Science - They've got the power

21st September 2012 at 01:00
Energy workshops at a heritage site are a source of excitement

As leaves begin to change colour and the air develops a hint of autumn chill, it's tempting to plan lessons that will keep children snug indoors. But the seasons can be usefully incorporated into science lessons, and even feature in excursions to enhance and stimulate learning.

Ironbridge Gorge, a World Heritage Site in Shropshire, was at the heart of the Industrial Revolution and is among the UK's top visitor destinations. But these days it's becoming equally well known as one of the country's best classrooms.

The wind turbine workshop at the Enginuity site, in which primary pupils learn how wind turbines can be used to generate electricity and how to design their own models, is a good example of how the seasons (autumn is one of the UK's windiest periods) can prompt learning.

Pupils start the day-long workshop with an interactive demonstration of energy sources and examples of different types of renewable energy in a 60-seat theatre. Why do we use solar panels? How do they work? What are wind turbines and how can they harness the winds across the British Isles?

There is even a bit of quirky role play: pupils pretend to be clouds as they overshadow a panel, or play the sun, with its fierce rays, as part of an exploration into how these resources become usable energy.

In the afternoon pupils head off to Gadgetdom, a high-tech classroom where they build and decorate their own model wind turbines and where competition grows fierce over whose is the most effective.

Michelle Davies, senior presenter of the Enginuity programme, has an arts degree, but gravitated to Ironbridge two years ago after deciding that her future lay in teaching. Now she delights in watching children explore how nature can be harnessed by technology.

"To experience is to understand - that's the philosophy of Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust - and we now have 10 sites, with 70,000 student visitors each year," she says. "It's never too early to start learning and we have programmes for children as young as under five to help them develop their skills through play.

"The Wind Turbine workshops are great because they are fun and interactive. Children have the opportunity to explore an abstract concept such as electricity with simple, practical experiments. For example, they can turn a handmade generator handle to create electricity and light a bulb. This is a simple and effective way of showing them the basic concepts involved in wind turbines."

There can also be unexpected challenges and rewards. "The workshops remind us that electricity is all around us and a part of most of our everyday lives," says Davies. "We ask the children if they use electricity. It is amazing how many of them think that they live without electricity until we discuss its different uses. One child thought that candles were powered by electricity.

"To help emphasise the importance of sound construction techniques, we show the children a short video of a wind turbine breaking in two. The video never fails to raise some screams from the students."

For workshop bookings, telephone Rose Lloyd on 01952 433970.

TOP 10

With crops ready to be harvested and trees shedding their leaves, use these resources to enter into the spirit of autumn.

My little book of autumn

Craft a seasonal book using picture templates.

A senses walk Use a recording sheet to note the smells, sights and sounds of autumn on a woodland walk.

Autumn alphabet

Create an A-Z of all things autumnal using a dictionary and a little imagination.

Topic words

Oranges, reds and falling leaves are some of the themes covered by these topic cards.

Seasonal haiku

Encourage pupils to write a haiku and test how many autumn words they know.

Topic plan

A wide range of activities, from expressing the season through dance to collecting fallen leaves.

Artistic vision

Study the works of Van Gogh and other artists in this exploration of how landscapes change with the seasons.

Scavenger hunt

The forest floor becomes a gold mine of activity.

Autumn presentation

Vivid photography and expressive poetry captures the essence of the season.

Autumn sing-along

Bring the season to life with song, using lyrics adapted from popular nursery rhymes.



Discover the history of the Industrial Revolution with a Teachers TV video. bit.lyIronbridge

Turn pupils into wind turbine engineers with a practical project from the United States Department of Energy.


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