Our Vision for the teaching of Science in Milford NS
In Milford N.S. a whole school approach to the teaching of Science is encouraged. We endeavour to foster positive attitudes to Science and to encourage pupils to develop an appreciation of the contribution of Science and technology to society.
We promote scientific investigations, which involve the children in observing, questioning, discussing, predicting, analysing, exploring, investigating and experimenting.
The children attending Milford N.S. are fully aware that Science education plays a key role in promoting a sensitivity to, and a personal sense of responsibility for, local and wider environments.
This is a document in “progress” and will be reviewed annually.
AIMS OF SCIENCE EDUCATION
The aims of science education in Milford N.S. are:
- To develop knowledge and understanding of scientific and technological concepts through the exploration of human, natural an physical aspects of environment
- To develop a scientific approach to problem solving
- To encourage the child to explore, develop and apply scientific ideas and concepts
- To foster the child’s natural curiosity
- To aid the child to appreciate the contribution of science and technology to the wider world
- To appreciate and respect diverse living an non-living things
- To encourage the child to become environmentally responsible and aware
- To enable the child to communicate ideas, present ideas and report findings using a variety of media
When due account is taken of intrinsic abilities and varying circumstances, the science curriculum should enable the child to:
- develop an interest in and curiosity about the world through the exploration and study of living and non-living things
- develop a knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas through the study of living things and the environments in which they live, energy and forces, materials and processes of change
- observe, ask questions, discern patterns, hypothesise, plan, experiment, design, make, measure, discuss, analyse and evaluate results and so develop a scientific approach to problem-solving
- develop and apply constructive thinking in scientific investigations
- understand the application of some basic scientific ideas and concepts in everyday situations
- apply and use scientific knowledge, skills and resources in designing and making tasks
- explore and appreciate the influence that scientific and technological developments have on societies, life-styles, economic activities and the environment
- communicate and record observations, evidence and results of experiments and investigations using a variety of oral, written and graphical forms and other media
- explore the environmental repercussions of human actions on physical, natural and human environments
- understand the interdependence of a wide variety of living things and their environments, recognise the importance of conserving habitats and environments, and begin to understand that all life now and in the future depends on the sustainable development of the planet
- become actively involved in the discussion, exploration and resolution of environmental issues
- understand and apply a safety code in scientific and technological investigations and activities
CURRICULUM STRANDS in MILFORD N.S. (for full school plan please ask at the office)
Strands: Living Things (human life/plant/animal life), Energy and Forces, Materials, Care for the Environment
Milford School has been involved for a number of years now in the Heritage in Schools scheme. Environmentalist and Wildlife Expert, Geoff Hunt, visits each class in the school during the school year and involves them in exploring the environs of the school and the neighbouring environs of the University of Limerick, down by the river bank and surrounding area particularly. Every year he focuses on different aspects of the environment and animal and plant life, such as wintering birds, butterflies, mini-beasts, and bio-diversity in conjunction with our Green Schools environmental programme. This year, 2014, the theme of “Trees, Seeds and Habitats” was explored. The weather was exceptionally kind in the autumn and the pupils had great experiences exploring the trees of our surrounding environment. Geoff will return in the summer term to study the tree flowers. As part of Tree Day activities, the pupils of Milford NS planted acorns and horse chestnuts. We have also had visits from Ted Cooke. Ted is a tree educator. He worked with classes from 3rd to 6th planting native trees in our wildlife area. Five hazel, two spindle and one yew tree were planted. Other recent visitors include that of falconer, Ger O’Neill, He showed his goshawk to all children from Junior Infants to Fifth class. He spoke to the children about the life and habits of the goshawk and other birds of prey and their role in the food chain.
Milford School garden was built in 2009 and Milford School Wildlife Area was established in 2011. Under the direction of our school garden co-ordinator, Mary Lillis, the children plant vegetables every year and there is a great harvest in the autumn. In October 2014, when Minister for Education, Jan O’Sullivan, visited the school to raise our sixth Green Flag, the children presented her with a huge hamper of vegetables from the school garden- onions, squash, turnips, carrots, potatoes and pumpkins. Aine Ní Fhlaithearta from Irish Seedsavers recently visited the school and, in conjunction with the children, planted three native apple trees on the mound next to the raised garden beds.
