SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING
Judith Wardlaw explains
Careers advice: Students talk to
her school’s work to
real-life scientists at an Institute
of Physics South West event
(see boxout below)
engage pupils in science
and engineering careers,
and we also hear about a
similar scheme run by the
Institute of Physics
HEN ASKED “what is a
scientist like?” the response
from my secondary students
Year 10 student Chantelle
said: “When our teacher first
mentioned that we would be
meeting different scientists in our next lesson, everyone
groaned. The stereotypical image of a scientist was
apparent on everyone’s mind: the long white lab coats,
crazy grey hair and glasses.”
Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester is determined
to give students a more realistic vision of the wide
range of science and its relevance to everyday lives. In
2008 a pioneering “Meet the Scientists” day was held,
supported by the Dorset Aimhigher programme and
Stempoint at Yeovil College.
Two hundred key stage 4 science students each spent
an hour meeting five early stage career ambassadors for that change colour, glowsticks, Buddhist singing bowls it’s like to become a scientist, not just people who want including teamwork in collaboration with teachers and
science. Sixteen dynamic role models from various and railway sound vibrations, lasers, panning for gold, you to become a scientist”. industry.
universities and industrial organisations volunteered methods of weapon detection and protecting soldiers, As a follow-up, a competition was run to improve the It is a workshop formula that could be copied for most
their time to represent a wide variety of scientific what makes a bacteria turn bad, our explosive Sun, students’ science-writing skills. They were encouraged curriculum areas. Positive experiences of meeting subject
expertise, including sports physiology, computer and how an interest in computer games can lead to the to submit 250-word accounts of one of their encounters ambassadors should help to develop better understanding
science, bacteriology, entomology, precious metal creation of artificial intelligence. with an individual scientist. Judging was carried out by about the cross-curricular nature of their work. It is
geology, astrophysics, acoustics, and the chemistry Within two seconds of the briefing, the room was the English department and book tokens were awarded hoped that students gain a better understanding of the
of colour pigments, liquid crystals, explosives and buzzing. Some of the excitement generated is featured to students in each year group with an overall Science skills required and will consider taking relevant subjects
medicines. in the Thomas Hardye School’s science college film Writer of the Year trophy going to Shannon Diment into the 6th form and beyond. SecEd
They offered glimpses into the excitement of (see further information). from year 10.
research and how science is applied by providing The students shared their thoughts about their This year, a similar event was planned to celebrate • Judith Wardlaw is industry partnership development
interactive exhibits and giving 10-minute interviews to experience afterwards and agreed that after this, their National Science and Engineering Week, supported by manager at Thomas Hardye School in Dorchester.
the students about their qualifications and careers. preconception of the scientists as Albert Einstein clones the Institution of Engineering and Technology, aimed at
Students learnt about the science behind the had been drastically changed. demystifying engineering. All participants were given
extraordinary behaviour of parasitic wasps, development One student commented that the best thing about information about engineering-related opportunities, • Stempoint: www.yeovil.ac.uk/stempoint_yeovil_
of medicines and non-stick chewing gum, rubber ducks the session was “talking with people who know what such as Arkwright scholarships, Headstart courses, and college.htm
careers. • Thomas Hardye’s Science College film:
Some students were asked to produce an article or www.thomas-hardye.dorset.sch.uk/welcome/
Maths focus: NCETM
poster about the event and others made short creative ScienceCollege2008.htm
films about the engineers and the range of expertise • Institution of Engineering and Technology:
they represent, which will be published on Films for www.theiet.org
A marriage made in heaven
Learning, a website that allows teachers and students • Arkwright scholarships: www.arkwright.org.uk
to upload original films suitable for use in teaching and • Headstart courses: www.headstartcourses.org.uk
learning across all areas of the curriculum. • Films for Learning: www.filmsforlearning.org
Both events were designed to help students to • Thomas Hardye School: www.thomas-hardye.
Love and marriage,
algebra of re-arranging equations with three variables develop science communication and other key skills, dorset.sch.uk
like speed/distance/time or density/mass/volume.
Could you give me the thinking on this from a
mathematics perspective? I know the ‘triangle’ is not
Taking Physics Forward
popular – but still used a lot by science teachers.”
