Achieving real learning through real science

Bryony Turford

Bryony Turford has been a Primary school teacher for 15 years and is a Specialist leader of Education (SLE). With a keen interest in Primary Science, she has been working with and supporting schools in the subject as a freelance consultant. She is also the director of STEAM Education for the Astro Science Challenge, a free six-week programme for English, Maths and Science, using real science from Tim Peake’s mission to the International Space Station as an inspiration.

Follow @priscigeeks

Website: Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Teaching Science at Primary level can sometimes be a difficult endeavour. The combination of time restrictions and what can be very dry learning objectives can lead both pupils and teachers to disengage with the subject.

"A lot of Primary Science becomes what I like to call “kitchen sink” Science."

The new curriculum has been a challenge, but it could also be seen as a healthy shake-up. There are so many creative teachers out there, and many resources don’t give them enough credit, restricting them to models of “do this first, then move on to this” which prevents them from further exploring the topic and enriching their pupils’ experience. Getting that curiosity and questioning going is the key to engagement, interest and ultimately, success.

A great way of doing this is to use real-life science. A lot of Primary Science becomes what I like to call “kitchen sink” Science, as limited budgets and resources often mean that teachers fall back upon traditional project work such as growing seeds in various conditions. And while these activities are great, as they allow children to get hands on and see the physical outcomes, there are so many more avenues that can be explored in this way.

For example, we ran a project in several schools in our local area called the AutoBOT mobile challenge. The children were tasked with designing a vehicle based around a two-litre pop bottle, which would be launched from a ramp and judged on the distance it travelled. This project combined both Science and Design Technology, as children had to consider gravity, force and friction in order to design the best wheels and axles for their vehicles.

This year will provide a really exciting opportunity for teachers to bring real science into the classroom. In December, the first British European Space Agency astronaut will travel to the International Space Station (ISS), where he will conduct various scientific experiments. With the government’s increased focus on teaching “British values” in schools, this is a fantastic illustration of the UK’s contributions to science and innovation. It can be difficult for children to get their heads around the idea that there is a real person visiting what is essentially a huge science lab floating above our planet, but it can also work as a highly effective inspiration: how will the rocket take him into space? What will he eat while he’s on the ISS? Is there weather in space?

Although it’s not possible for teachers to send their pupils into space, they can still foster concrete learning experiences by bringing as much of reality as is possible into the classroom. In using their imagination, children can believe that they are learning to become astronauts, which can be bolstered through participating in projects that give schools access to real scientific data, such as the nutritional information of space food provided by the ISS, or even seeds that have been stored in space!

It’s also possible to give children ownership over how they approach the subject, by giving them an end goal, but no restrictive instructions of how to get there; the pupils will then come up with their own creative solutions which they can share with and present to their classmates.
"It can be difficult for children understand that there is a real person visiting what is essentially a huge science lab."
Of course, with time restrictions, it can be very difficult to incorporate an entire project into the short lessons allowed for Science within the school day, so finding a way of making the best of the time is crucial. Overarching topics such as space can be used across a variety of subjects, such as English and creative writing, or Mathematics and making calculations. Working in this thematic way can also boost cross-curricular links which are not only vital to an enriched understanding, but also helpful for teachers in delivering the diverse curriculum.

There are so many additional places for discovery beyond the scope of lesson plans, and teachers shouldn’t be afraid of deviating from the course content. Storytelling, games and experiments are a fantastic way of getting children involved in any subject, but being able to link it to a real-life situation, especially one so extraordinary as space travel, will really spark their enthusiasm and imagination!

How do you bring real science into the Science classroom? Share your tips below.

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now

Latest stories

  • How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country
    How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country

    Teaching English in a foreign country is likely to be one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have. It entails relocating to a new country, relocating to a new home, and beginning a new career, all of which are stressful in and of themselves, but now you're doing it all at once. And you'll have to converse in a strange language you may not understand.

  • Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?
    Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?

    Over the weekend, my family of five went to an Orlando theme park, and I decided we should really enjoy ourselves by purchasing an Unlimited Quick Queue pass. It was so worth the money! We rode every ride in the park at least twice, but one ride required us to ride down a rapidly flowing river, which quenched us with water. It was incredible that my two-year-old was laughing as well. We rode the Infinity Falls ride four times in one day—BEST DAY EVER for FAMILY FUN in the Sun! The entire experience was epic, full of energizing emotions and, most importantly, lots of smiles. What made this ride so cool was that the whole family could experience it together, the motions were on point, and the water was the icing on the cake. It had been a while since I had that type of fun, and I will never forget it.

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"