Friday, December 15, 2017

What's in a mince pie?

With Christmas fast approaching would you like an activity that combines exploring mince pies with practising different types of scientific enquiry including identifying, classifying and sorting and using secondary sources?  Wouldn’t it be even better if that activity gave your children the opportunity to apply some tricky scientific vocabulary in a meaningful and engaging way? 
One of the activities in our free resource, Kitchen Concoctions, “What’s in a mince pie” does just that.  The lesson has been designed to help children understand that some mixtures can be permanently changed into new things whereas others can still be separated into their original ingredients.  It also helps children to understand what a mixture is and that there can be mixtures within mixtures.
Children work in pairs or small groups to break a mince pie in half and to explore what it is made of.  They are asked to consider whether it is just one thing or a mixture of different things.    They discover that although the pastry is made up of more than one ingredient it seems to be one thing, and can no longer be separated back into its separate ingredients. 

They then use a tooth pick and hand lens to carefully examine and separate out the individual ingredients from a spoonful of mincemeat taken from a jar, they initially find that many of the ingredients can be separated out.  However, when they use the ingredients list (from the side of the jar) as a secondary source they realise that not all of the ingredients are still visible and they can no longer be separated from the rest of the mixture. If they then take part in the extension activity to bake their own mince pies they are able to observe change over time as they notice the changes that happen to both the pastry and the mince pie when they are heated.

This activity, alongside the other eight exciting activities in Kitchen Concoctions, can be downloaded for free at  It contains full teacher guidance for all of the activities described, which is particularly useful for hard pressed teachers at this hectic time of year.  To receive a free printed copy of our acclaimed resource ‘Working Scientifically’, let us know how you get on using the mince pie activity with your class.  You can do this by leaving a comment on the blog or by tweeting to @ciecyork.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Children Challening Industry

CIEC’s Children Challenging Industry programme was initiated by Tom Swan, then Managing Director of Thomas Swan and Co. Ltd. Tom Swan wanted a peripatetic teacher to visit primary schools in County Durham. Joy Parvin (Director, CIEC), then added in the site visits and school staff CPD, to create the CCI programme we have today.  Harry Swan (Tom’s son, now the Managing Director of Thomas Swan), first got involved when attending a CCI summer event, which brought back the memory of his own class visit to his Dad’s company. Meeting children, teachers and colleagues from other chemical companies at this event enabled Harry to appreciate the positive impact of site visits, and how learning about industry changed children’s perceptions of these companies and their relationship with science. Harry is now Chair of CIEC’s Advisory Committee, and plays a key role in encouraging other companies to support CIEC’s activities.

Pupils are fascinated during a demonstration at Johnson Matthey

Johnson Matthey in Billingham have been hosting school visits since 2002. During that time, they have welcomed more than 1500 children to their site, with over 300 of these visiting in the last 12 months alone.  The Johnson Matthey site in Royston hosts an additional 6 site visits annually and sends ambassadors into a further 4 schools each year.  These opportunities to interact and engage with the children are not only an opportunity to promote awareness of Johnson Matthey but also a chance to encourage the next generation of scientists and engineers. The feedback from pupils and teachers has been excellent and has prompted yet more schools to enquire about participating in the programme.

Research shows that before participating in the CCI programme, children often have a negative perception of the chemical industry.  They see it as dangerous and polluting rather than as a place of technological innovation.  They are not aware of the links between the processes that the industries carry out and the science that they study in school.  Neither are they aware of industry’s potential as a future employer.  

