Blogging science to life
Mon 10 January 2011,
At-Bristol was given funding by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation in 2008 to host a training course for Supplementary school leaders.
"Bright Sparks" involved 5 Supplementary schools and their students with the aim to improve teaching and learning in science through building the skills and confidence of the leaders.
The Paul Hamlyn Foundation has now pledged to support a follow-up on this project. 'Inspiring Interactions for BME educators' is the new professional development project with the main aim of addressing underachievement of BME primary students in Bristol. We are looking to work with 20 mainstream school teachers and 20 supplementary school leaders in a 3-day professional development conference and follow-up activity day.
A day to go before the conference!
A day to go before the conference begins and the final preparations are being made!
Thanks to generous funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, 'Inspiring Interactions' is 3 full days of hands-on training looking at how teachers can make science exciting, engaging and accessible to children from Black minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds. At-Bristol is very excited to be hosting the important event for 50 educators across the region.
The participants are from primary and supplementary schools. Supplementary schools (also known as 'complementary’, ‘community’ or ‘Saturday’ schools) come in a variety of shapes. In general, they offer out-of-school-hours educational opportunities for children and young people, many of whom come from minority ethnic communities and there are loads of these inspiring institutions in Bristol. Bringing together leaders and teachers from these two types of school will mean a wealth of different experience and expertise is shared during the three days together. We're also helping those teaching in supplementary schools to work towards professional teaching qualifications as part of this project, in collaboration with the University of the West of England.
For those of you who know At-Bristol, you'll be fully aware of what we can bring to the conference - lots of ideas for inspiring science lessons adapted from our science centre of course! But we've also called on help from other specialists in the region too: 'Graphic Science' are talking about using role models in schools to show the relevance of science to young people; 'EMAS 4Success' are explaining the barriers for BME pupils in education; UWE are exploring techniques for teaching science vocabulary through creative play. In fact, we've got 15 specialists running the training sessions in addition to our own expert Science Communicators! We're particularly excited about welcoming Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock and Professor Geoff Palmer to the event. Both leading scientists and staunch advocates of encouraging pupils from BME backgrounds into science-related careers, they are headlining two days of the conference with keynote speeches in our Planetarium.
Delivering this kind of training to teachers is something At-Bristol does a lot of, in conjunction with the Science Learning Centre based upstairs in our science centre. In fact, this new conference is borne out of previous work we've done with supplementary school leaders in a project called Bright Sparks in 2008 (see a short video here). All this type of work forms a part of At-Bristol's vision of making science accessible to all. You can read more about At-Bristol as an educational charity here.
We can’t wait for this exciting conference and are also looking forward to the special lunch on offer (we've goat curry and grilled snapper jambalaya on the menu!) to celebrate the diversity of the educators attending. We’ll keep you posted and get some pictures to share of the exciting training sessions.
Inspiring Interaction - the low-down from day one!
With over 50 educators attending, there has been a busy, bustling vibe around the Science Learning Centre South West (upstairs in At-Bristol) all day. It's been fantastic to see such a diverse range of experience here at the event, from Headteachers, to supplementary school leaders, EAL mentors, science subject leaders and class teachers. It's this incredible range of expertise and insights that made it such a productive and interesting day. And our session on diversity and cultural competency, led by At-Bristol's Community Engagement Manager Jo, was a great the opportunity to get people talking.
We all fit in the Planetarium to kick start the day with an inspiring keynote from Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock…we were all agog at her incredible life story, from her work as space scientist for Astrium, to her work on Blue Peter and her ongoing mission to make science relevant for young people.
Annie Hudson, Strategic Director for schools in Bristol also spoke about the local context and the challenges facing Bristol schools. With so many key figures in the room, this conference can really make a difference and build on the great improvements already taking place in the City's classrooms.
After a lunch of jerk chicken (yum!), the conference took a turn towards the hands-on, exciting science practicals. Allie Beaumont, Primary Science Specialist at the Science Learning Centre South West led a session for supplementary school leaders examining just what science looks like in the classroom and how the National Curriculum works. This being At-Bristol, things took a turn to the interactive as we got delegates melting chocolate, conducting surveys and jumping up and down with our "planning posers" activity!
Meanwhile, At-Bristol's Schools' Officer, Shelly, led the primary school teachers in a session exploring taking science "beyond the fair test". Building cantilevers from newspaper, creating effervescent pop rockets and cracking out the craft-skills with modeling plants were some of the creative tasks in this special session on creative science techniques.
Leading on from Maggie's speech on BME role models this morning, Claire Dimond from Graphic Science talked to us all about STEM Ambassadors and their work in schools. Here in At-Bristol, all our special theme days involve visiting experts to inspire the young people visiting us here. We also get experts in throughout the year also to meet our visiting families (the next occasion is during National Science Week in March). It was great to share our thoughts and experiences using relevant, dynamic role models in all sectors of science, technology and engineering. Claire helped teachers understand how to access these people too.
A great thing about this conference is that the learning from it can be used by supplementary school leaders to gain professional teaching qualifications with the University of the West of England. Paul Hamlyn are funding this incredible opportunity for the supplementary school leaders' and in the final session for today, there was great excitement and interest in pursuing this opportunity which ended day on a particularly positive note!
Day two is already off with a bang after a fantastic talk from Sir Geoffrey Palmer…and we are be keeping everyone not able to be here, fully up to speed with the conference on Twitter.
