MICHELLE GRIMSHAW once blew her nose on a dead bat. The Year 5 teacher at Marsden primary in Lancashire is one of six winners of The TESAstrazeneca primary science teaching awards, to be presented at this week's Association for Science Education conference.
Ms Grimshaw, 50, believes the award recognises her willingness to relate science to the real world.
She also encourages pupils to bring in scientific finds, often with unexpected consequences. One child brought in a dead bat, which Ms Grimshaw wrapped in a tissue in her handbag for safe keeping.
All would have been well, had she not been seized by a sneezing fit. "It helps that I've never grown up," she said. "I'm always asking, why, why, why? It drives my husband and daughters mad. But I still find awe and wonder in science."
Carol Grunner agrees. The 48-year-old received her award for work with reception and Year 1 classes at Nomansland and Hampworth primary in Wiltshire.
She is continually encouraging her pupils to observe the world around them and bring their discoveries into school. So far, pupils have arrived with deer antlers, hedgehogs and another dead bat. "If you just deliver the curriculum, you miss opportunities," Ms Grunner said. "You need to listen to pupils. I go out for a walk on a frosty morning and just think, 'Wow!'
Science is about passing on that wow factor."
It is also about challenging misconceptions. When award-winner Mary Watkins took over as science teacher at Gaer junior school, in Newport, almost all her pupils told her they did not like the subject. "They said it was too much writing," the 42-year-old said. "I thought, it's a practical subject.
We need to be more hands-on."
Gaer now has a pond, meadow and woodland area. And there is a microscope for every two pupils.
Hugh Lawlor, director of the Astrazeneca trust, believes inspirational teachers help produce future doctors, engineers and scientists. "Primary is the time when children want to investigate. They're motivated," he said.
"But to excite pupils you need good teachers."
TES SCIENCE AWARD-WINNERS
Hayley Collins, Abbey Park first and nursery school, Worcestershire; Michelle Grimshaw, Marsden primary, Lancashire; Mary Watkins, Gaer junior school, Newport; Sue Southam, Guilsfield primary, Powys; Carol Grunner, Nomansland and Hampworth primary, Wiltshire. Astrazeneca science-teaching trust trustee award: Ciaran Kinney, St Anne's primary, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland.