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Whiteknights Primary School is a community primary school situated within Wokingham Borough and funded by its Local Education Authority (LEA). It is one of fifty one primary schools which the council manages (Map Layers, 2010). It is a school for children between 4 - 11 years of age. It is a mixed gender educational establishment and does not conform to any single religious affiliations (OFSTED, 2011). At last role, the school consisted of 398 pupils which is above the average primary school sizes of 128 in Scotland and 224 in England (Rigall, N & Sharp, C 2008).
The school's curriculum is derived from the stipulations of the national curriculum and is designed to cover Core subjects such as Mathematics, English, Science and Information Communication Technology (ICT) as well as Religious Education as a compulsory subject in its Key stages 1 and 2. In the foundation stage, it covers subjects such as Design Technology, History, Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE), Music and Art & Design. All the above subjects are taught through lessons which are planed ahead of time to include activities and works to build the young minds of children (School Prospectus, 2010).
The below table shows the Key stage system used in Whiteknights:
Key stage 1
Key Stage 2
The science curriculum is specially designed to develop the children's curiosity by given ample opportunities for them to make and participate in experimental processes (School Prospectus, 2010). In adherence to the national science curriculum set by the government, topics are grouped into "Scientific enquiry", "Life processes and living things", "Materials and their properties" and "Physical processes" (National Curriculum, 2011). Continuous monitoring of the children's development is followed through by the use of the attainment targets specified by the Curriculum (Attainment Targets, 2011).
These targets are broken down to reflect the use of "I can" statements as a tool to understanding the scientific capabilities of the children. Statements like "I can tell you how I might find something out" are graded at a level 1 whilst at the other spectrum, statements like "I am using this equipment becauseâ€¦" are seen as being a level 5 attainment. Generally, at the point of finishing Key stage 2 (Year 6), the children would be expected to broadly attain an average point of a level 4 attainment whilst some might have been able to progress to the level 5 before beginning their secondary education. See Appendix [Science Assessment Focuses].
The Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED) is an organisation that was set in place to report to parliament by the Education Act of 2005 on matters dealing with the effectiveness and quality of the care and education rendered to children (OFSTED, 2011). They carry out inspections of school premises often to ascertain the level at which the organisations operate. At the time of my introduction to the school, Whiteknights had a certification level of 2(good) arising from their last inspection in 2008. In January 2011, another OFSTED inspection took place and the new general specification level of the school is rated as 3 (satisfactory), (OFSTED, 2011).
My Role at Whiteknights
For the duration of my time at Whiteknights Primary School, my role was to apply myself in any positive avenue possible that would improve the children's understanding of science and their fondness for it. My placement there was to assist the children in developing a deeper understanding of science and to appreciate the limitless possibilities they stand to gain from having a thorough science education. This was done in a variety of ways which included, answering questions that the children had, developing worksheets to guide them in their written communication, devising ways of learning from the children what they felt was needed to improve their science experience, developing scientific activities for their participation and many other faucets.
In my initial sessions at Whiteknights School, my goal was to develop good relationships with the children. As a new comer to the establishment, I anticipated that it would take the children some time to warm up to me and so efforts were launched to make the transition smoother by sparking up conversations with them during class activities to assure them I was not in their classroom as an onlooker or inspector but a friend looking to assist and guide.
My placement with Whiteknights commenced in November 2010 and finished off in April 2011. I initially attended the school one afternoon a week but increased the frequency as time went on and I began to develop a more active role.
The table below give a brief description of my sessions (See Log book for in-depth analysis):
Key Stage 1, aged between 6-7, Culturally diverse group. Mrs Pooler filling in for Mrs Moore.
The dangers of Electricity.
Year 5P &5J
Key Stage 2, ages 9-10, Mrs Schofield also teaches this class.
Conducted a group discussion with children.
Prepared questionnaire for the children.
Solids, Liquids and Gases
Year 6K &H
Mr Hillerton and Mr Stanley
Key Stage 2, ages 10-11. Mr Stanley (Supply teacher filling in for Mr Hickey).
Demonstration on using apparatus to measure forces.
Year 4G &4P
Mrs Gillham &Mr Parting
Key Stage 2, ages 8-9.
Joined in explaining experiments to children.
