Great Whites gave bite to science

22nd June 2007 at 01:00
In an age where we are constantly told that children are no longer interested in science, it is a relief that my pupils have been given the opportunity to see the subject in a new light. The Darwin Centre for biology and medicine, based in Pembrokeshire college, lets them use what is learned in the classroom to real magical effect.

The 2007 Darwin Science Aglow Festival was an example of how science can be celebrated. The highlight was a presentation by Monty Halls, author, explorer, TV presenter and film-maker extraordinaire. He took children on an enthralling journey on the big screen, diving with Great White sharks, Manta Rays and other creatures from exotic waters.

Our school approached Marten Lewis, education co-ordinator at the Darwin Centre, in spring last year. He came to talk to pupils about sustainability. But instead of a dull presentation, the children used a microscope to study mini-beasts.

The Darwin Centre, which is sponsored by Dragon LNG, provides expertise and resources that enhance activities, motivating pupils far more than a textbook ever could. The enthusiasm of pupils led them to come up with their own investigation for the festival. This was a tremendous opportunity for children to share and discuss their work in an educational context.

Achieving the Bronze CREST (Creativity in Science and Technology) award is a recognition of the children's work that is richly deserved. Pupils cannot rely on reading from a textbook - they must recall scientific knowledge that is not scripted or quoted in a book.

This is true learning in science. The workshops, delivered by local agencies, allow the children to recognise the value of their community as a scientific resource.

As a school that actively promotes health and sustainability, we were keen to get the message across to others. Our investigation, called Water Wise, mirrored that ethos. The children calculated how long it took to clean their teeth. They questioned why they left the tap running as they brushed.

We then ran the tap for the average time, three minutes 51seconds, while measuring the amount of wasted water.

This sparked a great class discussion on wastage. Now the children make a conscious decision to turn off the tap. The message was also conveyed to other pupils through assemblies and displays.

Children were enthused again over this year's entry, How Big is Your Footprint? They looked at the school's carbon footprint and how it can be reduced. They are already keen to switch off appliances, both at home and at school. The festival provides schools with an opportunity to celebrate their science and investigative work through topics that encourage pupils to think about their futures.

With direction from the teacher, students are empowered and realise that they can make a difference. They are no longer the passive generation.

They are keen to shout about the project. One pupil, Siana, said: "At the Darwin Science Festival there were lots of activities. We made models out of recycled materials, and we had a person talk to us about our coral reefs and what materials were biodegradable."

Nick Allen is a Year 5 teacher at Lamphey primary school

* Any teacher who would like to comment on good practice in teaching is welcome to submit a 600-word article to the editor of TES Cymru for consideration. A fee of pound;200 is paid for those that are published.

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