEM or industry.  Consequently, he spoke passionately about the importance of industry investing in CCI.

“I would ask more companies in this room to support the Children Challenging Industry programme and still have the benefit of the nice day, but with the real lasting impact that CCI has on both the children and their teachers. In part because there is continued professional follow through when you have gone back to work”.  

Stan was in no doubt that by choosing to invest his prize in CCI it would definitely

“impact on thousands of local children and hundreds of primary school teachers”.

All of us at CIEC are grateful to Stan for his generosity in donating his prize to CCI, as it is only with this kind of financial support that we are able to continue the programme.  We are also delighted that someone that we respect and admire as much as Stan Higgins holds CCI in such high esteem and recognises its long term benefits.

Thank you Stan!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Request for help from KS2 and KS3 teachers of science

We met Liz Coppard, a doctoral student, at the ASE conference earlier this month.  Liz, who is from Oxford Brookes University, is carrying out a research project looking at how teachers deliver the ‘matter’ and ‘materials’ sections of the National Curriculum in the Key Stages 2 and 3 Science Programmes of Study.

Could you help?
Liz is seeking teachers and schools to help with her research and is keen to hear from those who teach science to years 4,5 and 7 who could assist by completing a short, anonymous online questionnaire.  The questionnaire for primary teachers can be found at and the questionnaire for secondary teachers can be found at

In addition, Liz would like to hear from primary and secondary school teachers who would be interested in participating in a short interview focussing on how they teach the materials strand of the national curriculum in KS2 and KS3.  She would also like to hear from primary and secondary schools who would be willing for her to do some lesson observations.  She would be willing to work as a voluntary teaching assistant as a participant observer.

If you would like to discuss this further please email Liz on:

Researcher’s Background
Liz has a first degree in Chemistry, MA in Science Education and holds the Chartered Science Teacher accreditation C.Sci.Teach. She has taught science for many years in English secondary schools.  She is on the 11-19 Committee of the Association for Science Education (ASE) and is a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s 11-16 Curriculum and Assessment Working Group.

This research is jointly funded by the Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT) and Oxford Brookes University and has been approved by the Oxford Brookes University Research Ethics Committee.  All data collected during the study will be anonymised and kept strictly confidential in accordance with Oxford Brookes University Policies.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

New Year's honour for Dr Stan Higgins

Dr Stan Higgins with children on the Children Challenging Industry programme
CIEC were delighted to hear that Dr Stan Higgins, recently retired Chief Executive of North East Process Industries Cluster (NEPIC), has been recognised in the New Year’s Honours and has received an OBE.  Stan has supported CIEC’s Children Challenging Industry (CCI) programme for many years and he took time to chat to us about why he considers their work so important and why he firmly believes CCI is such an effective model.

Stan, who is an alumni and honorary fellow of the University of York, explained that when he first took on the role of Chief Executive, fifteen years ago, the previous organisation already invested time and money in working with school children.  At the time CCI was one of a number of educational projects they supported, as well as two mobile laboratories that visited both primary and secondary schools.

Reduced funding resulted in CCI being the only remaining NEPIC supported project. As Stan points out, research shows that CCI is an incredibly effective way for companies to invest in their future workforce.  Stan believes that this is for three main reasons.  Firstly, CCI targets primary school children when they are beginning to form ideas about their future careers; it is consequently able to raise young people’s awareness of STEM careers at the start of this decision-making process. Secondly, it employs specialist teachers who are able to deliver engaging and effective lessons which link closely to the school curriculum.  Thirdly, it supports class teachers to teach the curriculum in a way which helps children to understand the importance of industry as a future career choice.  CCI also leaves teachers with well-written and relevant resources.  Stan suggests that when industry works directly with local schools, without this specialist support, it is often little more than ‘a nice day’ for both children and staff, and is unlikely to have a long term impact on young people’s aspirations.

Over the years Stan has been impressed by the excellent behaviour of school children that he has met through CCI.  “I was not that well behaved when I was at school” he laughed!  He has been particularly impressed by the attitudes of disadvantaged children who are clearly excited by the science that they do with CCI and are able to persist when faced with challenges.  Going forward, he would like to see CCI delivered to as many primary school children as possible as he believes that this would have the best impact for industry.  As he explained, CCI not only puts STEM subjects into context for primary school children but it lets them know that there is a place for everyone in industry.

Top left Stan with his ‘European Cluster Manager of the Year’ 2014 and right with a lifetime achievement award from the Chemical Industries Association

Monday, January 8, 2018

ASE conference 2018

Delegates enjoying CIEC's assessment session delivered by Nicky Waller.

It's that time of year again when everyone in science education who can possibly make it dust themselves down from the excesses of Christmas and make their way to the Association of Science Education annual conference.  There can be little doubt that many of us find ourselves regretting our decision to book a place as we get up on a dark morning to make a wintery trek accross the country to that year's venue.  However, there can be no doubt at all that by the end of the conference everyone is very glad indeed that they made the effort.  

Jane Turner and Shaun Reason making density column 'martinis' on the CLEAPS stand at the 'Primary Pop-up'.
The ASE conference is a chance to experience some brilliant CPD delivered by a wide variety of professionals from a number of different perspectives.  It is a place to learn about new approaches and innovative ideas backed up by first hand experiences and cutting edge research.  It is also an opportunity to share our own latest initiatives, activities and research. 

Dr Maria Turkenburg shared some of the latest researh about CIEC's 'Children Challenging Industry' at her session 'Attitudes up: CCI sucess'

Just as important as being introduced to new ideas is being reminded about tried and tested lessons and approaches which we had forgotten about.  In the same way, the conference is a place where we make new friends and contacts as well as reconnecting with old ones and seeing familiar faces.  Most importantly, the ASE conference is a place where everyone believes in the importance of high quality science education for all children and where we are reinvogorated by each other's enthusiasm and excitement.

CIEC's Practical idea's for teaching materials session led by Joy Parvin.
When I was working in the classroom, especially in the early years of my career, the ASE, largely through the conference, played an important role in shaping my attitudes and understanding.  The influence was not only on science teaching in particular but on education in general.  I still have to pinch myself as I realise that now, as well as continuing to learn from other teachers at the conference, I am able to contribute  by running my own session!

Teachers extracting starch from a potato during CIEC's 'Potatoes to plastic' session led by Jane Winter.
Another important part of the conference is the exhibition where (as well as picking up several 'freebies') we find out what is available to support science education.  This includes products and  books but also ideas for activities to support the curriculum.  When I was teaching I found lots of ideas for things things to do in my school including visits from Sphere Science and activities from Practical Action.  Of course no trip to the conference would be complete without a visit to the ASE book stand.

The ladies from Sphere science, the newly released ASE guide to primary science from the ASE book stall, a bug from Zoolife and the Practical Action stand; a tiny sample of the exhibition.
If you haven't been before make sure that you make a note now of next year's conference which will be on the 9th to the 12th January in Birmingham.  If you were at Liverpool no doubt you will already have resolved to go and we look forward to seeing you there.

Nicola Beverley listening to Nicky Waller telling everyone about her book at the Primary Teachmeet on Saturday.

by Jane Winter