Queens put in a hot bid for thermal cameras
We were very happy to award funds to The Queens’ School for two new thermal imaging cameras. Hetal Patel, Senior science technician, showed the bredth of the project’s benefits by giving many examples of the topic areas where the cameras could be used:
“Concepts of Radiation are first introduced in Year 7 where students learn about energy from the sun. However, currently we use the camera in the following years to explain these topics:
Year 9 Physics Heat Transfer
Year 9 Thinking Scientifically (Insulating materials)
Year 10 Physics Chapter 2 (Heat transfer)
Year 10 Physics Chapter 4 (Current electricity) - for use with thermistors
Year 10 Physics Chapter 5 (Electricity in the home) - for use with fuses
Year 11 Physics Chapter 13 (EM waves)
Year 12 Physics Waves and Optics
Year 13 Physics Astrophysics
This camera is such a valuable resource in effectively being able to introduce and demonstrate these difficult concepts. There are many other potential uses in the other sciences too. For example, to look at and explain exothermic and endothermic reactions, displacement reactions in Chemistry or for Aerobic/anaerobic reactions in Biology. Similarly, it opens up the possibility for cross curricular links, for example to help understand how different materials that are used in DT are affected by heat, or understanding thermochromic paint used in Art.
…enrichment through our 'Thinking Scientifically' program where students investigate topics by devising practical methods and setting up experiments based on prior learning and knowledge. A topics that is offered as part of this enrichment is Insulating Materials (Year 9)”
Hetal also explained the depth of the benefit…
“…such a powerful visual towards understanding heat transfer, infrared radiation and allowing teachers to address misconceptions easily.
The joy is in allowing students the opportunity to witness heat energy for themselves. Where the camera has been used to illustrate these various concepts, they always leave these lessons very positively and are more likely to recall lessons learnt.”
Bids are almost always made stronger when relevant staff (and pupils) collaborate. Hetal demonstrated this was the case for her camera bid:
‘As one of our Physics teachers has said, "It is a vital resource because it is the only way for students to experience something that is invisible (infrared radiation or "heat"). This camera lets them 'see' it and therefore makes it much easier to understand and conceptualise. It is also an incredibly fun demo and makes the subject very engaging for the students."’
As for our important “longevity of benefits” criteria, we have little doubt that Queens’ pupils will be learning efficiently and enjoyably through this equipment for years to come as they replace two second-hand cameras donated to the school over fourteen years ago!
Bishop’s Hatfield Girls give us a strong bid in microscopic detail
We were very happy to grant Bishops Hatfield Girls School a STEM minor award to purchase microscope eyepiece graticules, micrometre and liver slides and two digital cameras for microscopes. Isabelle Fautrero-Sayer (School Development Officer) worked with Sarah Keay (Science Technician) to put together a very detailed and persuasive bid:
They started with the project’s aims:
“Our project is the Visualisation of the Microscopic World
Its aims are:
- To aid understanding of the microscopic world by providing better, more advanced and more engaging interactive equipment
- Make information clearer, more easily accessible to all and adapt teaching to current and future social distancing measures
- Improve observational and technical skills
- Improve grades at GCSE and A-level as microscopy and histological techniques are integral parts of both the GCSE and A level Biology specifications. See notes (1), (2) further on.
- Boost interest in STEM subjects through active participation in microscopy both within the class and as extracurricular activities (such as our Science Club and STEM activity days we organise with our local feeder primary schools). “
Then they detailed the number of pupils and teachers who would benefit e.g:
“Teacher(s) trained: 20 STEM teachers + 2 or 3 trainees on placement + 2 professional technicians
There is the option to share the new equipment with the four other secondary schools in our Sixth Form consortium - Monks Walk, Stanborough, Ridgeway Academy and Onslow St Audrey's.
We also have 2 science teachers who are STEM Ambassadors that visit other secondary schools to discuss and demonstrate STEM excellence in the classroom, of which microscopy is a vital component.
The more advanced techniques will also be shared with students from our Sixth Form Consortium of 5 Secondary Schools.
To add to the above, the whole school will also benefit through our extracurricular events which 200-250 pupils attend yearly. The equipment will also benefit each year group every year over the 5+ years life of the equipment
Through our Primary Links Programme, we hold regular Key Stage 2 Science events to inspire 50-90 pupils from 4 local feeder primary schools several times a year, every year.”