Answered questions and prompted children to reach accurate answers.
Interviewed a child on his outlook on Science.
Solids and Liquids
Key Stage 2. Ages 9-10.
Prepared experiments to carry out with group of children, prepared worksheets to be used.
Assisted in class experiments
Prepared Word search for children on the topic.
Prepared Experiment for the class along with worksheets.
Prepared Water Fun facts Sheet for children
Water Cycle (Distillation Investigation)
Water Cycle (Evaporation)
Key Stage 2, Ages 8-9.
Joined in explaining some electricity concepts.
Assisted the children with carrying out experiment
Conducted quiz on conductors.
Guided children in task of making switches.
Electricity (Conductors and Insulators)
Years 3, 4, 5 &6
Science Week Activities
(See Science week activities table)
Pretzel Making (Change of State)
Rocket Science (Forces)
Slime Making (Solids and Liquids)
My special project at Whiteknights was to develop, plan and execute an effective week long science awareness activity in collaboration with Mrs Jacqui Painter. This was termed Science Week (SW) and had become a yearly tradition for the school. This academic session, Science week was set particularly to coincide with the National Science and Engineering Week (NSEW) and had a space theme. NSEW is an initiative by the British Science Association founded to illuminate the relevance of science and technology to our everyday lives (British Science Association -National Science Week, 2011).
The main aims of the project were to:
Inspire the children by showing them that science is not boring or difficult but can be fun and exciting.
Educate them in a new style and fashion.
Inculcate an understanding of the need to document scientific findings appropriately
Adequately channel the children's inquisitive nature to scientific use in the activities scheduled (Investigative skills).
Ultimately provide thorough enjoyment for the children whilst promoting their science education.
Building on the children's team working skills.
The below table shows a summary of the activities I developed and implemented during the week:
Monday 14thof March
Film Canister Rocket with Year 4 (both arms)
Presentation on "My University life"
Tuesday 15thof March
Making Space pretzels with Year 3 (12 children out of one arm working in pairs.)
Presentation on "My University life"
Wednesday 16thof March
Home-made Plastic experiment with Year 5
Presentation on "My University life"
Quiz on Water Cycle with children
Thursday 17thof March
Observing Tom Robson teaching year groups.
Making Space pretzels with Year 3 (12 children out of one arm working in pairs.)
Presentation on "My University life"
Friday 18thof March
Year 6 science studio visits (one arm of the year at a time)
Children to be dressed up to fit the space theme
Presentation on "My University life"
Details of activities for each year group and the basis for choosing them are established in the relevant section by year group below.
Year Five (5)
Stemming from my visits to the year five classes, I began to note a distinct need for innovative ways for the children to carry out recording of their scientific findings. I began to research the strengths and weaknesses of the children by meeting with their teachers and discussing areas which the children were falling short. I also had an interactive session with the children to identify the problems they faced with scientific recording, some of them also expressed interest in experiments that helped to develop a physical object that they could visually see and physically touch (See Log book entries on the 18/11/10). From this session, I deduced that the children were in need of the use of variety in recording techniques and particularly, the provision of a structure to use in recording. Another observation made from my sessions was some of the children desired a more fun approach to their learning which would serve as motivation (See Log book entry on the 25/11/10).
Consequently, in my subsequent visits to year 5 classes, I ensured that I introduced a fun and friendly approach to the education processes within the classroom which I had control. I also developed worksheets and fun activities like "word searches" and "fun facts" which stimulated the children's interest into science as well as fitted within the directive of building a cross-curricula learning approach to foster the children's overall development(School Prospectus, 2010). These were received with enthusiasm by the children and the teacher and were used as an alternative to the norm. I received comments such as "Thanks", "I enjoyed using the sheet better than just having to write all the time" from the children as well as commendation and recognition by the teacher on the amount of effort and quality of the work (See Log book entry on the 07/02/2011 and 14/02/2011).
