Have you been scrolling and scrolling looking for ideas for your science lesson? There can be 1000’s of ideas out there. In her first, #NexEdBlog, Dr Jo shares where she heads to for inspiration.
As a primary school teacher, the amount of time it takes to research and find resources for each subject can be enormous – the potential for the gravitational pull to drag you down the virtual rabbit hole for hours can be immense! This seems even greater when looking for practical science ideas. Added to the statistic that 40% of primary school teachers are not confident teaching science (the subject for a future blog post!), but even for those with a subject specialism, the never ending number of places you can go for subject support can be counter-productive. In this blog post, I will signpost you to some of the most useful, so that you can direct your interests, find out more about specific topics and find meaningful practical investigations (hopefully without too many diversions!).
There are whole schemes of work, online providers, virtual resources, topic specialists, social media groups and actual real-life scientists to support science education in your school. I’ll go through some of the best. I’m not affiliated to them, nor do I benefit from mentioning them, I’m just offering my opinion and flagging resources which you might find helpful, depending on your setting.
Planning and assessment
Your school, academy, MAT or LA should be members of CLEAPSS in order to ensure safe science; they also have great resources for investigations too.
For a great look at skills progression across primary, take a look at CIEC’s working scientifically document.
Programmes of Study
If you’re looking for an entire scheme of work, many schools use a whole school approach with providers such as the Hamilton Trust, Rising Stars, Engaging Science or Snap Science. In my experience, any ‘complete’ schemes of work are there for guidance and dipping in and out of; you know your children best and know what would best help them learn. Take the guidance from the DfE’s National curriculum programmes of study framework document and map the most appropriate learning for your children. The ASE also have some great advice on selecting schemes of work.
CPD and support
There are many sources of organised CPD, depending on your local situation. Here are some general places to look:
Local hubs – this varies between regions and whether you are in a Multi-academy trust (MAT) or local authority (LA) controlled school.
Ogden trust – Primary Physics CPD
Primary Science Quality Mark PSQM – it’s worth exploring this well supported accreditation for your school as the whole process helps to improve science teaching.
Resources – The big players
Explorify – activities and videos to spark curiosity and discussion from Wellcome.
Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) – Primary resources, including cross-curricular links
Ogden trust -fizzi practicals
The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) create some excellent STEM and PSHE resources for schools, including where medicines come from and animations on solids, liquids and gases.
SAPS (Science and Plants for Schools) – for all things plants.
ASE (Association for Science Education) have curriculum-linked resources as well as planning, CPD and conferences.
CREST awards from the British Science Association produce great activities for science clubs or use in school or at home. CREST Star for KS1 and CREST superstar for KS2. You can access the resources for free online or apply to get the award for a small fee.
Woodland Trust and Nature detectives
Facetime a Farmer and LEAF education
ESERO-UK for space context activities
Practical Action Schools have free STEM resources focusing on global development issues.
WWF have resources on climate change and species diversity and habitat.
Anglian Water produce downloadable resources as well as having a local outreach team.
BBSRC (Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council) have online resources.
The Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) have teaching resources and activities online.
BP have a range of where’s the science in that? Resources.
Online support/social media
Unleash 1 (KS1: Science for Infants) and Unleash 2 (KS2: Science for Juniors) facebook groups and @UnleashPriSci provide a supportive community to help with primary science teaching, including lots of files for planning and assessment and friendly teachers to answer questions and offer advice
St Mary’s Padlet (@SIMMSPriScience) provides a collection of resources they have found useful.
Science Sparks has great science experiments for home or school, with curriculum links.
The Children’s University of Manchester have great interactive resources on a variety of topics.
Useful Twitter hashtags
Some useful Twitter people to follow – and build your following from there
@WildlifeTrusts (and find your local wildlife trust)
Bringing in outside professionals can help with children’s engagement, but also has the added bonus of developing teachers’ practise too (hear Dr Leigh Hoath, editor of the ASE’s Primary Science magazine talking about her top tips for teaching primary science here).
Your first port of call is to exploit your parent body and community! There may be scientists you can bring in to talk about what they do or run an activity for the children with real life applications. There may be Universities, businesses or other organisations in your local area keen to get involved and give something back to their local community. The biggest organisation coordinating such volunteers is the STEM Ambassadors programme (STEM Learning). Volunteer STEM Ambassadors are all DBS checked too.
Other places to look include:
- Universities and Research Institutes – research funding requires organisations to include public engagement (for example, The Babraham Institute have online resources as well as outreach)
- Local companies may also want to get involved as part of their CSR (corporate and social responsibility). Remember that there is often science in obscure fields!
- Secondary schools – many are very keen to support their feeder primaries, especially those in MATs and there may even be specific time or funds for this, but at the very least they will lend you equipment!
- Workshop providers, like me!
I’ve tried to keep this blog open to the national (or even international) level, but there are many local resources available too. I would advise contacting your local STEM Ambassador hub to find out about available opportunities in your area, and also take a look at the STEM Learning directory.
Paul Tyler (@Glazgow) produces a free monthly Topical Science Update to use in class or for your own learning.
ASE’s Primary Science is great CPD for teachers.
There are many magazines aimed at promoting a love of science for children, including Whizz Pop Bang, Nat Geo Kids and How it Works (older children and adults). Aquila is not science specific but often contains some great STEM articles for primary aged children.
Reach Out Reporter has topical science news updates for children in video format. It’s a joint project between TigTag and Imperial College and is free, but is a front end for TigTag (Twig Education’s) paid online resources.
Equipment and Resources
As well as the usual providers such as TTS, you can get science equipment from a range of places, including as pre-prepared class kits from The Curiosity Box (STEM Day in a Box) and Bright Sparks 4 Kids (electricity kits).
There are even resources you can borrow!
Your local museum may have items to lend you, including rock samples.
You can Borrow the moon (rocks and meteorites), you can borrow a microscope activity kit from the Royal Microscopical Society, purchase discounted microscopes from them or take part in their outreach activities.
Those of you teaching in 2012 may remember the Get In The Zone Olympics boxes sponsored by Wellcome; take a look at the back of your science cupboard – you may still have the pedometers, stethoscopes and other human body and sport related activities which were delivered to every school in the UK.
Competitions and participation
Astra Zeneca ran The Energy Challenge in 2018-2019 to get children investigating the energy value of different foods and provided a free balance to each participating school as well as mentoring pupils through the challenge.
The Mars balloon project will take small items selected by your class up into the atmosphere to see what effects this may have – you get video footage and tracking and receive the items back to investigate!
I hope this has been a useful starting point for the myriad science teaching resources out there. Pick one and try it – there’s so much wonder to discover in the world!