Now schools have the tools, they need flexibility

21st January 2005 at 00:00
Staff at Longforgan Primary, in Perth and Kinross, had a ball when they received their Science Strategy money in 2002, buying things they could not afford before, says headteacher Franca Reid.

These included books, minibeast charts, balances, lenses, stopwatches, computer software and a sophisticated digital microscope.

"In Perth and Kinross, each school got a small allocation and the authority bought the Renfrew Science Pack for every school, together with the resources needed to support it - meters, magnets, lightboxes, measuring instruments - all packed and ready for each stage."

The effect on her staff, none of whom is a scientist, was that they stopped thinking "I don't have time to do this" and started looking forward to science lessons, says Ms Reid.

"Organising resources is a big thing in any practical subject. Now it's all there for the teachers. So they are doing a lot more science a lot more confidently, which must have an impact on the children's learning.

"Teachers have a lot of what they need now, which is freeing us up to go further, which we will be doing."

This is essential, she believes, because still missing from school science is the excitement, the "Wow" factor, as well as the relevance to children's lives.

"The kids are all asking us now about the tsunami and what made it happen.

But we don't have time to respond properly. It is not a two-minute answer.

It's a matter of 'Let's go and learn all about the causes and effects of earthquakes.'

"The curriculum is so stuffed nowadays that teachers don't have time to do things like that, which would really motivate the children."

It was this motivational quality of science that first inspired Ms Reid (whose own formal science qualifications ended at school) with the subject's classroom potential.

"Science lets you get active with children and learn alongside them.

"Children are constantly asking scientific questions.

"I could see the excitement and enthusiasm in them but I didn't know the answers. So I began to find out more," she explains.

Ms Reid is now an active member and former chair of the Association for Science Education Scotland. She sits on the board of the Institute for Science Education in Scotland and the committee for Improving Science Education 5-14.

"I am not a science expert but I do know a lot more than I did," she says.

"It is wonderful being with children when they make scientific discoveries, no matter how simple.

"What I learn through ASE is as much about quality learning and teaching as about science.

"The subject is a tremendous vehicle for enthusing youngsters. Teachers can use it to pull in the national priorities and just about every other area of the curriculum."

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