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Inquisitive Minds Primary Science Clubs

The Inquisitive Minds programme is an after-school science club for pupils in Years 3-6 from local state schools designed to develop their scientific thinking, provide enrichment beyond the science curriculum and give pupils the chance to develop key practical science skills.

The project consists of weekly experiment-based sessions in various strands of science where children conduct intriguing experiments and learn new scientific concepts. 

Aims

The aims of the Highgate Chrysalis Inquisitive Minds programme are to support primary schools in their provision of engaging science that pushes pupils to work scientifically both independently and collaboratively, question the world around them and develop the skills needed to keep exploring science as they move to the next level.  

The identified need for the Inquisitive Minds programme is that primary schools require more support for their science provision. According to the Confederation of British Industry:

1/3 of primary schools surveyed are not providing the recommended two hours per week of science teaching.

1/3 of 260 teachers surveyed said that they lacked confidence teaching science.

53% of the teachers surveyed by YouGov for the CBI said science teaching had become less of a priority over the past five years.

Furthermore, a recent state-of-the-nation report compiled by the Wellcome Collection, found that only 47% of teachers in state primary schools felt that their school had a good range of science equipment to carry out hands-on science investigations and 44% felt their school had an appropriate budget for resources.

If children are to be enthused about science and pursue these subjects both in secondary school and beyond, it is vital that science provision at an early age is interesting, relatable and prepares pupils, both in their subject knowledge and key skills, for the transition into secondary school. We hope that the Inquisitive Minds programme goes some way to supporting the science provision in our partner schools.

There are four critical factors for success for this project. Firstly, collaborative relationships with the primary schools in ensuring children who are keen in science are given the opportunity to attend the club are needed. Other critical factors are ensuring that science equipment and chemical reagents are collected by liaising with lab technicians, children understand the risks and hazards of each experiment and strictly adhere to safety guidelines to control those hazards, and that the children understand the concept explored that session. 

The immediate beneficiaries are the partner school pupils who attend the science club. Other beneficiaries include the peers of pupils who attend, the primary school teachers and the Chrysalis staff that deliver the club. Through conversation with their peers, the pupils who attend will be able to share their newfound enthusiasm for science. Additionally, as the club provides a weekly dose of science, partner school teachers will be supported in their science provision. Finally, Chrysalis staff have subject expertise but lack experience teaching in primary schools. By working with the teachers in the partner school, the Chrysalis club leaders learn pedagogical practices and put them into practice. 

 

Background

Clubs began at Highgate Primary School and Brookfield Primary School, with Highgate having formed positive links through summer school provision, which began over a decade ago. The school began by employing a member of the Physics department, who was partially funded to deliver partnership work. This member of staff, with assistance from a Chrysalis Fellow, devised a core set of lessons that covered a wide range of curriculum topics. 

In order to expand the science partnership provision, the Chrysalis team took on the running of the clubs. With the appointment of staff dedicated to partnership work in our Junior School, we were able to add a third club at St. Joseph's RC Primary School in 2018.  

Resources

The science club requires the use of chemicals and equipment for certain experiments, which are sourced from Highgate Science Departments. Other materials required can be purchased from most stationary or convenience stores and ordered online. 

As the club takes place at the partner school, school facilities are required. The club can run in a standard classroom which has access to a sink or washing station.  

The club is typically carried out by two members of support staff, the Partnership Teaching Coordinator and a Chrysalis Fellow (recent graduate or gap-year student employed by Highgate school who is involved in partnership projects). During the session, both staff are available to assist the pupils and answer any of their questions. The sessions are designed to be roughly one hour long. Including preparation time, the support staff need to spend two to three hours on each session.

The financial contribution consists of the salary for the support staff for the time spent delivering the sessions and the cost of the materials/equipment and chemicals required.   

 

Impact

We aim to demonstrate the impact of all our extra-curricular enrichment projects in qualitative terms and, where possible, using quantitative assessments. It has not been possible to implement a robust system of qualitative assessment thus far due to inconsistent attendance, though there has been consistently positive feedback from both staff and pupils at all partner schools involved. We have designed a qualitative assessments for pupils to complete both pre and post intervention, to determine whether the project has met its aims of delivering enriching science content, introducing pupils to new concepts and equipment, enabling pupils to use the scientific method and challenging pupils' understanding of what science is.

Qualitative assessment to be carried out at the beginning and end of intervention with each cohort. Feedback to be collected from partner school staff on a termly/annual basis.

 

Pupil Involvement

The pupils are from Brookfield Primary School, Highgate Primary School and St Joseph's RC Primary School. who attend the club for a school term. The pupils are aged between 8 and 10. Currently, Highgate pupils are not involved as volunteers, but there is scope and a prior model to do this. 

The groups are mixed genders.

Frequency

Ongoing activity, each cohort takes part for one term to allow as many pupils as possible to take part.