Sarah and Isabelle then explained just how each element of their bid would benefit pupils’ learning:
“Having a set of slides to use when we visit years 5 and 6 will allow primary pupils to see links with their curriculum (e.g. how organisms are classified and what arteries/veins look like and their relative size). These hands-on activities, led by our A level biology students, introduce primary pupils to the microscopic world and fuel their interest in the life sciences. They are also vital in the development of our STEM Sixth Formers… Acquiring several sets also means class work will not be compromised by taking the equipment out of school to visit the community.
The addition of microscope cameras would allow us to extend the primary link sessions to encompass more primary pupils e.g. both year 5 and 6 (approx 60-90 pupils) and still provide a visual and interactive STEM session.
2) Microscope camera:
By having microscope cameras available, the teachers can also project a microscope image onto the whiteboard. This will enable students to identify what to look for, teachers to highlight key components (e.g. kupffer cells in the liver) and allow any students with visual issues to participate more in the process, making it more inclusive.
These cameras will help us accommodate larger groups when working with our Sixth Form Consortium biology students (from 4 other schools) or running regular whole school events such as British Science Week, Biology Week and our annual Science Fair.”
The bid was even linked to current events…
“We are currently working on a STEM event, suitable for all key stages, that would look at a pandemic scenario and allow students to use both biotechnology and microscopy to follow through various virus related tasks. This is designed to help pupils make sense of the last few months and all the information they have heard on the news and see how it all fits together to overcome a virus like COVID-19.
While social distancing is in place, this equipment will enable us to offer our students access to live microscopic images without compromising safety.”
Another strength of the bid was they explained the more specialist equipment to better extol its virtues:
“3) Eyepiece graticules and slide micrometres:
These allow students to calibrate the microscopes in order to calculate image size. This is a requirement for A-level and having only one per A level group delays teaching and learning time whilst students wait for the microscope and graticules to become available. By having more, it also means there is scope for this skill to be opened up to other year groups, enabling extension practical work at e.g. GCSE, to be carried out.”
The Reach tee up a virtually irresistible bid
We were very happy to award The Reach Free School a grant to purchase some excellent science resources to help bring the subject alive, particularly for EAL (25% of pupils), SEN and disengaged students. Sushil Rishiraj (Head of Science) sourced some great practical equipment as well as some highly illustrated science dictionaries. The practical equipment included structure and bonding class kits and sets of Virtuali Tee tee shirts which utilise AR to show the body’s organs, circulatory system etc whilst pupils are wearing them.
Sushil made a strong case for each element of his bid:
“The Virtuali-Tee takes Science to a new dimension enabling our pupils to learn about the human body...on a human body. With beautifully designed augmented reality and amazing 3D learning experiences it will allow out pupils to explore the circulatory, respiratory and digestive systems with fully immersive 360 video. There is also a holographic guide to the body, which navigates and talks you through the anatomy and physiological systems in the body, describing processes such as the Circulatory system in detail using Scientific literacy. This interactive and novel way of seeing inside the body is a submersive experience and will no doubt engage and allow pupils to visualise concepts which we cant see with the naked eye. To support EAL pupils it is also available in 11 different languages… This set of resources will also work wonders within our sessions with our local primary school in which we can hook them into the love of learning and the wonder of Science.
Unfortunately, we do not have the budget to award grants for class sets of core text books to schools, as vital as we know these are. However, Sushil made a good case for the dictionaries, explaining why and how they would promote effective learning not only in the subject but across the school:
“There are feature panels on key topics such as electricity, classification, metals, and the periodic table, all fully supported by 2-colour diagrams and illustrations. Clear, accessible definitions and cross referencing give full clarity to complex scientific entries.
All of these features build into ensuring our pupils yes can spell all key words but more so be able to define and apply terminology within work and longer style questioning. This would benefit every pupil in the school and would not just be beneficial to Science but to every subject taught. Improving the literacy of our pupils is paramount in Science as there are many words they will not use elsewhere within the curriculum. Having Science specific dictionaries that are laid out both pictorally and with the required definitions will be hugely beneficial to every pupil but also including our EAL/SEN groups too.”
And finally, the case for kinaesthetic learning of a complex area:
“Fundamental teaching in Chemistry is the structure of an atom, leading into the subatomic particles and how they interact to form what they do. This concept is extremely difficult for most pupils and as much we can use sweets or other models within lessons to have a set of designed and fit for purpose models that can be used and adapted would be amazing. Using the Atomic Structures and Bonding model, students can explore (individually and in groups) atomic structure with enough components to build two atoms up to Atomic number 20 (i.e. calcium).”