These observations were adapted into the learning objective which I challenged myself to pass across to the children during science week. For science week, I researched alternative methods of documenting scientific findings that would motivate children and finally decided to develop a worksheet in the format of a letter for the children's use (Cooper, S & Davis, B, 2004). This fitted perfectly into the main criteria stated above of stimulating the children scientifically, bringing something fresh and fun into the system, prompt the children to record scientific results in an easy to understand manner and also be in favour of cross curricula development. See appendix [Home-made plastic worksheet Update 2]
I also designed an experiment using slime to demonstrate what differences in the condition of an experiment could make to the final results. The experiment built upon a demonstration of how to make slime (Listverse, 2007). As I wanted to teach the children a valid science lesson, I developed the experiment to vary the amount of water in two different samples to see if it would make a difference to the slimy, sticky nature of the slime. The experiment also built upon the children's knowledge of Solids and Liquids which they had learnt in the winter term (See Log book entry on the 18/11/10). We discussed how the properties of slime related to some properties of liquids and also properties of solids, I explained in little detail about Polymers being responsible for this character of the slime. For details of the experiment, see appendix [Home-made Plastic Instructions Update 2].
Also, I developed a quiz on the water cycle for the children using the learning objectives outlined in the lesson plan because I had been actively present in their classes during this topic and so I wanted to test their knowledge on the scientific concepts they had learnt. (See Log book entry on the 07/02/2011 and 14/02/2011). In line with my role in Whiteknights as a science ambassador from the University of Reading, I also wanted to use the opportunity to inform the children about the day-to-day activities of being a "student scientist" so I developed a short presentation to highlight the differences and similarities of University life and primary school, the potential jobs that can result from studying science & to again brief them about my role in science week. This created an avenue to gain insight to the children's thoughts and aspirations.
Outcomes and Feedback
The worksheets played a brilliant role in collating the children's thoughts. They were a good way for the children to summarise the experiments we had conducted together. They were able to fill in the gaps to outline the key point of the experiments and their findings in short period of time unlike previous times when they had to write the experiments in full without being given a structure. For the duration of the task, they worked in pairs; this was highly successful because it gave them the possibility of complementing each other's skills. In some cases, the children took turns to fill in forms in their pairs.
The below Chart shows a breakdown of the grading of responses the children gave using the sheets I prepared. Sample size used was 14 sheets representative of 28 children (A- Above expectation, B- Average as expected, C Below expectation):
The experiment I designed was a success because the children were all able to create the slime. They were created to different qualities due to the nature of the experiment being to alter conditions. The children were able to recall their knowledge about solids and liquids and ask questions about the properties of slime. This showed that even though they were having fun playing with the slime, they could also link it to scientific concepts that governed its creation. The children demonstrated interest in the experiment and thanked me continuously for the opportunity. The teachers enjoyed the experiments and asked for the instructions and some of my left over ingredients so they could re-create the experiment another time. See Appendix [Year 5 After Science Experiment].
The below Chart shows a breakdown of the general liking of the experiment by the children gotten from using the sheets I prepared. Sample size used was14 sheets representative of 28 children:
The presentation I designed and delivered to the children was well accepted and was used as an interactive session through which they asked me questions, gave their ideas and all in all became more conversant with me and the roles that science could play in their futures.
Year Six (6)
My presence in the classroom with these children in the winter term awakened me to the need to inspire the children's creativity whilst recording their scientific findings. In this session, I spoke to children to get their general opinions and like was the case in year 5; the children were open to the idea of a variation to their recording methods. I went further to discuss this observation with Mr Hillerton and he confirmed that this idea would be smiled upon. In actual fact, he had been working along these lines in his classroom (See Log book entry on the 11/11/10). I also deduced from the session that the children tended to work either on their own in completing tasks or in groups of 3-4 children which from my research into children education was not the best for the development of all the children in a class (Keeping up at Key stage 2, 2007). During my session in Mr Stanley's classroom, I also discovered that the children liked having a catching and fun environment in which to work.
In the science week activity which I planned for these children was to have a visit to the University and be able to have a visual experience of the set up of a university campus which I took charge of developing and executing. I also wanted to seize the opportunity to teach them some "fun science" which could be tied in with their curricula growth. I designed a worksheet to cover important information to be concluded in science write-up from knowledge I attained from research into children scientific communication (National Curriculum, 2011) (Goldsworthy, A & Feasey, R, 1994). The worksheets were also designed to be playful and eye catching in line with my observations and objectives for the sessions (See Log book entry on the 11/11/10). See Appendix [Inflate a balloon with yeast worksheet Update 4].
