So many cooks brought together, but broth turns out to be surprisingly unspoilt

6th May 2011 at 01:00
Science `ingredients' mixed with kids could be a recipe for disaster . so what happened?

For Project Cookalong, we knew that our centre would be encouraged to use the schools intranet Glow to deliver continuing professional development. The problem would be doing it in a way that kept our experiential model. Having passive onlookers bored rigid, albeit bored rigid in a geographically diverse range of locations, was not an option.

Modelling ourselves on Gordon Ramsay, though hopefully without the swearing, we dispatched some sciencey ingredients to schools around the country and invited teachers to carry out practical work along with a presenter.

Using Glow's messaging, they could call in if they got stuck, and our presenter would respond there and then. Those taking part liked the initiative, and much of the credit goes to a young - compared to me, anyway - primary teacher called David, seconded two days a week since late November to develop material. He also proved to be a very effective, and suitably non-profane, Cookalong presenter.

Seconding someone always causes a bit of inconvenience to their school, so when David's headteacher asked if I would come out and do a bit of science with the pupils, I felt that it would be churlish to refuse. I packed my car with some interesting stuff and drove to the west end of a town once famous for its instruments of physical punishment.

I was to work with P7. We set ourselves a challenge. In one hour, we would devise a science show and present it, two classes at a time, to the rest of the school.

Though it's not a regular part of my present job, I have gone out to schools to work with pupils a fair number of times in previous lives. I could say that the pupils never fail to impress me, but it wouldn't be true and it wouldn't be fair on the ones who do impress me.

Now and again, I've felt like giving some kids a jolt with the Van de Graaff generator to reanimate them, or a metaphorical whack with a Monty Python fish to calm them down.

Fortunately, while the VdG did feature on the day in question, it was only as a showstopper to make pupils laugh, as their teachers agreed to be charged up with hair-raising consequences. P7 were terrific, not just in their ability to demonstrate experiments that they had seen for the first time an hour earlier, but in the way they interacted with younger pupils.

This clearly wasn't something that had simply kicked in on the day. Talking to staff afterwards, I was told the older pupils had responsibilities in school, including mentoring the younger children. Sounds like a recipe worth following, if you ask me.

Gregor Steele, Scottish Schools Equipment Research Centre

Gregor Steele worked with real pupils later the same week. Help!

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