Science lives when thought is taught

The first snows of winter dominated many lessons on Tuesday. But not the science class for Year 7 pupils at Clapton School, a girls' comprehensive in Hackney, east London.

There, 11- and 12-year-olds were happily handling arcane concepts such as input variables, relationships and prediction with the aid of warmed oil, a ruler and a timer.

They are the third Clapton intake to take the Cognitive Acceleration Through Science Education course. Their teacher, Julia Leewood, is impressed by the results. "We're talking about proportionality in this lesson," she said. "I was doing gas laws and proportionality with my Year 11s recently and they had no idea what it meant."

Almost 70 per cent of the Clapton intake does not have English as a first language, and 13 main ethnic groups are represented, yet a forest of hands shot up every time Ms Leewood asked a question about the experiments they were doing and the graphs they were plotting.

Had anyone noticed that oil was sometimes thinner or thicker at different times of year? Weather? What about it? Temperature? How could the class test the hypothesis? Run oil through a funnel. What would be the input variable? How long did it take?

Tola Oyeleye, 11, said: "These lessons make us think and they explain more science to us."

Science staff at the school are impressed with the CASE course, which they say has improved the quality of their teaching, introduced advanced concepts and language to pupils, and on specialtests appears to show a marked increase in thinking ability in pupils - of 39.7 percentage points.

"If it has a knock-on effect in other subjects that will be a bonus," said Lynn Dalton, the school's deputy head.

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