Inspiring Interaction - Day two!
As one teacher put it - "Geoff Palmer was so inspirational - he made me feel like I really need to excite children about science." Yes, our opening to Day 2 was a hugely motivating speech from Professor Geoff Palmer. He led us through the incredible story of his life, examining the challenges of becoming a Black scientist and citing those influential educators who made this possible.
Next Wendy Marriott, Advisory Headteacher for Bristol City Council took the next part of the conference and highlighted the strategies already taking place across the City which our conference complements. We heard once again how important supplementary schools are to realising a "narrowed gap" between non-BME and BME pupils' attainment.
Following this, Jane Tarr and Nick Clough of the University of the West of England (UWE) explored "Building Learning Partnerships" between mainstream and supplementary schools and gave empowering examples of successful collaboration taking place on the small-scale. The project team here in At-Bristol are determined to succeed at making these lasting partnerships happen on a much grander scale, as we engaged supplementary school and primary school leaders in further dialogue to get ideas going.
We're delighted, through funding from Paul Hamlyn, to offer excellent school resources to take back into the classroom. As well as a USB stick crammed full of engaging, accessible science experiments, relevant signposting to supporting organisations, and research emerging from this project, delegates also got a SmartScience Pack. This pack of lesson plans are perfect for developing science activities suited to all learning styles and actively encourage collaboration between students.
Juliet, Primary PGCE programme leader from UWE and our own Science Communicator, Neil, led the next session on science and language. Having experts in from the University has given the training valuable insights into the contemporary research on engaging BME learners successfully. The session looked at adapting and building on activities we deliver as part of our formal programme to be even more accessible for all. So useful for the delegates, and great for our Learning team here in At-Bristol too!
Meanwhile, Marie-Annick Gournet, Director of Widening Participation at UWE led a session looking at the transition from Primary to Secondary school. Her work on another project in the City provides secondary school BME pupils as role models to Year 6 pupils at this critical time. We were also delighted to welcome Beresford Lee, Chair of the BME Governors' Network, to provide further case studies around 'the transition,' including information on his work at the Walter Tull supplementary school.
After all these incredible training sessions, we were all hungry and the grilled snapper jambalaya really hit the spot! While chatting over lunch, we took a look back at the documentary made of Bright Sparks, our previous project with supplementary schools. It's been great to see familiar faces from these schools back in At-Bristol for this conference - including Raj Bista who is now a Live Science Team member here!
The afternoon included sessions on the context of science and considering children's work. From looking through different cultures and their contributions to science (and how these can be used as relevant examples in school) and to understanding the language barriers newly-arrived children face, there was much to talk about and 'inspiring interactions' between delegates continued well into the afternoon.
At the end of day 2, we're saying goodbye to the primary school teachers for now. They are back in schools working with At-Bristol's support to engage effectively with their local supplementary schools and put into practice the great ideas they have gleaned from the sessions yesterday and today. They all left full of inspiration and excitement - as one teacher commented, "it has been excellent - Thank you! Can't wait to try it all out." Brilliant!
Supplementary school teachers and leaders are back today as we get hands-on looking at how to integrate science into their teaching. I've got the red cabbage, food colouring and cornflour at the ready (tell you tomorrow!)
Inspiring Interactions – the round up!
"Science in Supplementary schools" was the focus for our third and final day of Inspiring Interactions. All teachers and leaders from supplementary schools returned for a day full of hands-on experiments to take back to their schools. From pampers to pipe cleaners, we got hold of everyday objects and turned them into fascinating science experiments.
Raj Bista, Science Communicator here in At-Bristol, led the opening session. Raj has previously taught in supplementary schools and was part of our project, Bright Sparks, so was well-placed to encourage and inspire leaders to make science happen back in their settings. One thing that has really characterised this conference has been the engaging speakers and Raj was no exception. After a motivating opening, we moved on to 'Starting Points in Science' with Allie Beaumont from the Science Learning Centre South West.
After an hour of simple but effective science practicals, designed to engage children in all the key skills for science enquiry, the leaders were ready for lunch! And today we enjoyed delicious goat curry. Thanks to Digby Trout catering for the amazing food over the past three days, that really celebrated the diversity of the delegates attending. No boring sandwiches and crisps here!!
Raj led the supplementary leaders through 5 brilliant science demonstrations after the break, from making lava lamps to exploding pop rockets. Everyone got hands-on and best of all, At-Bristol gave each leaders a goody bag full of the resources to take away so these captivating science demonstrations can start taking place out in supplementary schools straight away! To sum up his session, Raj showed the importance of making science enjoyable through engaging practicals. "I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained" (Walt Disney's words, not Raj's)!
Jane Tarr from UWE was on-hand throughout the day for the supplementary school leaders to gain credit towards a formal teaching qualification as part of this project. We're delighted that 13 leaders are hoping to take up this opportunity.
As the day drew to a close, the At-Bristol team began the planning process with each leader, as the next stage for At-Bristol is to go out into the schools we've been working with this week and help implement the great ideas and resources from the training sessions. In April, we'll be back for a huge celebration event, inciting pupils, families and this course's participants to At-Bristol to celebrate science. Keep you posted!
As one teacher put it, "the last 3 days in At-Bristol were excellent…a fantastic learning opportunity which I really enjoyed". We couldn't agree more.
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