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Science is not only about what the students are doing, but most importantly, what they are learning.
A year full of amazing science activities is quite the norm at GES, these may be celebrations around the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Zoom sessions with CERN engineers, researchers and physicists, a presentation from a famous astronaut, a STEAM workshop or many others.
In this conversation, Kerry Cesmat, our Head of Primary Science, gives us an insight to how we approach Science at GES and why it is such an amazing discipline to teach.
How do we teach Science at Primary? What are the strengths of our curriculum?
Our curriculum is based strongly on the National Curriculum for England. At GES, there is a strong focus on developing the skills used for working scientifically, while also rigorously teaching the required knowledge at each level. This is coupled with the ambition to foster each child’s intrinsic curiosity, their excitement about the world around them and create a love of science!
The students are required to undertake different types of scientific enquiries such as scientific research, experimentation, fair testing, identifying and classifying and noticing patterns over time. This helps prepare them for ever more in-depth scientific study as they progress through their secondary school education and beyond.
We aim for children to apply their knowledge of science to the wider curriculum and to demonstrate an understanding of how science fits into social, moral and cultural issues, thus preparing them to become responsible global citizens. By regularly engaging in STEAM mini-projects and story-based science projects, linked to the science curriculum, we aim for our students to see how many subjects overlap and support each other, allowing them to further develop their understanding.
Knowledge and skills are acquired through a large series of well-planned, exciting experiences, which show evident progression throughout the school. Over time children are expected to develop their ‘working scientifically’ skills from giving a simple explanation using keywords in EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) all the way to generating and answering a question through a self-designed enquiry in Year 6. Staff are highly aware of the previous learning that has been completed by the students and will ‘check in’ with this at the beginning of each new topic.
Assessment takes place through observation of students, marking of work and feedback, as well as assessment activities completed in an informal way with the children. Each student’s understanding is carefully tracked and the information is made available to the following teacher to ensure strong progression.
The students are given a great range of opportunities to engage with science both in and out of the classroom through trips, visits, clubs and pupil exchange and this leads to a cross-curricular and wider understanding of a subject.
Here are just a few examples of the exciting science learning activities in our Key stages 1 and 2 (Years 1- 6) across Primary School:
- Protective packaging experiment (Materials KS 1)
- Senses carousel (Animals including humans KS 1)
- Habitat in a box (Living things KS 1)
- Worm charming (Living things KS 1)
- Water transportation in plants (Plants Year 3)
- Made ice-cream (Materials Year 4)
- Kielder observatory talk (Earth and Space Year 5)
- Separation investigations (Materials Year 5)
- Non- reversible changes investigations (Materials Year 5)
- Inherited or not investigation (Evolution and inheritance Year 6)
- Adaptation research project (Evolution and Inheritance Year 6)
- Animal sounds (classifying) – STEAM morning
How does this learning prepare the students for their next steps (into KS3/Secondary)?
Throughout our students’ primary school journey, the main focus of Science teaching is to enable pupils to broaden their scientific view of the world around them. They will do so through exploring, talking about, testing and developing ideas about everyday phenomena and the relationships between living things and familiar environments, and by beginning to develop their ideas about functions, relationships and interactions. It is critical for students to ask their own questions about what they observe and, as they progress, decide which type of scientific enquiry is likely to be the best way to answer a question. These may take the form of observing changes over time, noticing patterns, grouping and classifying phenomena, carrying out simple comparative and fair tests, and researching using secondary sources of information. Students will then draw conclusions and use scientific language, first, to talk about and, later, to write about what they have found out.
By the end of KS2, the students will be able to take accurate measurements, interpret data accordingly and form their own conclusions. They are encouraged to relate scientific explanations to phenomena in the world around them, and prepare for more structured science subject learning in Secondary. In addition, students start to understand that science is about working objectively, taking account of new evidence and ideas and subjecting results to peer review.
When students plan scientific experiments, based on given or self-generated questions in KS2, they develop a deeper understanding of factors which must be taken into account when conducting experiments fairly. They gain an understanding of variables, collecting, recording and processing data and publishing their findings to others, while developing their scientific vocabulary. Following the experiment or investigation, they will then analyse their data, evaluate their results, draw conclusions and identify further questions that arise from the investigation.
All of these skills prepare our students for KS3 or Secondary school where they will apply them at a deeper level and, importantly, to increasingly abstract concepts.
You have introduced Science ambassadors at Primary this year. Tell us a little more about their role.
The Science Ambassadors are a lovely way of giving pupil voice to students around the subject of science at GES. The Science Ambassadors work with the Head of Primary Science to develop and complete projects to raise the profile of science, communicate with other students about science and represent other students’ views to the Head of Primary Science.
The current Science Ambassadors created a survey for their peers, regularly share their views about science at GES and tremendously enjoyed hosting their first ever STEAM workshop for children in the EYFS and KS1 (ages 3 to 7).
Why do you love teaching Science in particular and why is it such an amazing (and important) discipline at GES?
Science is such an amazing and magical subject to teach because children are born filled with wonder and curiosity. Children innately explore from an extremely early age and at GES we take enormous joy in harnessing that intrinsic curiosity and creating a challenging and exciting curriculum that allows children to explore in a way that is natural to them, while also progressing their knowledge and scientific skills. Science is a wonderful cornerstone of the curriculum at GES that allows for cross curricular learning, experimentation, fascination and creativity. It provides our students with the foundations they need to succeed in the future and paves the way towards many exciting opportunities and career prospects for our students.