The experiment I planned was in line with the topic of micro-organisms (Whiteknights Primary school Science Scheme of Work) which the children learn whilst they are in Year 6. I evolved it from a demonstration using yeast to inflate balloons (See appendix Blow up a Balloon with Yeast Instructions) through the use my microbial knowledge (Blow up a balloon with Yeast, 2011). The learning aim was for the children to identify three key things that were necessary for microbial growth (Warmth, Water and Nutrition). This was accomplished by teaching them that yeast (a living organism) is "brought to life" when water is supplied and that in order to grow, would need "food" which was supplied by sugar. We then carried out the experiment using two different temperatures of water to discover which would support the growth of the microbe. I explained to them that yeast grows, like human beings, it produced CO2 and this was what would be responsible for inflating the balloon (See Learning Log Entry on the 18/03/2011).
Furthermore, I was able to promote good team working skills by making the children to work in pairs. In doing so, they were able to learn from each other's errors and assist one another in building an understanding of the concepts being taught. In delivering my presentation I led the children by example of asking them for help in answering the questions that were paramount to our discovery. It was also an avenue to describe to them the benefits of science and also to talk with them about their ideas and experiences.
Outcomes and Feedback
The worksheets I designed for the children served the purpose of co-ordinating the children's thoughts and ideas to the main goals of the experiment. They enjoyed using them to document the experiment and made comments about how easy it was for them to use it. Some of them also mentioned that it guided them to understand the scientific vocabulary relevant to the course of study. I was commended for the idea I suggested and the children asked to be able to use more of these sheets in their future science lessons. The sheets were also praised for helping them discuss their ideas among their pairs and thereby enhancing collective learning. See appendix [Year 6 Science Week Feedback Recording].
Inflating a balloon using simple household ingredients was fascinating to the children. They enjoyed it being able to carry out experiments with ease. Some of the children expressed to me that they enjoyed this experiment planned better than those planned last year because it was very interesting to perform but also supplied them with science education in the process. [Year 6 Science Week Feedback Recording]. I was commended by the teachers for the fun and exciting environment I had created for the children and at the end of the session, the children took turns to thank me for the new perspective on science.
After these sessions, every other time the children had interaction with me, they were keen to ask me questions like "Did you have lectures today?" and "When next will you come to teach us". This was deeply rewarding as is showed that I had been able to convey the interesting nature of science effectively and by so doing achieved my aims for the session.
Year Three (3)
I volunteered to also design an activity for year three children during science week. I did this in spite of the fact that I had not had any previous contact with these children during my placement at Whiteknights because I was confident that I would be able to research their learning curriculum and learning patterns to be able to provide them with an entertaining and educative experience in line with the objectives of science week.
From my research, I was able to deduce that children at this age are intuitive and so are capable of learning basic principles (Child Development Institute, 2010), I also found that children at this age have longer attention spans, take to being directed, are more logical thinkers and benefit from a being in a fun and enjoyable environment (Great Schools, 2011). I was also able to find out that in year 3, children are taught about characteristics of materials which would cover the basics of solids and liquids. (Whiteknights Primary school Science Scheme of Work)
Based on this, I had the idea to illustrate a change of state to them in an easy and delicious manner. I decided to make some pretzels with them; in so doing, they would be able to see how a material (dough) could change to become more solid and scrumptious. I was able to plan the experiment to provide them with hands on experience in making the pretzel shapes and dusting the finished pretzels with sprinkles of their choice. I also ensured that I sought for feedback from teachers who had more experience with dealing with the Key stage 2 junior to ensure that my ideas were on the right track. For detail of this activity, See Log book entry on the 15/03/2011 and 17/03/2011.
In the course of the activities, I encouraged the children to challenge the pretzel making process and ask questions about the ingredients being used. I also used a PowerPoint presentation with lively cartoon characters to win their attention and use a friendly and playful mannerism to gain their trust and respect.
Outcomes and Feedback
The children thoroughly enjoyed making the pretzel shapes which I taught them to make and they keenly asked for more lumps of dough so that they could make as many creative shapes as they could. They were also intrigued by such ingredients as the yeast and its ability to get the dough to rise which I explained to them in little detail. They were so happy about the exercise that they shared it with their friends and so when they second group of children arrived to perform the activity, they already knew some of the concepts and details of the experiments!
