Friday, October 14, 2022

Career Cards

This post is written by one of CIEC's advisory teachers, Jane Winter

 Primary teachers are increasingly aware of the importance of raising children's science capital.  High science capital means that ALL children realise that they too could have a career in STEM if they chose, rather than dismissing the possibility at an early age as "not something done by people like me".

At CIEC we believe that one of the best possible ways to do this is to give primary school children the opportunity to meet real STEM professionals and learn how the science that they do in school links to the science that happens in industry.  However, this isn't always possible and this is where our free to download resource Career Cards come in.  Each set of cards in the pack feature one of four STEM professionals who works with one of our partner companies Johnson Matthey.  One card contains their photograph, another their job title and another a job description.  The complete set for one person also has information about their hobbies and which subjects they enjoyed at primary school.

Career cards spark discussions which help to break down stereotypes about who can be a STEM professional

Upper KS2 children have responded well to using these cards and their teachers have told us that they lead to discussions which help them to realise that anyone can aspire to be a scientist or engineer and that there are a variety of routes into STEM professions.

The cards can be downloaded from our website.  However, if you don't fancy all that cutting out, a class set of 7 packs of cards can be purchased from our online shop at a heavily subsidised cost of £8.15.  If you use them in your own classroom we would love to hear how you get on.

Thank you to Johnson Matthey for funding the creation of these cards and for continuing to subsidise their cost to schools


Monday, October 3, 2022

New sustainability science activities from CIEC


This blog post it brought to you by Jane Winter, one of CIEC's advisory teachers

CIEC has started the new academic year by adding some more activities to the existing sustainability resource.  Like most CIEC publications these engaging and easily resourced investigations link real life science solutions to environmental problems and the primary science curriculum. 

Sponsored by Innospec, a company that develops personal care products, the investigations support children to consider the environmental impact of products such as soap and shampoo.  In one activity children explore the efficacy of solid and liquid formulation of soap and research the different transport and packaging requirements of these everyday products.  In another they plan an investigation to assess the suitability of different packaging materials, including an innovative soap wrapping that Innospec scientists have developed which dissolves the first time that the soap is used, thus reducing waste.

Children are motivated to work on these challenges to find out how science can provide solutions to environmental problems

As well as linking to the materials strand of the KS2 curriculum the activities provide ample opportunities for working scientifically including observation over time, secondary research and planning a fair test.  There are also cross curricular links including producing written reports for the scientists at Innospec and creating tables and graphs to display measurements taken during the investigations.  

The PowerPoint, which is included in the resource, provides open ended starting points for classroom discussion, letters from the scientists at Innospec and a short video highlighting the long term environmental impact of single use plastics including packaging. 

The resource contains a short video which provides a context for the investigations

These activities, and many more, are free to download from the CIEC website.  If you use this resource in your classroom we would love to hear from you to hear how it went.  Get in touch (preferably with photographs) at CIEC@york.ac.uk and we will send you a hard copy of some of our resources to say thank you.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

An Eggciting Easter Challenge

Today's blog post is brought to you by Mackayla Miller, one of our advisory teachers based in the North East.


Happy Easter folks! Here at CIEC, it’s no yolk that we’re egg-stremely eggs-cited about inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers, but we’re also partial to a few terrible egg puns at this time of year.

Mackayla has been working with the year 6 children at Levendale Primary School to deliver our egg-cellent Children Challenging Industry (CCI) programme. The ‘Eggs-press Delivery Challenge’ was a tough challenge indeed, but this egg-ceptional group of pupils were willing to whisk it all and refused to be beaten. Working in teams with a budget to spend, the groups hatched their plans, packaged their eggs, shelled out for their materials, and are now eagerly awaiting the arrival of their packages in the post to see to see whose eggs survived the journey.

