Most of my experience of this is at primary level, but having also run secondary science clubs in the past I can confirm that it is all still relevant to older pupils! The following guide is the result of running quite a few different clubs with children from nursery to Y13, and I will keep adding to it as I keep learning.
But first, I think it’s worth highlighting why I run these clubs. My pupil surveys reveal how much the children in my school love the clubs and the extent to which they develop scientific knowledge, attitudes and habits of mind. On a much greater scale, the ASPIRES research project found nationally that participation in science clubs is correlated with higher science aspirations.
For this to happen, I have a set of underpinning values / beliefs that I share with pupils:
- We are a team. Be kind — if someone needs help, offer it. If you need help, ask!
- We are all experts at some things, and novices at others. Recognise that you have much to learn but also a great to deal to share with others.
- Marvellous mistakes are part of learning — recognise them and learn from them.
My approach when working with pupils in clubs is highly meta-cognitive - for more on this see the EEF toolkit:
“Teaching approaches which encourage learners to plan, monitor and evaluate their learning have very high potential, but require careful implementation”
I like to share this Richard Feynman quotation with the children, to help dispel the notion that only a certain kind of “genius” person can be a scientist:
“I was a normal person who studied hard”
And then to show them the beginning of this film, which subverts many children’s expectations of what science is:
A taxonomy of clubs
What kind of club I run each term depends on the audience and purpose. I have an inkling that changing the name every once in a while keeps my numbers high as it seems fresh and new! It is also important to remember that as many children have already taken part in at least one club, I don’t want them to just do the same thing over again.
The aim of this club depends on who is in it but here are a few possibilities:
- For children to understand the range of scientific disciplines — that science is not just about “explosions and potions” — start with introduction featuring carousel of activities covering all the disciplines, then alternate every week between biology, chemistry, physics, geology, interdisciplinary
- For children to develop an understanding of scientific processes and methods you could use the BSA crest resources to investigate different questions
- For children to develop practical skills, e.g. how to use a pipette, opportunities to do so will need to be purposefully planned.
As above, but include technology, engineering and mathematics and how they interrelate!
As above, but including art to entice a wider / different range of pupils to the club. In my pre-club questionnaire one pupil from another school even said she didn’t like science, but had come because she loves art. By the end she did admit that she liked science a bit more! My other main aims with this club are for pupils to understand that science is a creative endeavour, that you can be interested in both science and art, and that interdisciplinary collaboration can be incredibly valuable. I am also keen for them to recognise that science and art are quite different — so a scientist can learn a great deal from an artist and vice versa.
Super Science Video Club
The children came up with this idea! The children in my lab management committee featured the trailer for Planet Earth II and encouraged others to watch it in assembly, but quickly picked up on the fact that not everyone watches nature documentaries at home. So we started a lunch time club for Y5 and Y6 to sit in the lab with me and watch the series. They were also given paper and pencils in case they wanted to make notes, and I brought them carrots to munch on.
Making projects / longer investigations
- One big or two / three smaller projects lasting more than one week
- Ideal for children who have their own ideas and want to make them come to life, or for taking part in competitions (e.g. Primary Engineer)
- Usually best for older children (Y4+) who have some experience of this kind of club, unless it is very structured.
- A different stand-alone activity every week
- Ideal for children who have never attended this kind of club before, to get them used to the way of working, familiar with using equipment safely and effectively and techniques etc.
Competitions that can be integrated into clubs
I’ve just started this kind of club for the first time — it’s called Ingenious Inventors club and is based around the Primary Engineer competition. It’s a brilliant competition — it requires children to research engineering, meet with and interview at least one engineer and then answer the question “if you were an engineer, what would you do?” through the media of an annotated drawing and a pitch letter. The Primary Engineer team will help you find engineers to visit your school, or you can use twitter (as I did — such a quick and positive response!) or the STEM Ambassadors site to find them.
Note: so far, I have only done this with sixth form pupils leading KS3 clubs, but I am planning on trialling one with KS3 pupils leading primary clubs!
This resource, put together by Wendy Cox at the Ogden Trust, is designed to help set these up with Y12 leading them: http://www.ogdentrust.com/schools-partnerships/resources1/resource-documents/post/1107-primary-science-club-teaching-pack
The brilliant stemclubs.net website has already categorised and coded lots of brilliant online resources so I won’t repeat that here, but I will just share some of my favourite activities / resources:
BSA crest primary investigations (“tumbling toast” went down very well, pun intended…)
Institute of Physics’s Marvin & Milo
The Institute of Physics also put together a handy pack for STEM clubs
Royal Society of Chemistry’s cabbage indicators is very popular. I set it as a “rainbow challenge” where they have to create 7 distinct colours and be able to recreate them (so need to keep lab notes!):
I haven’t done this yet, but would love to investigate carnivorous plants!
More biology as I feel that can be harder to find resources for, aimed at KS3+ but some could be adapted, from the Winchester Science Centre.
Destination Imagination have some excellent free resources and lots more if you pay:
Makey Makeys have been well worth the investment for me — I start with the fruit piano if a one off session, but once the children understand how to use it their imaginations lead to all sort of wonderful creations.
NRICH has plenty of maths ideas.
Chemistry in art, another resource from the Royal Society of Chemistry.
JET propulsion laboratory’s artist in residence is full of ideas.
Finally, there are SO MANY ideas on Pinterest.