I was commended by the teachers like Mrs Snellgrove and Mrs Smillie for a job well done and the delicious pretzels which the children got to enjoy when they returned to their classes. I was also highly praised and appreciated by some parents of the children I worked with that were present at the school premises during one of my visits.
Generally, this activity was a success because the children were exposed to the majority of the benefits of the science week scheme and had a wonderful time doing it. They also learnt a valuable lesson in group working because they all worked collectively to make the pretzels which were eventually shared for them to take home. (See Log Book Entry on the 17/03/2011).
Year Four (4)
In the duration of my placement with Year 4 children, I became aware of a recurring gap in their ability to adequately document scientifically the procedure and results of their science experiments, they lacked the drive to get it done (See Log Book Entry on the 02/12/2010). As I was able to visit other Key Stage 2 classes as well, it was now apparent to me that this was an issue that was being transferred from the lower junior stage through to the upper juniors. In an effort to confirm my deductions, I met with the teachers and they confirmed that this was an issue which they were trying to tackle with the children. I also spent time in a one-on-one conversation with one of the children and though he didn't mind writing up, he did suggest that the methods of recording could be diversified. He also informed me that he enjoyed science because he found it to be "fun" (See Log Book Entry on the 02/12/2010).
I went further to research methods of joining forces with the teachers to bring about improvement. I discovered that one of the best methods of doing this was to use a variety of ways and giving the children an authentic cause to record the information (Cooper, S & Davis, B, 2004). I also found that children within this age bracket (8-9) are at the right age to be instilled with team working skills as well as need to can be give clear and concise instructions to follow (Age Level Characteristics, 2004)
From my findings, I decided to design worksheets that were in the format of a letter addressed to me through which the children described to me their thought process during the experiments and their results. This idea stemmed from the research of the Oxfordshire science team's suggestion that a range of recording methods should be explored. I targeted it to answer direct questions which guided the children to understand the objectives of the experiment.
The experiment I designed was culled and further developed from a demonstration on how to make a rocket from household items (Planet Science, 2010). I designed he experiment in which children worked in pairs to determine if a difference in the amount of water used in their rockets would determine how high the rocket would launch. This ensured that the children did not only enjoy the experiment as an activity but could also ponder its scientific relevance. I also designed a cut-out rocket template and an instruction guide on its use to provide the children with a good visual aid. See Log Book Entry on the 14/03/2011 for more details.
In preparation for this session, I devised a lesson plan according to the accepted format of the school to demonstrate the learning objectives I intended to achieve during the session. I also delivered a presentation to the children on "My life in University". This presentation was created to explain the benefits of science, outline the differences between University and Primary School, further explain my role to the children and to also "break the ice" and get them ready for the tasks ahead.
Outcomes and Feedback
The worksheets I developed and distributed to the children were very well accepted well by the children and their teachers. Mrs Gillham expressed her consent to it being in the form of a letter and she keenly encouraged the children to use them. They were able to serve as a useful way for the children to sum up what they had learnt and noticed during the day. The cut- out rocket template and instructions I developed for the exercise worked very well, I was pleased to see the rockets they created from them look real and colourful!
The below Chart shows a breakdown of the grading of responses the children gave using the sheets I prepared. Sample size used was 19 sheets representative of 38 children and 11sheets representative of 22 children respectively (A- Above expectation, B- Average as expected, C Below expectation):
The experiment also turned out to be a big hit for the children. They enjoyed it tremendously. They also appeared to genuinely have learnt from the experiment. In filling out their worksheets, they were able to use words like "effervescent" and "Pressure build up" to describe the science behind their rockets launch. After the session, one of the children introduced me to her mother as "the rocket scientist!" This showed me that my hard work in putting the exercise together paid off.
The below Chart shows a breakdown of the general liking of the experiment by the children gotten from using the sheets I prepared. Sample size used was 19 sheets representative of 38 children and 11sheets representative of 22 children respectively:
My presentation to the children was well received. The children seized the opportunity to discuss some knowledge they already had about University and some jobs that could progress from science with me. I was able to supplement the knowledge with the material in the presentation I had prepared. It was fulfilling to see how they felt free to openly converse with me and question me.
