Education news

New programme aims to make science teaching more fun

Children get to wear a lab coat and be a scientist for the day

A new programme for schools aims to help make the teaching of science more exciting and engaging.

Science Starz is a social enterprise founded by Rose McMurrough from west Belfast and Canadian-born friend Elita Frid.

It uses experiments, games, songs and puppet shows in classroom-based workshops to show children that science can be fun. Workshops are tailored to suit nursery and primary groups.

There are concerns that the north does not produce enough graduates in `stem' (science, technology, engineering, maths).

Ms McMurrough and Ms Frid said a solution could be introducing children to science at a young age. By showing them that science is all around, they would not feel as intimidated.

Ms McMurrough is a former science teacher who believes that early education should be more holistic.

"Children are taught to a test with the focus on literacy and numeracy. If a child gets an A in their transfer test then they are already starting off with the equivalent of a C in GCSE maths and English but in science they are expected to jump from an E to a B or an A but there is no baseline there," she said.

"If we could increase the baseline that children start secondary school with, then we can ignite a wider interest in science."

The Education and Training Inspectorate, in its evaluation of the implementation of The World Around Us programme in primary schools, found that 33 per cent of schools did not know if their staff had sufficient knowledge and skills to teach science.

"The science and technology strand of the WAU is still underdeveloped in a majority (54 per cent) of primary schools," inspectors said.

Concerns have also been raised by the assembly. In a research paper for the education committee, it was reported that only 35.8 per cent of GCSE entries were in stem subjects. A-level entries were only slightly higher at 41 per cent.

"We want to add value to what the teacher is already doing. We have made our workshops topic-related so that they tie in to the curriculum and what the children are already being taught," Ms McMurrough said.

"We have been to classrooms that have some equipment but it is just gathering dust because the teachers do not know how to use it - we can help with that.

"It's a novelty for the kids too. They get to put on a lab coat and be a scientist for the day."

Successful pilot sessions with nursery schools have been held across the north and it is hoped there will be an official launch of Science Starz in September.

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