Alan Bootland carrying out a Johnson Matthey demonstration
Without ongoing funding from, and the practical support of, companies such as Johnson Matthey, we would be unable to continue the invaluable work of CCI.  We are extremely grateful to them for their sustained contribution to the programme.
Jenny Harvey

Friday, December 1, 2017

Latest Research from CIEC

The CIEC’s flagship programme, Children Challenging Industry (CCI), makes explicit the relationship between practical scientific activities in the primary classroom and large scale industrial processes. We bring this to life for the children by arranging for them to participate in an in-school project run by one of our advisory teachers alongside their own class teacher. This is followed by a trip to a local site or, if this proves impossible, a visit to the school from a specially-trained “ambassador” from the industry. The CCI programme is evaluated on an ongoing basis, with participating teachers and pupils asked to complete a questionnaire before and after the experience. Our latest report represents four years’ worth of data from pupils and teachers, from 2012 to 2016; you can see it here

Or you may prefer to see the infographics document which shows highlights from this research.

Friday, November 24, 2017

How to make effective links with industry

Why make links with industry?

Children taking part in a classroom activity from the CIEC resource Water for Industry
Making links with industry benefits children as it motivates and engages them; it helps them to realise that science is both important and relevant to their lives; it raises their aspirations as they can see that studying science is worthwhile and can lead to exciting careers.  There is strong evidence that children already have strongly developed ideas which affect their future career choices before the age of eleven so it is important to engage with young people while they are still at primary school.

It is beneficial to industry as by supporting young people to make informed decisions about the subjects that they study they are investing in a future workforce which is drawn from a more diverse cross section of society.  It also helps challenge negative preconceptions about industry for all of the children who visit, not just those who might go on to work in the sector.

Finally, links with industry benefit teachers as they are an exciting and innovative way to cover the National Curriculum for Science.

Bronze Standard: Industry as a context for science lessons
A selection of CIEC resources
Real life contexts based on industry provide engaging problem solving activities (such as the one described here).  They cover the learning objectives in a way that is both memorable and meaningful.   CIEC has worked in collaboration with many industry partners to produce a library of resources and lesson plans which will support teachers to do this.

Silver Standard: Visits from Industry Ambassadors

Giving children the opportunity to meet people who work in industry is a valuable way to build upon experiences in class.  Ideally they will meet children in small groups as this allows for more interaction.  Children are especially excited to see demonstrations or to handle artifacts brought in from the work place.  If ambassadors plan to show electronic presentations they should be encouraged to base these on pictures rather than text.  A particular benefit of ambassador visits is that children realise that STEM subjects can lead to exciting jobs done by real people!

Gold Standard: Children visiting industry

Children visiting Chemoxy in Teeside
Industry visits can be an opportunity for children to see, on a large scale, processes such as filtration that they have carried out in the classroom.  It is a wonderful opportunity to foster positive attitudes and research has shown that children value and remember industry visits for many years.  Moreover, it is an experience that has been cited by some, now working in industry, as the moment that they realised that this is what they wanted to do!  It is particularly valuable if they are able to see both male and female employees and people from diverse backgrounds.  

Children during a visit to Fujifilm Diosynth

This blog post is based upon a chapter in the Primary Science Subject Leader Guide written by Joy Parvin.  

This survival guide, published by the Association of Science Education, is availabe to all ASE members free of charge and can be found at

Friday, November 17, 2017

Fundraising and having fun!

Celebrating ten years of golfing for CIEC in front of Slaley Hall

During September, golfers from across the North-East England's chemical industry hit the courses at Northumberland's Slaley Hall for a day of networking, fun and fund raising in support of CIEC's Children Challenging Industry project.

Lining up before the game starts. 

Billingham-based pump manufacturer, Tomlinson Hall, scooped this year's top prize and was  crowned NEPIC Golf Champion 2017. Through personal contributions, £500 was raised for CCI. The event, which has been running for over a decade, has continually supported CIEC activities.

The Tomlinson Hall winning team

Friday, November 10, 2017

A Creative Approach to Teaching Science

"If you want to know how to make children love science then you must get this book"
Alison Brackenridge     

The front cover of Nicky's new book.