Conclusion and Recommendations
I was able to grow in the following ways:
I was able to develop myself immensely in this field. I embraced speaking confidently to large groups of people and be able to get my viewpoint heard. At the beginning of my placement, i initially struggled with speaking to the children with a vocabulary base that they could understand. I particularly developed myself in this way because when science week came along, not only was i able to speak to the children in child friendly language, I was also able to keep their attention for long periods of time to convey several scientific principles. I was also able to conduct science week assembly alongside Mrs Painter where we explained the logistics of Science Week to the children. During my time at Whiteknights, I was also able to improve my IT skills whilst I created activity worksheets and Flyers for the Science week event.
Working with others
In preparation of Science Week, I was in constant contact with Mrs Painter in order to secure the arrangements being made. I was able to develop a cordial working relationship with her and this facilitated getting the work at hand done in good time and to the best of our abilities. I was also in continuous contact with teachers in order to plan and execute activities and science experiments for the totality of my time there. I was also able to develop a healthy rapport with the children i worked with which facilitated free-flow of my tutelage experience with them.
Organisation, Reliability and Self-management
I took full responsibility for planning the experiments and exercises for the children which I had made myself available to do and I was able to deliver entirely. I was able to accomplish the set targets of mixing science with fun for the children and creating an awareness of the activities that go on within the walls of a University. In addition, I was able to teach the children concepts such as the possibility of an overlap in the properties of solids and liquids in year 5 amongst other things taught to the other year groups. I was also able to mature with my time management skills as Science Week progressed. This became the case especially when I dealt with Year 3. I was able to adapt my schedule in a fashion that worked better for the children.
Initiative and creativity
I was able to demonstrate an increase in my creativity by designing worksheets and experiments from scratch. I believe this is a key skill that must be out to lay when dealing with children. I was also able to think on my feet in situations that called for it in an effort to further increase the quality of the experience through which I was guiding the children. An example of this was when I changed the schedule for the year 6''s visit to the science labs to encourage a quicker, smoother and more interactive session. I was also able to productively assist building the children's ability to work together as groups by building my experiments around them working in pairs. I was also able to exceed Mrs Painter's expectations by volunteering to make the posters and flyers which were used during the Science week period.
Understanding the educational needs of others
I have been able to acquire insight into the Key stage 2 curriculum and the learning patterns of children within the KS2 age bracket. My understanding of this was demonstrated in my ability to create activities, sheets and instructions for the children that were relevant to their course of study. I was also able to take all children into account whilst executing all my tasks in Science Week, by taking out time to go around the classes to enquire for any issues they might have encountered and then explaining the process slower and in detail. For the children that showed a greater thirst for knowledge, i spent extra time with them to explain to the depth they wanted, an example of this was when a year 6 girl asked me why we had used bottles for our experiments, pointing out that they have extra curvatures and so are not comparable with conical flasks! I was impressed that she could point this out and i explained to her that even though the bottles had indentures, the yeast would still grow in the same manner within the bottle, i also explained that i had made the test fair by using the same shape and size of bottles for the warm water bottle and the cold water bottle.
My time in Whiteknights was a success but even still I believe some things could have been done differently especially during Science Week. Some example of these are; I could have walked down with the group of children and teachers from the school to the University during the Year 6's visit to the university as this would have provided me with an opportunity to brief the children on what the day would entail. I could also have changed the worksheets i prepared for the children's use during Science week to include a longer list of relevant scientific words. I could also have started my planning for science week sooner than the time i started in January.
I was able to achieve all and in some cases exceed my goals for science week. I took sole responsibility for activities for the key stage 2 children. The aims of the project outlined in "project description" earlier were all achieved by me for all the year groups i had been charged to handle. (See chapters on each year group.)
All in all, it is my opinion that I was able to effectively meet the requirements of the school and the goals i had set for myself during this project and would definitely opt to do it again should the opportunity arise. The UAS Scheme has been beneficial to all parties involved and in my opinion should grow beyond only being offered in the final year but should be encouraged for all undergraduate in all years of study.