Pupils lead and learn from the front

A scheme where nine and 10-year-olds teach science to their younger schoolmates and perform experiments for them has proved a success, the conference heard.

The Pupils As Science Teacher (Past) project has been running for a year in 23 pilot schools in London and Northumbria.

Industry "ambassadors" have been teaching Year 5 pupils simple science practicals, so that they can pass on what they have learned to children in Year 2.

Engineers from Thames Water, General Electric, Network Rail and London Waste were given several hours of teacher training before entering the classroom. Then they were armed with a backpack full of Thomas the Tank Engine railways (to demonstrate motors) and a monocycling tight-rope-walking teddy bear (to show the principles of balance).

"We hope that the ambassadors will build up a relationship with their schools and the programme will just carry on," said project co-ordinator, Steve Smyth, from SETNET, the Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematics Network, a charity that promotes science awareness. "Once they have found out what it is appropriate for them to teach, then hopefully they will come up with new ways of demonstrating things that we haven't even imagined.

"These high-powered engineers are more used to ultrasound equipment, but now they are working with plastic toys. They tell us they have been astounded by some of the pupils' ingenuity when set tasks."

Previous research has shown that pupils have a 90 per cent recall rate of new information when they teach it to others, compared to 5 per cent when listening, 10 per cent when reading and 50 per cent in discussion groups.

The impact of the project has not yet been measured but the response from the schools has been overwhelmingly positive.

"The teachers have all been really enthusiastic and they all want us to come back," said Mr Smyth.

Any schools interested in taking part in the project can contact Mr Smyth at steve.smyth@setnet.org.uk

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