Enthusing the next generation of scientists! Gill Arbuthnott

Gill Arbuthnott author photoMy day job is teaching Biology and some Science to years 7-13 at a school in Edinburgh, but by night (and during the holidays), I’m an author, writing children’s fiction and children’s science books.

As a result of my authory activities, I’m often invited into primary schools to do events – mostly based round my science books. I’m generally hugely impressed by the enthusiasm the pupils show for science, and the way it’s approached by teachers, but I do realise it can look a bit daunting if you are a primary teacher with no science background.

Don’t worry! The main thing you need to bring to the classroom is enthusiasm. Knowledge, while useful, is definitely of secondary importance. After all, scientists carrying out genuine research are working to find answers – they don’t already know them.

We are lucky now in that there is a huge range of excellent resources easily to hand. Lots of them are online, of course, but don’t forget about books. There are some cracking ones; accessible, attractive and engaging. Get them into the school library, then get them out of it and into the classroom. For some great ideas of what’s out there, have a look at the Royal Society’s Young People’s Book Prize shortlists. These are chosen by a panel of adults every year, but the winner is voted for by school children. Getting your pupils involved in the process is a great way to encourage them to engage with science.
Volcano experimentWhat about experiments? They don’t have to be difficult, complicated or time consuming. There’s a lot you can do with a sheet of A4 paper: make Mobius strips and baffle your pupils with a one-sided piece of paper! Have a competition to see who can design the paper plane that will fly furthest, or investigate how changing the tail shape affects the way it flies.
Paper planesA packet of seeds (try broad beans or sunflowers) can provide weeks of interest. What do they need before they start growing? How much water is just enough? What happens if you shine light on them from one side? Or not at all?

And of course, you’ll have a whole room full of bodies to experiment on… You can measure your heart rate, your lung volume and your reaction time very easily, to name but a few. There are all sorts of great memory games and brain puzzles on line.
Insect houseIf you have a school garden or pond, there are lots of activities you can base round them. Make insect houses or bird boxes. Have a Big Bird Watch or identify the bees that visit the flowers (There are good bee identification guides on line). Go pond dipping…

Science should be fun. Science should be exciting. Make the most of the fact you don’t have to stick to an exam syllabus, and enthuse the next generation of scientists!

What Makes You YOU? coverWhat Makes Your Body Work? coverA Beginner's Guide to Life on Earth coverA Beginner's Guide to the Periodic Table

Gill Arbuthnott has written four brilliant Science books for Bloomsbury – A Beginner’s Guide to the Periodic TableWhat Makes Your Body Work?A Beginner’s Guide to Life on Earth and What Makes You YOU? which was shortlisted for the 2014 Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize.

She is appearing at the Cheltenham Literature Festival on Saturday 10th October.

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