John Baker and Paul Bickley from Teeside plastics manufacturing company Alpek Polyester UK Ltd, joined the classroom sessions via Zoom to give the children an insight into their jobs and engage them in a remote site visit, including an exciting interactive bottle-drop investigation. But it’s not just the children who benefit from the Children Challenging Industry experience. Here’s what John Baker, HSEQ and Technology Director has to say about getting involved:

“I’ve been involved with CCI for nearly 10 years now and every session, whether face to face or more recently using video conference, is great. The engagement from the children in the classroom is fantastic, with them often asking challenging and thoughtful questions. As well as trying to get across what we do in industry and the rewarding careers from STEM subjects, it is an opportunity to speak directly to teachers about what can be quite limited in the curriculum on science and engineering. In some sessions, explaining what we in industry think is obvious can, when seen through different eyes, put a whole new perspective on things, so it is not just a one-way street. The practical sessions show the children the scale of our operations and seeing their sense of wonder reminds me of my primary school teacher who inspired me into my career (he was a nuclear physicist!). I would recommend anyone in STEM careers getting involved as it is a rewarding session.”

If you would like help to get cracking with your STEM education why don't you contact ciec@york.ac.uk to see if you could become involved in any of our initiatives to link schools with science based industries.  Alternatively, you could try this activity with your class as full teacher notes are available for free from our website.


Full activity notes are available in this free CIEC resource including teacher guidance and safety advice


Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Inspiring the next generation with Tolu

At CIEC we are all about breaking down stereotypes so that ALL children know that there is a place for them in STEM careers if they choose.  We know that there is still important work to do in this area as can be seen in the work done by Inspiring the Future.  If you haven't yet seen their video 'Redraw the Balance' please stop what you are doing and watch it now!
 
 'Redraw the balance' shows that gender stereotypes are embedded by the age of 7.


An important aspect of showing children know that they too could work in STEM are the STEM professionals that we work with who provide children with diverse role models and show them that science and engineering can be a worthwhile career whatever your gender or ethnicity.

Tolu is one of the ambassadors that we work with in the Royston area.  She recently told our advisory teacher Clare Docking

 CIEC does great work, and I am proud to be associated with this organisation! The opportunity to showcase the work that I do as an engineer to an ever so curious and brilliant audience is something I relish and have found to be helpful in refining skills such as public speaking. Being able to give real life context to the children on some of the concepts they learn about in the classroom is something I find enriching. Not only does this help to demystify myths about STEM, but it also raises their awareness of the career prospects, and the role STEM plays in everyday life.

 
Tolu outside number 10 Downing Street

Tolu told Clare that she became interested in maths, physics and chemistry at school and knew from a very young age that she wanted to work in the world of science. Her parents encouraged her to take an interest in the sciences when growing up. However, others were concerned about her becoming a female engineer.  Fortunately, Tolu had the opportunity to visit local industry during work experience where she met a range of people in scientific roles and decided that she would like to become a Chemical Engineer. 

 
She knew that there was a place for women in engineering due to meeting some brilliant female engineers.  Even so, she is often the only female on the team and would really like to see more females in engineering and a greater ethnic diversity, particularly in leadership positions. Tolu enjoys her job very much saying that it is a very varied role and once trained you can work in many different sectors. She feels that she is making an important contribution to society and is doing a valuable job.

Tolu knows that her work as an ambassador for Children Challenging Industry is very important, commenting 


Although these children are still in the early stages of their education, I see it as an opportunity for a company to invest in the continuity of their talent pipeline. Beyond this is the possibility of young people, who as a result of being exposed to the industry feel empowered to pursue a career in STEM.

We would like to thank Tolu for taking the time to inspire the next generation.  If you would like to find out how CIEC could help the children in your school please contact us on ciec@york.ac.uk 





Friday, September 3, 2021

Potatoes to plastic: Cross curricular opportunities

In the third and final post in this series linked to CIEC's latest free resource Potatoes to plastic, Jane Winter explains how it can be used to make meaningful cross curricular links.

