A guest post from Amy, our Primary Learning Co-ordinator, about her recent work with primary pupils to bring the ‘working scientifically’ topic to life by exploring some of the different ways in which the Museum does this behind the scenes.
This year, thanks to the University of Manchester’s Faculty of Science and Engineering Widening Participation funding, we are running a scientific enquiry and communication project for local primary schools in partnership with our colleagues in SEERIH – the Science and Engineering Education Research and Innovation Hub. Through hands-on and unique explorations of the Museum’s inner workings – across departments ranging from Archaeology to Herpetology (frogs!), and Entomology (bugs!) to Collections Care – children have been discovering for themselves how these real-life environments work in a scientific way.
‘Working scientifically’ has been a core element of the Primary Science curriculum since 2014 and refers to: “Develop[ing] understanding of the nature, processes and methods of science through different types of science enquiries that help them to answer scientific questions about the world around them.” As we consider what our primary science programme might look like in the future, we know that our work will increasingly focus on supporting children to engage with crucial issues such as climate change and biodiversity loss. But we also know that the best way to do this is to let the children discover the science for themselves, through their own authentic explorations.
The Inside Out project has provided us with a great opportunity to try this out, focusing on the daily work of the Museum as a starting point for engaging pupils in working scientifically in practice. The project has worked with five schools from across Greater Manchester, chosen to maximise the opportunity to build science capital for children from areas where this can be lower than average, and has been developed and delivered in collaboration with SEERIH.
So far, SEERIH has delivered a full day of training and project planning support for 13 adults from across the schools, and a total of 150 children have visited the Museum. The Museum component has variously included behind the scenes visits, sorting plant specimens, finding out why a statue spun, answering curatorial enquiries, checking pest traps, and designing an (ethical!) experiment with tadpoles. Phew!
The next step is for children to collect all their findings together and link these to the five enquiry types that underpin ‘working scientifically’, namely: observation over time, pattern seeking, identifying, classifying and grouping, comparative and fair testing, and research using secondary sources. The pupils will then return to the Museum to make films about what they discovered. These films will be showcased to hundreds of other young scientists at the Great Science Share in June this year, shared with friends and family at events in school, and ultimately enjoyed by thousands of visitors via our website.
It has been another great opportunity for teams from across the Museum to come together to make something brilliant happen – thanks to everyone who made these days happen, including David, Rachel P, Dmitri, Phil, Rachel W, Lindsay, Eirini, Andrew, Kasia, Matt, Campbell, Bryan, Irit, Abby, Jen, and many more.
Learning from the project is already feeding into trials of activities and resources for primary schools. Sign up to our e-newsletter to be the first to hear about these opportunities, or contact Amy McDowall to find out more.