Whiteboards, wonder walls, wizards

7th January 2005 at 00:00
The AstraZeneca Teaching TrustTESPrimary Science Teaching Awards recognise innovative teachers. Hilary Wilce interviews this year's winners.

Nancy Bilderbeck, 50, has just started as head of science at Pembridge Hall school, a West London girls' prep school, but was proposed for the award by parents and children at her last school, South Hampstead high school junior department. In her white coat, pouring out superabsorbent polymers in her well-equipped lab, she is aware that her teaching conditions must seem a world away from those of state primary colleagues, but says many of the challenges are the same. She feels pupils struggle with science because they haven't grasped the basics, and to address this she has pioneered a scheme of work which introduces the fundamental skills they need in order to "become scientists".

"If you wrap up skills with knowledge, you end up doing neither well.

Science is driven by asking questions. So I ask them to ask questions, and then I ask them how they are going to find out answers. They always say by experimenting, because that's what they like to do, but they also have to learn to ask, think, observe, and measure."

Winning lesson The course starts with a scavenger hunt to find and learn the names of pieces of science equipment. Pupils are then introduced to dissection, by dissecting flowers, and learning how to lay out the parts in an organised way. They learn about recording data in tables by collecting information, then measure beans and count and tabulate their seeds to introduce them to the idea of averages.

"We go slowly, take tiny steps and we take our time, but it pays off. It takes half a term but once you've done it, they've got it, and you never have to worry about these areas again."

This scheme of work will be on display at the Association for Science Education conference.

The Primary Science Teaching Awards are sponsored by the AstraZeneca Science Teaching Trust and The TES in conjunction with the Association for Science Education. All winners receive pound;500 each and their schools pound;750, awarded at the ASEconference

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