An Outdoor Classroom area was set up in 2010 in the Infant courtyard and benches, butterfly boxes, nesting boxes and bird-houses were installed. Bird –Feeders were erected outside the classroom windows and the children enjoy watching the birds from their classrooms. We also purchased a web-watch camera and last year a family of blue-tits hatched and were reared in our nesting box, their progress carefully monitored by our pupils from the computer room. This spring we hope to be able to transmit from the TV at the front of the school when a new family of birds may move in! .
Plans for the future include a weather station.
The location of Milford National School, right beside the world-class facility which is the University of Limerick, means that the school has easy access to a wide variety of science and engineering activities all year round. We have been very lucky to have been asked to take part in activities such as the following:
Examples: Westpoint University Visit: In 2013 we were visited by representatives from Westpoint Military University in New York. The team, led by Colonel Steve Ressler spent several hours with both 5th Classes. Their aim was to promote Maths, Science and Engineering to primary school children. They began with a bridge building exercise where pupils worked in groups to build bridges and learn about levers. Next, pupils were given the task of constructing a kinex bridge following a specific set of plans. Pupils learned about compression and tension and looked at the weight capacity of a standard, longer, taller or un-braced bridge. Finally, pupils were given an opportunity to use a specially designed computer software programme. This allowed them to design and build a bridge and to find the most economical and safe way to construct it. This was a very educational and worthwhile visit and the pupils thoroughly enjoyed themselves.
STEPS Engineering Air-Mazing: Last year, for Engineering Week in February, 3rd, 4th and 5th classes attended a session in UL,Engineering the Future with Pneumatics. It was a most educational experience and combined live science demonstrations, multi-media presentations and audience interaction with physics, chemistry and engineering developments using pneumatics. There is some great coverage of the event on www.milfordns.ie. This engineering event will take place again in February 2015.
Science Week: In November every year, during designated Science week, the school focuses on Science. Science week is fun-packed! Each class is given a Science Week Folder compiled by Olive Doody, Science Co-ordinator, which contains Science Experiment guidelines and suggestions. All classes engage with some Science experiments during the week and great fun is had by all. Fourth, Fifth and Sixth classes attended “The Mad Professor’s Science Show” in UL this year, 2014. On other occasions classes have attended UL for Interactive Science Shows, science activity sessions on the Human Body in the Department of Nursing and Midwifery in UL. Every year the university makes a big effort to promote science and make it interesting and fun for children. Some or all of these activities may be viewed on the school web-site!
Care of the environment and environmental awareness is very important to staff and pupils of Milford NS. We have won six Green Flags for our excellent Environmental programme and hope to win our seventh next year.
The first Green Schools committee was started in 2002 and the first Green Flag award was won by the school in 2003. Composting of organic matter, recycling of paper, ink-cartridges, batteries, plastic etc, a general clean-up of targeted areas around the school and the river-bank in U.L. and the setting up of an environmental and meditation area in the middle courtyard, were just some of the achievements of the first Green Flag committee. The school continued to pursue a strong environmental agenda for an Energy Awareness Programme in 2005, and for its Water Conservation Programme in 2007. In September 2009 the School Garden was started. Having looked around the grounds of the school for a suitable location for the School garden it was finally decided to locate the garden on the bank of ground at the side of the school. There are now eight working areas, one for each class grouping. There have been many bumper crops since September 2009, when the garden was first planted. Vegetables such as cauliflower, cabbage, turnips, brussels sprouts, potatoes, herbs have been harvested and lots lots more!!
The fourth Green Flag, in 2010, was won for the school’s efforts for Sustainable Travel. Between May 2009 and May 2010 the school facilitated a reduction from 80% to 40% in car use as a mode of transport to and from school. The fifth Green Flag was won in 2012 due to a two-year programme on Biodiversity. A Wildlife Area was established in 2011 and contains native trees, a log pile, butterfly, ladybird and bat boxes and in the summer boasts a variety of wild flowers. The front courtyard area was also developed as an Outdoor Classroom. Bird feeders set up in 2012 have increased the number of Bird Visitors to our school by almost 60%. Also in 2012 a CCTV camera was successfully installed into the Bird Watch House at the back of the school and Bird Families move in and set up house every spring!! The sixth Green Flag was won for the school’s programme on Global Awareness and Citizenship.
