Teach reuse and cultivation

When teaching phototropism or any other reason to grow plants from seeds, this can be linked to the reuse of everyday items which would normally be disposed of. For example the plastic trays which mushrooms come in can be used to hold the compost (addition of some holes to allow drainage will be needed). Similarly the transparent trays that tomatoes come can be used as a propagator. Further, plastic milk bottles can be cut into narrow strips and used as labels for the sown seed type or owner.

Simple biodiversity practical

Based on a recent article (Souter, 2017) here is a simple practical do be conducted outdoors as a starter activity for a lesson on biodiversity. Students are taken to a suitable location within the school grounds and given the instruction to collect as many leaves as possible in say, 2 minutes. As individuals and certainly as a class it is intended that several species will have been collected. Demonstration of “real biodiversity” in a local and familiar setting.

Reference

Souter, N., (2017), School Science Review, 98(364), 11-12.

The Language of Mathematics in Science – a review

“The Language of Mathematics in Science – A Guide for Teachers of 11-16 Science” is a best selling book (Dower, 2017) which can be downloaded free from the ASE website or purchased as a hard copy. What follows is a review based on my personal “best bits”.

The aim of the book is to offer consistency in terminology between the two subjects of Mathematics and Science.

I common problem I see as a science teacher is relating to rounding of numbers generated using a calculator when student write out every digit from the calculator display. The book advises the rule should be to use the same number of significant figures as the measured (or supplied) value with the least number of figures in the calculation. This I will now incorporate onto worksheets I generate or edit. Closely related is the issue of students recording reoccurring decimals using a dots over the relevant digits. This should be avoided by using the aforementioned rounding rule.

The book offers advice on the multiplication of numbers in standard form, by stressing that this can be simplified by doing the multiplication of the powers of 10 separately and mentally (by adding the powers) and doing the other numbers (i.e. the “first numbers” in the form one digit to the left of the decimal place) on a calculator. This is easy advice to apply in the science classroom.

I find that drawing graphs as part of a science lesson produces responses a range of responses from “How do I start?” to fully complete and correctly draw graphs (from pupils of comparable science ability). The book under review offers a full chapter on graph drawing, giving step by step guidance. I intend to utilise this information to make a student friendly guide which I can imagine will be useful for KS3 and KS4 students as a full lesson or as an aid in science lessons. Something I picked up as a useful use of terminology is to use “main division” and “sub-division” rather than “big squares” and “little squares” respectively.

The book also confirms a long held belief of mine that using “magic triangles” to assist with the rearrangement of equations is poor practice because as a technique it does not promote real understanding for students.

The book ends with a glossary of mathematical key words which I intend to turn into flash cards and / or domino game which could be used as part of a science lesson with a high mathematical content.

I summary, I highly recommend this book.

 

Reference

Dower, P., (2017), Education in Science, 267, p5.

Supply teacher and demand

The lack of science teachers and cover staff is known (Reason, 2017). Consequently, the demand for supply teachers qualified to teach science is high. To fully understand the complexity of this situation there are various additional factors to consider beyond the simple number of vacancies and available staff to offer supply.

  • The variable quality of supply staff compounded by the possible absence of in school CPD (continual professional development).
  • The variable quality of induction programmes which supply staff receive when starting at a new school resulting in unsatisfactory outcomes for the school and / or supply teacher and / or the students, during the supply period.
  • The perception that supply teachers are “second rate” teachers unable to obtain and permanent position, rather than specialist teachers able to rapidly adapt to changing circumstances (students, room layouts, exam specifications and behaviour and marking policies to name a few).

A possible solution would be to introduce a professional recognition for scientific supply staff in the form of an award, similar to Registered Scientist (RSci) or Chartered Science Teacher (CSciTeach).

Reference

Reason, S. (2017), Education in Science, 267, p3.