Friday, 20 January 2012

Sharing the good news with student teachers

Went out yesterday to Manchester Met Uni. delivering two sessions to third year student teachers at the Science learning centre in Didsbury.
The day was a special event about being creative in the primary science curriculum and I had been asked to talk about hands on lesson ideas particularly the sort of thing I have done on the RSC North West Trust Primary Science DVD.
Helen Ross came with me and so armed to the teeth with all sorts of household containers, jugs, saucers and kitchen ingredients we set off to enthuse about science.
It was a good opportunity to show how simple kitchen ingredients can be used to open a lesson or set an interesting homework or even start off a project.
We showed them a couple of clips from the DVD but then Helen WOWed them with her ping pong ball on a milk bottle - her volunteer really didn't know what would happen so her amazement was truly genuine!
I demonstrated making a lava lamp with water,oil and a fizzy tablet and then showed how you can set a great project by finding liquids with different densities and layering up a cocktail.

The freaky hand - inflating a rubber glove with carbon dioxide produced by vinegar and bicarbonate of soda - went down really well.
Then we all had a go at "art on plate" - drops of food colouring into a saucer of milk and then touching the milk with a cotton bud dipped in washing up liquid and seeing what happens.
The exit poll reviews the students were asked to do were extremely complimentary.
You can find clips of the DVD on You Tube here:
this one is art on a plate and I think there are about 20 or so clips.

I was reminded of a tutor I had at training college - a wonderful lady called Freda Davenport. She was an older woman who felt like our grandma - she was so friendly and nothing was too much trouble - it was only after a couple of years I found out she had more degrees than you could shake a stick at.
She was a mine of amazing ideas for student teachers about to go out into school who had been given some grotty subject to try to teach ( with no resources of course!). She also taught the science specialists practical science and Design Technology. I still have her notes - they were so good - and I used her ideas all through my teaching career and on into being at Catalyst.
A friend has commented that I have turned into her - what a compliment - because she was wonderful and I only wish that all student teachers could have someone like Freda - not just for the ideas but for the way she instilled us with confidence in our own ability without being a soft touch.
 I wonder where she is now??

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Off we go.......

So here we go.. Science2U is officially up and running with a web site - OK so most of it is a building site - but at least it is there.Plus after much messing about I finally managed to sort out decent e-mail with re-routing, multiple e-mail boxes and so on. is where you can get me
You just take all this for granted when you work for a company where someone else organises it all.
The business cards have arrived and I have my first proper booking next Wednesday!
I have already been out but really that was a bit of a fraud because I was talking about Catalyst!
Amazingly I have had someone contact me from that conference - he probably wants me to buy something but at least I feel I exist.
So now I am being very creative and putting together a few shows - something about being healthy - a popular primary topic; probably something about motion because that is the theme of this year's national science week; hopefully something about changing materials because that is a favourite of mine plus  a secondary flash bang type show because that is what they want!
All I need are catchy names and lots of contacts....hmmmmm...better get the brain going then and stop procrastinating by doing my blog!
Went to the annual Association of Science Educators (ASE) conference last week. This is an opportunity for anyone involved in science education to get together. This year it was held in Liverpool University which was great for me because it is just a hop on a train away.
Lots going on including a marquee of exhibitors, seminars and workshops plus a really good programme of evening entertainment.
I had been asked to speak at a session by the Wellcome Trust so off I trotted yesterday, presentation in hand (having of course sent it in earlier but you never know and I always have a plan B!!)
It was a bit weird really because I was asked to talk about Catalyst and obviously I am not there anymore but as the expert on the subject it was logical for me to speak.
The session title was "Proving the unique value of informal learning"  a sharing of research findings so far into what the project is calling "informal learning". They mean anything that is not actually a taught classroom session - so it could be the sort of thing that science centres and museums do but equally it could be a TV programme, a science club, a STEM event..... 
The company organising  the actual research, GHK, explained what they were doing and then Iain Morley from MOSI and I gave case studies of how we approach informal learning.
Fascinating difference between us - Iain said that about 85% of their group visits do not engage with the education team - they come for free and do a self guided tour, picking up gallery guide explanations on the way.
Catalyst in contrast has about 98% of groups doing something with the education team and it is a rare thing for a school to not book anything.
In the audience were lots of other informal learning providers - National History Museum, Science Museum London, BP, numerous STEM contract holders from around the country and everyone said how hard it was to attract secondary schools - but of course Catalyst gets about 50% of school visits from secondary schools. So I was quizzed about how!
One obvious thing is that Catalyst offers chemistry linked activities and has built up a reputation of excellent teaching at secondary level - it is much easier for a non-specialist to teach a primary session. Plus the wonderful Discovery lab setting is very inspirational.
So a fascinating session which was very well received and hopefully the start of a link between the Wellcome Trust for both Catalyst and for me.