Friday, April 6, 2018

Children Challenging Industry Class Visit

Children from St Thomas More RC primary school during a recent CCI lesson

In a previous blog post we described how Children Challenging Industry (CCI) schools participate in a staff meeting run by one of our advisory teachers.  Additionally, Y5 children from participating schools have the opportunity to visit a local industry where they see science in a real life context.  Prior to the industry visit the children enjoy a series of lessons, some of which are run by one of our advisory teachers.

The lessons are made up of several engaging practical activities which help children to understand the industrial scale processes that they will see taking place, and also helps them to make relevant links with the science that they do in school.  Su Mennie has been working with St Thomas More RC primary school prior to their visit to Sartorius Stedim Biotech in Royston.  The activities that she and their class teacher have been doing come from the CIEC resource Cough Syrup which can be downloaded for free from our website.

Sartorius Stedim Biotech make machinery which is used to grow the microbes that are needed to make the active ingredients in some medicines; these microbes then need to be filtered out of the liquid in which they are grown.  A relevant activity for the children involves testing different filters to see which would be most effective for harvesting the microbes, although instead of microbes the children filter flour from a mixture of flour and water.

The children worked in groups of three or four to choose their equipment and decide how they would measure the effectiveness of the filters being tested.  Some groups decided to time how quickly the substance passed through the filters while others devised a scale to measure the clarity of the water after it had passed through the filter.  Because the children were given a high amount of autonomy they did not always immediately work in the most efficient or accurate way.  However, this led to discussions within the group which were then picked up by Su towards the end of the session.  This approach leads to a much deeper understanding of, for example, the most important criteria for assessing the effectiveness of a filter, than if children had been following a more structured method which told them exactly what they had to do and how to present their findings.  The activity also gives the children a lot of opportunity to apply the materials strand of the Y5 science curriculum and to rehearse some of the vocabulary.

The session ended with children being given the opportunity to handle and talk about industrial scale filters and to discuss the qualities of the materials that they have been made of and the reasons for their shape.  At this point several children were keen to point out how they would like to be able to modify their experiments if they were to do them again.  This was a useful assessment opportunity for their teacher as it showed how they were able to apply their content knowledge to the situation as well as demonstrating their growing confidence in working scientifically.

Carefully pouring the mixture of flour and water into one of the filters

Friday, March 23, 2018

Job Opportunity at CIEC

If you live in the Hertfordshire area and would like a new challenge you may well be interested to learn that there is an opening for a new advisory teacher to join the CIEC team.  The vacancy is for two days a week and previous post holders have successfully combined it with a continued classroom commitment, although other advisory teachers make this their sole job.

Children working with science ambassadors as part of the CCI programme.

The successful candidate will be working with partner industries and schools on the Children Challenging Industry (CCI) project.  They will have the satisfaction of knowing that they are involved in an initiative that evidence has shown, over many years, has a measureable impact upon the aspirations and attitudes of primary school children.  You can read more about some of this work in Hertfordshire and in other areas in previous posts.

Children watch a science demonstration at the start of their visit to Johnson Matthey in Royston.

You can see more details in the job advertisement and in the candidate brief. The closing date for applications is April 4th.    

Friday, March 9, 2018

A Pinch of Salt

As part of her work with St Thomas More primary school,  Su Mennie recently led a staff meeting to share some CIEC science activities with the teachers.  St Thomas More has a gold Primary Science Quality Mark and they were keen to add to their existing smorgasbord of engaging ways to teach the science curriculum, including 'Salt for my chips' from the free CIEC resource 'A Pinch of Salt'. They particularly appreciated that this activity provided a real life context in which children could apply  learning objectives and practise vocabulary from the science curriculum.

The teachers first compared a sample of pure salt with some rock salt and considered how they could extract salt that was pure enough to use on food from the rock salt.  They started by dissolving the rock salt sample in water before filtering it to remove all of the undissolved solids.  
Then they evaporated the water from the salt solution to leave behind salt. Of course, important discussion should also focus on whether this salt could actually be used on chips, therefore providing an opportunity to discuss microbes.   Teachers also discussed whether it would be safe to use a candle in class; the teachers decided that, with an appropriate risk assessment, they would be happy to do this with upper KS2 children, but other heat sources could be used, such as a radiator.
If you would like to try this, or any other activity, from A Pinch of Salt you will find that it is fully supported with teachers' notes and activity sheets for children.

We would love to hear about your experiences of using this, or any other CIEC resource, and will send a hard copy of our acclaimed 'Working Scientifically' to anyone who shares their experiences with us.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Children Challenging Industry in action

Su Mennie is our advisory teacher in the South East.  This week she has been working with STEM ambassadors from Johnson Matthey and children from Mary Exton school in Hitchin.  The ambassadors were supporting the children to investigate viscosity and filtration and to make links between the science that they do in school and what happens in a real life context in industry.

Did you know, that even if you do not live in an area where our acclaimed Children Challenging Industry programme is in operation you can still take advantage of our resources which are available free on the CIEC website?

For example, the activity that Su was using at Mary Exton school was taken from Runny Liquids which can be found by clicking on 'Primary' to the left of the CIEC home page, and then scrolling down to find a list of all of our primary publications.  Why don't you go and check it out?  It is well worth a look.

Friday, January 26, 2018

The Science of Storytelling

Next week (January 27th to 3rd February) is National Storytelling week.  Human beings, of all ages, love stories and have done since the dawn of time, although these days we are more likely to be waiting for the next episode of our favourite soap opera than sharing tales around a log fire.