SPECIFIC SAFETY GUIDELINES FOR SCIENCE TEACHING IN MILFORD N.S.
Generally, the simple equipment that is used for science education at Milford N.S. carries no real threat to health. Each teacher has a copy of our comprehensive Health and Safety document. However, during practical work teachers should be aware of the safety implications of any exploratory or investigative work to be undertaken.
Children should be encouraged to observe safety procedures during all tasks.
This list must not be taken as identifying all the potentially hazardous situations which may arise.
Strand 1: Living things : human life / plant, animal life
- Children should not handle unknown or unfamiliar plants, especially fungi. Contact with animals or plants can cause allergies and some plants and seeds are poisonous. Children should wear gloves when handling animals or birds and wash hands immediately after. Children with cuts or infections should not come into contact with animals.
- Children should never eat or taste anything brought in for study unless provided by teacher for tasting purposes.(Prior permission with regard to allergies required).
- Polythene bags, if provided to collect leaves or other specimens, may cause suffocation and are potential hazards. Children should be warned of the dangers of using these bags prior to investigation work.
- In the interest of hygiene it is recommended that stethoscopes be wipedwith a steri-wipe after individual use.
- Minibeasts should be collected by using the bug catchers or plastic tweezers.
Strand 2 : Energy & Forces
The use of glass apparatus and sharp edged tools should be avoided except under the direct supervision of the teacher. Plastic should be used, when possible, instead of glass. Some objects, e.g. glass mirrors may have to have their edges taped to avoid sharp cutting edges.
- Children should never use lenses or any devices with lenses, such as binoculars, telescopes etc. to look directly at intense sources of light and heat. Pupils should not look directly at the sun even through dark glass or plastic. Care should be taken with all pointed pieces of equipment.
- Due consideration should always be given to tolerable safe noise levels when working with large groups of children experimenting with “sounds”.
- Under no circumstances should the children, themselves, handle matches or lighters. When using candles, care must be taken to ensure that they are securely fastened. Lighted candles must never be moved. Care should be taken to avoid situations where children may be tempted to lean across a lighted candle. Long hair should be tied back and loose sleeves secured.
- Any heating can be done with hot water from a tap or from a kettle held by an adult. Flammable liquids should never be used. Small portable gas burners are relatively safe provided that they can be securely mounted to prevent them from toppling over.
- Thermometers should be handled carefully. The use of alcohol thermometers is recommended. If a thermometer breaks and mercury is split it should be carefully gathered up and disposed of by burial in a place where the ground will not be disturbed.
Magnetism & Electricity
- Pupils should only use low-voltage battery powered devices. Mains electricity should never be used for electricity and magnetism experiments in the primary school. Where a piece of equipment powered from the mains is used, then, it should be connected and switched on by the teacher. Children should be repeatedly warned about the danger of mains electricity.
- Due care should be given to safety when investigating how certain objects work, i.e. objects with gears, objects with motors.
Strand 3 : Materials
(See safety notes for Heat above)
- Primary science is likely to make very limited use of chemicals. When required chemicals should be purchased only to meet the needs of specific experiments and any surplus remaining should be disposed of on completion of the work.
- Household chemicals should be chosen with care. Strong detergents such as automatic washing powders, toilet cleaners and anything containing bleach should be avoided. The use of safety goggles should be considered when working with chemicals.
Strand 4 : Environmental Awareness and Care
(See safety notes for Living things above)
Skills development : Designing and Making
“Designing and Making” requires children to work with a range of materials and equipment which will inevitably raise issues of health, hygiene and safety.
- The teacher must be aware at all times of the potential dangers involved in the use of all tools, and must never allow children to continue using tools while unsupervised.
- The use of rubber based adhesives, such as Evostick, is dangerous and must never be used in the confines of the classroom.
- Children must never use open bladed craft knives.
- In normal circumstances, only round-ended scissors should be used.
- Designing with a variety of materials is recommended throughout primary science- this includes lengths of wood for senior classes. It is advised that the children use a vice or a bench hook to hold a length of wood- so preventing damage to the work surface.