Batchwood revert to type to promote a host of skills
We were very pleased to award Batchwood School a grant to purchase software and licence to teach typing skills to pupils. Batchwood School is an SEMH (social, emotional and mental health) school and the only such school in Hertfordshire which admits secondary aged girls. Katherine Lane (TA and Interventions Coordinator) explained the project:
“…we intend to further develop the breadth of our curriculum by introducing typing to year 8’s timetables. Second, we intend to increase the effectiveness of our SEND and literacy-needs provision by incorporating use of this software as part of the individual interventions provided.
Within the scope of this project is the intention to enter every year 8 pupil for Level 1 and 2 Ofqual certified qualifications in order to ensure that their learning is formally recognised.”
Touch typing tuition had a period of unpopularity with the demise of typing pools etc. but the skill is extremely useful in the modern era. As Katherine explained:
“…by ensuring every student has acquired touch typing skills before they leave school we will better prepare them not only for a range of employment options, but also to engage actively and confidently in society. Whether an adult needs to type out a letter, send an email, or complete an online bank application, the more fluent they are with a keyboard and word processing, the better equipped they are to function independently.”
However, what really strengthened the bid were two other aspects of the program:
“In depth research has encouraged us to choose Touch Type Read and Spell as the typing software we pilot because it is multisensory and has been approved by the British Dyslexia Association. The multisensory nature of the programme means that it will allow students with SEND to participate on an equal footing to other learners. Furthermore, the way in which the programme teaches typing is phonics-based (Orton-Gillingham-based approach) which means that all students, but particularly those with Specific Learning Difficulties such as dyslexia, should improve the accuracy of their spelling at the same time as they develop the new skill of touch typing.
Touch Type Read and Spell also features specific STEM subject modules. As students learn to touch type they are exposed to Maths and Science vocabulary. Hence it is hoped that the introduction of this software will increase pupil progress in these subject areas by enhancing familiarity with curriculum content and developing subject-specific vocabulary (knowledge and spelling accuracy).”
The program allows teachers to set up their own typing exercises so any vocabulary from any subject can be practised in conjunction with learning to touch-type. The listen-only option can be used for helping spelling and the listen-and-see option helps reinforce the vocabulary whilst all three VAK modalities are engaged.
Nobel gets VEXed at Robotic Competition
We were very pleased to grant Nobel School an award to purchase a new VEX V5 Competition Super Kit. The VEX robot competitions are a fantastic way to engage and train boys and girls in STEM activities and also to develop social skills and confidence due to their teamwork criteria. During a competition, teams have to negotiate with other school teams to work in partnership in one or more rounds of the event. We have helped a number of schools in Hertfordshire set up and/or expand their robotics clubs over the years and have been very impressed with the high level of friendly competition and help between schools.
As Bob Lovelock (Director of Art, D + T) explained:
“Having a new style kit will encourage younger students to take part - we promote the club in assemblies. The younger years will be able to learn from the older students and taught how to problem solve, passing on their skills with regard to coding and engineering mechanisms.”
“Being part of a small but focussed club would also help them develop their interpersonal skills which would help build confidence and esteem.”
Bob also made a strong case for the relevance of the skills the project would provide:
“Stevenage is still a traditional blue-collar town with many opportunities for careers in engineering, aerospace, electronics and computers. Being part of this club would provide students with the opportunity to develop some skills and experience in this area and would help them with long-term career prospects.”
Sele students see science subjects screened to a significant size
We were happy to kick off our reopening of secondary minor awards with a grant to Sele School for 5 visualisers.
We are big fans of formative assessment/feedback as a method of making learning more effective. Visualisers make this technique possible for an entire class or more. As Laura Morgan, Head of Science, explained:
…there is a huge emphasis on independent learning and embedding knowledge. With this in mind the schools teaching style has shifted to largely ramped worksheets - feedback to the class would be much smoother with the use of visualisers but the school’s budget does not extend to this. The current situation re schools’ partial closure would also make distant learning easier with the school look at teaching in the hall which has no white boards, visualiser feedback would be ideal.
As the visualisers are primarily for the science department, they will also extremely useful for all manner of demonstrations and experiments. However, as we much prefer a project’s Effective Learning benefits to be disseminated across the school, we were glad to read…
Whilst these will be purchased for the use of the Science faculty, as currently schools have partial closure with the idea to potentially bring back Year 10/12, use of visualisers in larger rooms without white boards will see feedback given more clearly across all faculties.