One of the ways that teachers can ensure that stories are given the prominence that they deserve within a crowded curriculum is to combine them with other subjects; stories make a fantastic starting point for science. Research shows that combining subjects in this way leads to improved outcomes in both.  Moreover, in their report, 'Maintaining Curiosity', OFSTED suggest that some of the best science happens in schools where links are naturally made between English and science. 

The structure of a story usually involves a situation or problem that needs to be solved and this is where science comes in!  Science is a means of investigating ways that problems can be solved, whether it is exploring the most effective material for making a house for the three little pigs or discovering which bowl of porridge will have cooled down the most before it is tasted by Goldilocks.

The CIEC resource Pencils, Poems and Princesses has a host of ideas for basing science investigations on three books; Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole, Grandfather’s Pencil and the Room of Stories by Michael Foreman and Out and About by Shirley Hughes.    

One of the investigations, prompted by Princess Smartypants, is to test different bags to see which is strongest and most suitable for carrying a lot of heavy shopping; this investigation is particularly pertinent in light of current interest in plastic waste and pollution.  It is important to give children time to plan the experiment for themselves.  For example, they may suggest testing bags to breaking point by filling them with heavy weights.  In this case they need to be encouraged to think about the safety implications of having heavy weights suddenly drop, and plan what they will do to make sure that no one is hurt.  This activity will give lots of opportunities for maths; perhaps children can make graphs to show how much each bag held before it broke?

Further cross curricular links can be made as children are supported to write to Prince Grovel to advise him of the best way to carry the Queen’s shopping.  If this is done during an English lesson no time need be taken from children’s science entitlement, and the teacher will be able to concentrate on supporting children with their English targets. Consequently, the writing is likely to be of a much higher standard than that done during a science lesson when the teacher is focussing on children’s science learning.   Nevertheless, the subsequent letters may well reveal children’s progress in science understanding and be a rich source for science assessment.

We would love to hear how you combine science and stories with your class.  Please let us know by leaving a comment below or tweeting us @ciecyork.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Dr Stan Higgins receives Outstanding Achievement award

Picture taken at 2017 award ceremony
Earlier this month we reported that long time CIEC supporter Dr Stan Higgins has been awarded a well-deserved OBE in the New Year’s Honours.  Now we have heard that Stan has been honoured again; this time by the North East Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC) from which he has recently retired as Chief Executive.  He received an Outstanding Achievement award at the annual NEPIC  awards dinner on Friday evening.

Stan speaking at the 2017 NEPIC award ceremony
Recipients are given £2000 to be spent supporting school children in a STEM related project.  CIEC are incredibly proud that Stan has chosen to donate his prize to Children Challenging Industry (CCI).  Stan explained his reason for this in the speech that he gave as he received his award 

the Children Challenging Industry Primary School Programme is the most effective way to get young people interested in STEM subjects in an industrial context. It really does excite them and we have the evidence to show that”.

As Stan explained to us last time we interviewed him, it is possible for companies to organise their own activity days with local schools.  However, he believes that although these days are likely to be enjoyable for staff and children alike, they are unlikely to have a long term effect upon children’s attitudes to either STEM or industry.  Consequently, he spoke passionately about the importance of industry investing in CCI.

“I would ask more companies in this room to support the Children Challenging Industry programme and still have the benefit of the nice day, but with the real lasting impact that CCI has on both the children and their teachers. In part because there is continued professional follow through when you have gone back to work”.  

Stan was in no doubt that by choosing to invest his prize in CCI it would definitely

“impact on thousands of local children and hundreds of primary school teachers”.

All of us at CIEC are grateful to Stan for his generosity in donating his prize to CCI, as it is only with this kind of financial support that we are able to continue the programme.  We are also delighted that someone that we respect and admire as much as Stan Higgins holds CCI in such high esteem and recognises its long term benefits.

Thank you Stan!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Request for help from KS2 and KS3 teachers of science

We met Liz Coppard, a doctoral student, at the ASE conference earlier this month.  Liz, who is from Oxford Brookes University, is carrying out a research project looking at how teachers deliver the ‘matter’ and ‘materials’ sections of the National Curriculum in the Key Stages 2 and 3 Science Programmes of Study.

Could you help?
Liz is seeking teachers and schools to help with her research and is keen to hear from those who teach science to years 4,5 and 7 who could assist by completing a short, anonymous online questionnaire.  The questionnaire for primary teachers can be found at and the questionnaire for secondary teachers can be found at

In addition, Liz would like to hear from primary and secondary school teachers who would be interested in participating in a short interview focussing on how they teach the materials strand of the national curriculum in KS2 and KS3.  She would also like to hear from primary and secondary schools who would be willing for her to do some lesson observations.  She would be willing to work as a voluntary teaching assistant as a participant observer.

If you would like to discuss this further please email Liz on:

Researcher’s Background
Liz has a first degree in Chemistry, MA in Science Education and holds the Chartered Science Teacher accreditation C.Sci.Teach. She has taught science for many years in English secondary schools.  She is on the 11-19 Committee of the Association for Science Education (ASE) and is a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s 11-16 Curriculum and Assessment Working Group.

This research is jointly funded by the Primary Science Teaching Trust (PSTT) and Oxford Brookes University and has been approved by the Oxford Brookes University Research Ethics Committee.  All data collected during the study will be anonymised and kept strictly confidential in accordance with Oxford Brookes University Policies.