Here at CIEC HQ we are extremely proud that our colleague Nicky Waller has recently had a book published by Bloomsbury!  Those of you that have worked with her will know that she is a very experienced primary science teacher who is brimming with ideas for ways to teach the subject, so you will not be surprised to know that she has produced an extermely useful book.

It is cram packed with fantastic ideas to teach every single element of the primary science curriculum in a meaningful and engaging way.   The layout of the book is logical and straightforward so that teachers can quickly find the learning objectives that they are planning to teach.  There they will find manageable lesson ideas which Nicky has tried and tested with the recommended age group so they can be sure that they really will work as intended.  Teachers will find that the activities, as well as being fun, will support children to develop a secure understanding of the concepts that they are teaching.

Of course, you may think that we are biased because we work with Nicky but if you look at the reviews on Amazon you will see that others agree with us!  

Nicky at a recent event where she met some of her readers.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Generating Electricity: Sensors

Children can feel inspired, motivated and spend more time engaged on task when the problems posed involve them searching for a purposeful outcome, particularly when some-one is asking for their advice! The sensor activity on page 16 of our publication ‘Generating Electricity’ (which can be found at  provides this kind of context and would be a useful challenge to give children during ‘Tomorrow’s Engineers Week’ (6th -10th November) while covering KS2 objectives for electricity.

After receiving a letter from ‘Electricaid’ children work collaboratively to design and build a mini working model of a well which includes some kind of sensor to warn when the water has reached a desired level. Each group is given a large beaker (1000ml) to represent their well, one 1.5V cell and the rest is up to them!

The most innovative designs are achieved when children are provided with a selection of basic circuit equipment as well as lots of everyday conducting and insulating materials to choose from - paper clips, drawing pins, split pins, coins, corks, cotton reels, tin foil, bottle tops, glue, blu-tac, sellotape, card, plastic tubes and plastic sheets (A4 overhead projector transparencies are ideal) plus anything else that the children think they will need.

Working collaboratively

Children are encouraged to discuss and swap ideas not just at the planning stage but throughout this activity, jotting and amending notes and annotated drawings on whiteboards and listing the types of equipment they may need to start with and then to modify and improve their designs. Giving children space to make mistakes as they design and evaluate their designs through a process of trial and error helps children to develop a deep understanding of what they are doing as well as fostering real pride in their achievements.

 It can be valuable not to show children the diagram of a successful design which is provided in the resource until after they have made their own sensors.  When they do this teachers are amazed at the variety of ideas and at the ingenuity of children.  Most models have some kind of floating conductor (say a ‘raft’ of corks covered in tin foil) placed in the bottom of the well. When water is added and the level rises, this floats up to touch a carefully positioned contact point near the top of the well which is then connected to a simple circuit built safely away from the water.  

Close up of a working sensor

We would love to see your children’s designs; you can tweet them to @ciecyork for a chance to win a hard copy of some of our resources!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Bring it on!

CIEC has recently been involved in and exciting new science and engineering event.  ‘Bring it On!’ was held at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland on 3 and 4 October this year. It was the first event of its kind in the North East, bringing together national and regional organisations to showcase the amazing career opportunities there are open to young people in the region. The aim of the event was to inspire and motivate young people in primary and secondary education to choose science and engineering as their future career.
Nicky Waller with a selection of CIEC publications and a copy of her recently published book "A Creative Approach to Teaching Science"
Nicky Waller from CIEC was invited to exhibit our resources and materials, as part of the primary day on 3 October, alongside many local businesses with exciting demonstrations and machinery to really show the breadth of engineering activities taking place from the Yorkshire border, to the Scottish border, from the Pennines to the sea.
Many schools that had taken part in the Children Challenging Industry programme in Teesside attended the event with their teachers. Their day involved opportunities to talk to inspirational local individuals who have made a successful career in engineering as well as visiting seven fascinating zones to explore different aspects of engineering and understand the many contexts it is applied in.

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's activity can be found in the CIEC resource 'Runny Liquids' which can be downloaded from
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