Communicating Science Ideas to Young Learners: Five Top Tips

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We’re experiencing an increasing shift towards STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths), even for the youngest pupils in primary schools. We know that industries are crying out for talented young engineers, scientists and designers, and the gap in the STEM skills pipeline is now well-documented.

It’s vital that we engage young learners with scientific ideas, but it can be challenging to balance this with other demands of the curriculum as well as financial pressure on resources.

With that in mind, here are five quick and easy ways to start communicating science ideas in your primary school:

Collect resources and equipment, then use them regularly!

Children benefit from developing familiarity with scientific equipment and will always be creative in their play. These don’t need to be expensive: my STEM resource box includes plastic measuring beakers, recycling materials, clothes pegs and loose parts from toys or bigger equipment.

For more specialist equipment, it’s worth asking your local secondary school for hand-me-downs or loans. Many will be happy to lend out equipment or even send a teacher out, to demonstrate an experiment as part of their outreach activity for primary schools.

Link science ideas to art

Science and art have more in common than we think. Science is about creativity, expression and personal passion, just as much as art is about experimentation and careful process.

Blowing paint across paper using a straw, a pipette and a spray bottle can open up a whole world of scientific questioning, as well as art exploration.

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Raid the school library for books

Surprisingly, fairy tales contain multiple opportunities for problem solving using science and engineering skills.

For example, can you build three houses for the three little pigs? Or design a way for Jack to get down safely from the giant’s castle in the clouds? Can you design and build Chicken Licken a prototype shelter, in case the sky really does fall down?

Go outside!

Using outdoor space can be a great way to invite pupils to think inquisitively. Provoke their imaginations with questions about everyday objects and scenes found throughout the playground. It’s also less messy than inside activities!

Introduce scientific terminology

This new vocabulary can be written and pinned up around certain play areas, as well as used verbally when questioning children. Encourage the children to learn, use and become familiar with the words themselves.

Armed with this vocabulary, they will realise that science is for them, it’s to be enjoyed in the same way as creative subjects, and it’s more accessible than they might have thought!

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Jenny Rumney is a former English teacher with experience of developing professional learning resources for primary and secondary students. Her blog Rabbit Ideas provides clever tips and tricks for parents and teachers looking for fresh ideas on a budget. Follow Jenny on Twitter @rabbit_ideas