Five ways to win at primary Science

Science education consultant and former Sydney Catholic Schools Senior e-Learning Advisor Dr Simon Crook shares five ways to make primary school Science more engaging for students.

The advice was first published on teacher resource ABC Splash after the introduction of the new primary Science curriculum in 2016.

  1. Make it fun

To quote a very senior NSW Science policymaker “Primary Science should be fun”. A new accountable-yet-open-ended Science curriculum should be seen as an opportunity for fun, hands-on scientific inquiry.

  1. Look for cross-curricular opportunities

Rather than teach Science and Technology separately, why not combine them where they overlap? The new Geography syllabus also provides ample opportunities to combine Australian physical and human Geography with Science (and Technology, Maths, and Engineering – i.e. STEM).

  1. Cherry-pick resources

Highly engaging primary schools cherry-pick the best resources – from Australian Academy of Science program Primary Connections, TES Australia, ABC Splash, RiAUS, BBC Schools and their own home-grown creations – to best suit their school and students.

  1. Collaborate with the local high school

Where a primary school is close to a high school, as with St Felix and LaSalle Bankstown’s partnership, there is much to be gained by both from any collaboration. Primary schools could borrow Science equipment (and teacher) – for example a Van de Graaff generator to make the kids’ hair stand on end when teaching about electricity. High schools need to familiarise themselves with the primary curriculum and differentiate learning to cater for students’ varied prior experience. Many primary students already learn about parallel circuits, classification and independent and dependent variables.

  1. Engage external scientists

Formal programs, such as the CSIRO Scientists in Schools aren’t the only way to get expert scientists into schools. Most schools will have parents who are scientists or know of one – get them involved. Students at St Ambrose Catholic Primary Concord West skyped University of Sydney cosmologist Professor Geraint Lewis, an expert in galactic cannibalism. Just saying ‘galactic cannibalism’ would get students excited! Professor Lewis answered questions including ‘What happens when two stars collide?’ and ‘What would happen if you fell into a black hole?’

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