Safety and children with Special Needs
A pupil who, because of disability, is unable to undertake a practical designing and making scientific activity may undertake an alternative activity which most clearly matches the class activity e.g. a pupil lacking the co-ordination to cut materials with a junior saw in the senior classes, should be given the opportunity to divide another type of material or use a different tool and material to work with under close supervision of the class teacher or the child’s Special Needs Assistant.
APPROACHES AND METHODOLOGIES
It is essential, no matter what our collective experience in teaching the subject that we use a range of teaching methods and approaches when teaching Science. Lessons “should not be workcard or textbook based”. Our main aim, in Milford N.S., is to get the children “thinking scientifically” and not memorising facts to be regurgitated at a later stage. The approaches adopted should create a learning environment where:
- Practical activity is encouraged (Hands- on discovery)
- Links with the environment are fostered
- Children have an opportunity to work together, share ideas and communicate their findings
- Children’s ideas are the starting point for science activities (Concept mapping)
- Children should be allowed the excitement of finding out for themselves
- Children are encouraged to pose their own questions
The use of a variety of approaches and methods will facilitate the efficient implementation of the science curriculum. The nature of the strands and strand units themselves necessitates the use of a variety of teaching methods. The approaches chosen should enable the children to work scientifically in a variety of contexts, to undertake practical activities and to tackle open-ended investigations. Different methods are outlined as follows:
Whole-class work :
This is effective in introducing a topic and concept-mapping. It is also useful in providing background information that may be required for an activity.
Small groups. : .
This can be in many forms:
- Several groups working on the same activity
- Small groups rotating around different activities (circus of experiments)
- Small groups working on independent activities
This is where children pursue their own studies and carry out investigations that allow them to pursue their own interests and ideas.
Working Scientifically will involve children in:
- Investigating and experimenting
- Interpreting results
- Recording and communicating results
An important aspect of scientific activity is Designing and Making. Children are to be encouraged to design and make artefacts and models that will provide solutions to practical problems. The skills to be developed for this facet are:
As children learn to apply these skills they will learn to deal with more complex concepts in a scientific way. (See Teacher Guidelines pg.17-21)
Assessment in Science is concerned with the children’s mastery of knowledge and understanding of the strands of the science programme and the development of skills and attitudes. Consequently a broad range of assessment tools and approaches will be necessary. The following are among the assessment tools used in Milford N.S.
Observations made by the teacher during practical science tasks will help to determine the development of process skills and attitudes. They will also help to establish the extent to which the children have mastered the knowledge aspect. The teacher will need to take an active role in science tasks and ask open-ended questions to gain insight into a child’s understanding.
Teacher-designed tasks and tests
- Some representational record, whether written, drawn, sculpted or modelled, is necessary to build up a picture of the child’s achievements. A wide variety of tasks should be provided for the children, including:
- Analysing objects and processes and hypothesising about how systems work or are made
- Predicting outcomes of an investigation
- Collecting information from books and materials
- Asking questions
- Providing oral, written and pictorial accounts of investigations
- Displaying projects
- Using workcards or activity sheets
- Designing, making and evaluating models and structures
- Using interactive multimedia programs to explore themes and complete a range of tasks and problems
- Exploring and engaging in practical investigations in the environment
- Completing teacher-designed tests on a unit(s)
- Displaying and reporting project work
- Drawing with labels (teacher can discuss drawing with child and annotate it as a result of asking questions)
The child’s initial ideas must be explored if they are to form a starting point for learning. Concept-mapping helps children to record and discuss their ideas(in other words, brain-storming). This will help enormously to see what pre-conceived ideas the children may have. It is also useful as an assessment tool at the end of a unit to see if there has been any progression.
Work Samples, Portfolios and Projects
Children are encouraged to keep personal folders which will contain work pertaining to particular topics. This is a useful way to collect and store information, worksheets and class activities together. These folders may used as a form of self-assessment for the children as they can observe their own progress throughout the year.
Project work encourages children to focus on a particular aspect of the science curriculum and study it in detail. Projects can illustrate how much a child has learned and are useful in assessing a child’s ability to gather information, to collate and present it and to work/ co-operate with other children.
Our Science plan is based on a spiral approach as per the Curriculum. For this reason, it is not intended that all strand units will be taught in each class.
The units may be supplemented by extension work at the discretion of the class teacher.