The OFSTED report, Maintaining Curiosity, confirmed what experienced teachers already knew, it can be beneficial to both subjects when meaningful cross curricular links are made. However, it is important to do this in a way that values both subjects rather than using one as little more than a vehicle for the other.  In English lessons the teacher should be concentrating on English learning objectives and in science upon science learning objectives. One of my pet hates is when schools, with the very best of intentions, insist that writing has to be as good in other subjects as it is in English. We don't need Vygotsky's zone of proximal development theory to tell us that children are able to do more with support than they are able to do independently. The level of writing in an English lesson is achieved because of skilled teacher support which is not available in a lesson where the teacher's energy is focused on other skills.  Having said that, I have seen great writing about science which has been done in a subsequent English lesson, the children's writing benefiting from an inspirational science experience.
It is important to give children the support that they might need with English during science lessons, but this should not be at the expense of good quality science teaching.

With the value of cross curricular approaches in mind Potatoes to plastic has suggestions for a series of lessons which can be used for English teaching.  They are designed so that the teacher concentrates upon the English learning objectives, and is not trying to juggle too many plates at once.  However, the content is likely to raise children's science capital as it is based upon the biographies of six of the scientists currently working in the award winning Green Chemistry department at the University of York.  Although the focus of the lesson is on reading and writing children learn about the range of exciting jobs that the scientists do, and also find out that scientists are 'normal' people, just like you or I with families and hobbies beyond science.

When reading about real scientists in an English lesson children learn that scientists are normal people with a range of activities and hobbies, from making lego models with their children to enjoying skiing.

The final section of this free publication concentrates upon the range of other solutions to the problem of waste that scientists have developed, from extracting citronella from orange peel to turning cocoa husks into paper bags.  There are a set of downloadable playing cards which can be used for a range of games including 'Memory pairs', 'Old Fossil' and 'Go Recycle' which highlight science solutions to environmental problems.  These could be used as an activity during a science or environmental day.  Alternatively, the link and game instructions could be shared with families so that the cards could be used at home.

The previous two blog posts in this series are still available.  You can find the one about extracting starch from potato peel here, and the one about making bio-plastic from potato peel here.  If you use any of the activities we would love to hear how you get on.  It is feedback from teachers like you that helps us to know what we are doing right and how we can get even better in the future!  
Full instructions for the English activities and the card games as well as how to turn potato peel into bio-plastic are included in this free to download publication

This is what one teacher had to say after using this resource with their class.

Our current topic is all about Endangered Species and a large part of this has been around the dangers of plastics in the oceans and different habitats; so this lesson in particular was a great experience for cross-curricular discussions, the content of which were deep and enriched. In addition to this, the vocabulary resources that accompanied the investigation were a fantastic tool to help deepen the children's understanding and allowed them to speak freely, scientifically and accurately about the processes they were undertaking. Both pupil and teacher thoroughly enjoyed the lesson.



 


Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Potatoes to plastic: turning potato starch into plastic


The image shows the page from the CIEC website where the resource, Potatoes to plastic, can be downloaded.
This is the second in a series of three posts about CIEC's latest free resource: Potatoes to plastic.

In the previous post I described how potato starch could be easily extracted from potato peel using simple equipment that is readily available in the primary classroom.  Here I will explain how the extracted starch can be used to make bio plastic in a few straightforward steps.  As this quote from a year 5 teacher shows, this activity is not only very engaging, but makes relevant links to the topic of Materials in the English and Northern Irish primary curricula, Earth's Materials in the Scottish curriculum and Myself and non-living things in the Welsh curriculum.

"They have absolutely loved this learning. Thank you for the opportunity to engage Year 5 in such an exciting and relevant project, which has reinforced their previous scientific learning of properties of materials (and has done so in a real-life context they will not forget!) as well as their scientific thinking. This project has led to many wonderful opportunities for cross-curricular links to reading, writing and maths too".

The procedure is even better if you are able to borrow a magnetic hotplate from a local secondary school or University, as can be seen in this demonstration.  However, even without access to this piece of scientific equipment the activity can still be carried out in a saucepan on a cooker hob.

