Aim: To encourage teams of students from Years 10-12 to think about the problems of the future by engaging in enquiry-based learning around science and sustainability. To engender a greater awareness of the careers available in science and technology, and develop communication skills.
Background: AGGS was a part of the Schools Universities Partnership Initiative (SUPI) project organised through Research Councils UK, and played a lead role working with the University of Manchester. Many students in the Sixth Form were taking Sciences, but their career aspirations were frequently within medicine.
Year 1: A Science and Sustainability project (2011-12) was run before the SUPI project was set up and was used as a case study for school-researcher links.
Year 2: The SUPI project started and a researcher from the University of Manchester spoke to Year 9 pupils about flight. The project was introduced to students in Y9 and Y10 via assemblies, an introductory letter was issued to their parents and initial applications were received.
Year 3: The project was introduced to Year 12 via assemblies and teams assigned. A project launch lecture for students and parents was held in mid-September, addressed by Professor Roger Ford from the University of Salford on the subject of water. Launch afternoons were held for teams with activities on team building, success and research skills. Approximately 120 students joined the project initially, and a teacher mentor was assigned to each of the teams, which met weekly. Students selected three topics for their first investigation and were invited to produce posters outlining the problems and environmental challenges posed; these were judged for the CREST Silver Award. These projects were also presented to parents at a celebration evening. A SUPI Science and Sustainability event was held at the University of Manchester with a lecture by Professor Ian Cotton. Two other schools also took part and students displayed their posters to visiting researchers.
70 students continued with the CREST Gold award which was managed by the Greater Manchester STEM Centre.
Evidence: CREST reports; feedback from staff, students judges and parents; Year 10 surveys.
Impact: The projects went well beyond classroom teaching and ignited a real passion for science; over 50% felt much more knowledgeable about science and pupils became confident in answering probing unscripted questions in depth. The Year 10 survey showed that over 50% felt their skills and confidence had improved significantly. Over 75% had enjoyed working with older students and over 75% commented that the project had prompted them to read more widely.
Reflections: Ensure the students that sign up for projects such as these are not over-committing – we circulated lists of participants to teachers and allowed them to comment. Several girls who were struggling with their GCSE coursework were discouraged from participating at their teachers’ request.
Contact: Catherine Russell, Head of Science and Biology, firstname.lastname@example.org;Melissa Lord, Physics Teacher (and former Head of Science), email@example.com