The Institute of Physics (IOP) is the leading scientific membership organisation devoted to
and science – go
My concern was that using “the triangle” would
increasing the understanding and application of physics.
only re-enforce pupils’ experience of achieving
together like…? Mark
correct answers without understanding – and would
Events which allow students to meet young physicists and find out about careers that
that benefit their learning of either mathematics or
studying the subject can lead to are invaluable in changing perceptions. The Institute is
science? So how could I answer my colleague? committed to increasing the number of people with knowledge and understanding of
As we know, algebra is generalised arithmetic and
physics by promoting opportunities for all to benefit from high quality physics education.
so my response would be to refer them back to some
The South West branch of the Institute has for the past two years funded an innovative
IT IS clear that there is interdependence between arithmetic and the “facts for free” scenarios.
mathematics and science, so the opportunity to If I know that 2 x 5 = 10, what else do I know? 5
event called Physics Forward. Like the Thomas Hardye event, it gives year 11 students
make connections both within and between them is x 2 = 10; 10 ÷ 2 = 5; 10 ÷ 5 = 2.
the chance to talk to young, professional scientists, find out what they do, how they got
invaluable. Have you ever started a dialogue with The main task would be to give pupils the where they are today, and what inspired them to become a scientist in the first place.
a colleague about the relationship between science opportunity to become totally familiar with the
The first Physics Forward event took place at Tamar Science Park in Plymouth in 2007.
and mathematics? What do your pupils think that relationships between this family of number facts,
Around 150 students from 11 schools from across Devon and Cornwall attended. The
relationship might be? and then extend this to another family of number facts
In the importance statement for mathematics, which are not so intuitive.
students spent time at the event and then toured the Science Park, visiting a number of
it says: “Mathematics is fundamental to national For example: if 24 x 35 = 840, then 35 x 24 = 840;
companies on-site where they saw some demonstrations about their work. They then took
prosperity in providing tools for understanding 840 ÷ 24 = 35; and 840 ÷ 35 = 24. part in question and answer sessions with some of the 16 professional physicists from
science, engineering, technology and economics.” Having got to grips with some specific facts, I
university, research organisations and business.
Various “numeracy across the curriculum” could start to generalise:
In 2008 the event was repeated at two venues – Tamar Science Park and the
initiatives have completed curriculum audits and If I know that a x 5 = b, what else do I know? 5 x
made teachers from both subject disciplines more a = b; b ÷ 5 = a; and b ÷ a = 5
Schlumberger Oil and Gas Drilling Centre of Excellence site at Stonehouse in
aware of the demands from each subject, but can And finally, if s x t = d, then t x s = d; d ÷ t = s;
Gloucestershire. Altogether almost 300 students from 21 schools were involved.
you imagine the experience of groups of pupils as and d ÷ s = t. By holding the Physics Forward events in a business setting and inviting physicists from a
they encounter mathematics within science? Does it It would be appropriate to make some links between
variety of careers and backgrounds, from apprentices to directors, we hoped to give a real
make sense to them? Do they see the connections? pupils’ mathematics lessons and the mathematics that
sense of the huge opportunities which can come from studying physics. Many of the students
Pupils seem to find it hard to make links within they use in science. It would be relatively easy for the
mathematics, so it is necessary to make some of mathematics department to spend time in their starter
were surprised at what a significant part physics plays in many areas of work (not just the
these links explicit – making connections explicit activities focusing on number relationships before
obviously physics-related ones) and the variety of careers which could be open to them
across the two subjects is even more fundamental to and during the time when the science department is From a practical point of view, the events were held in November to coincide with the
enhancing pupil understanding. using and needing to re-arrange formulae for speed/
time that students first start thinking about making their A level choices. Schools were
The recent Ofsted report, Mathematics – distance/time, density/mass/volume, or acceleration/
invited to bring pupils who were capable of studying science post-16, but who had not yet
Understanding the Score, said: “Secondary pupils speed/time.
know the difference between being proficient at An ongoing dialogue is vital so that these
decided on their options. At all the events, teams from the local universities (Plymouth and
carrying out techniques and understanding the opportunities can be exploited.
Gloucestershire) were on hand to offer advice about going on to higher education.
underlying mathematical ideas. They recognise that This event is just one of the many ways in which the Institute is trying to improve
they often learn methods by following teachers’ • Mark McCourt is an assistant director at the
students’ experiences of physics and give them a real sense of just what can be achieved
illustrative examples and working through many National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of
through a career in science.
exercises, obtaining correct answers without really Mathematics.
Once, back in the days when I was a classroom
Further information • Alison Rivett is the IOP’s South West regional officer.
teacher, a colleague asked me for some help: “I’m For more information on teaching secondary
running some physics training later this month and mathematics and useful resources to help you, visit
have a request to explain the best way to teach the www.ncetm.org.uk/secondarymagazine
www.iop.org and www.physics.org
14 SecEd • April 2 2009
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