To turn it into plastic, the potato starch need to be mixed with a small quantity of water, glycerin and white vinegar before it is heated.   The mixture is then spread out on a petri dish or saucer and left to harden.  After two or three days these simple ingredients will have set into bio-plastic.  The properties will vary depending upon the exact ratio of the ingredients and how thickly it was spread while drying.  The resource gives guidance as to how children could then investigate the properties of the finished plastic as they explore how it could be used in place of plastics derived from petrochemicals.
Children are invariably delighted with the finished bio-plastic
Experienced teachers will know that even the most engaging activity needs to be planned carefully if the potential learning is to take place. Consequently, the resource gives additional  guidance  including vocabulary prompt cards which support children to use the correct terminology as they describe what has happened.  This also supports them to link the experience to past science learning.

Children using the list of vocabulary to support them to talk about the activity in a more scientific way.

In the final post in this series I will explain how this resource can be used in English lessons and to develop children's understanding of how science is working to find solutions to other environmental problems.  
Full instructions including health and safety advice can be found in the free resource available from our website.


This post was written by Jane Winter who is one of our advisory teachers who works in Lincolnshire and Yorkshire.




Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Potatoes to plastic: Extracting starch from potato peel


This is the first in a series of three posts which have been written by one of our advisory teachers, Jane Winter.  They are based upon our latest free resource: Potatoes to Plastic

Frequently, scientists are the bearer of bad news.  Every day we read about mounting evidence of climate change, loss of bio-diversity and the prevalence of micro-plastics in the ocean. However, did you know that as well as identifying environmental problems scientists are able to develop solutions to some of them?  The world leading Centre of Excellence in Green Chemistry where scientists work on finding new ways to overcome ecological issues is based at the University of York.

CIEC has been working with some of the scientists from Green Chemistry to develop our latest resource, Potatoes to Plastic which looks at how scientists have been able to develop useful products from a range of waste materials which might otherwise go to landfill.  As well as looking at several examples of this scientific approach to environmental problems, this free publication looks at one example, making bio-plastic from potato peel, in more depth.  Teachers are supported to carry out some straight forward activities with their class which link closely to the materials strand of the KS2 science program of study.  They extract starch from a waste product, potato peel, and then turn that starch into plastic.

Extracting starch from potato peel does not require a lot of expensive equipment. 

I have found the raw material for this activity easy to source.  Although not all chip shops peel their own potatoes, once you find one that does they will almost certainly be prepared to let you have the peel for free. Alternatively, you may find that your school dinner provider is able to give you some.  Another possibility is to use wrinkly old potatoes that have started to sprout and which might otherwise have been thrown away.

Blending the potato peel with water


First of all you will need to blend the peel and a generous quantity of water in a food processor or blender. Give each pair of children a small jug full of the mixture each.  They will need to filter the peel and water mixture by squeezing it through the foot of an old pair of tights or pop socks.  This will produce a white liquid which is a mixture of potato starch and water.  The rest of the solids are left behind and can be disposed of on a compost heap.

Pouring the blended potato peel and water into a pop sock.

After a few minutes the potato starch will start to settle at the bottom of the container.  Once this has happened the water can be poured carefully off to leave behind the wet starch.  At this point children will be amazed to find that they are left with 'oobleck' which is usually made by mixing cornstarch and water.  That is because the starch found in potatoes is exactly the same as starch found in corn.  Once children have finished playing with the oobleck it will need to be left in a shallow container such as a saucer or petri dish to dry.  After a few days all of the water will have evaporated and you will be left with dried potato starch.  

In the next post I will explain how you can turn the potato starch into plastic.  However, if you cannot wait why not check out the full instructions for both activities on the website.  This includes teachers' notes, children's activity sheets and health and safety advice.  This is what one teacher who recently carried out the activity with their class had to say about it.

'Absolutely fantastic! The children have never felt so alive, enthused and engaged in a science lesson that I have taught. They absolutely loved the practical element of blending the potatoes, filtering the starch and using interesting 'ingredients' to create the plastic. Their scientific skills were so clear and they were all extremely careful in measuring their resources and ensuring the investigation plan was carefully followed. The time taken for the excess water to evaporate and leave the powdered starch behind kept them even more engaged as they spoke about nothing for days until it was ready to use'.