“Science is the key to our future” – Bill Nye
‘Fit for life’ through Science
Science is everything. Science is the study of life itself and it aims to investigate the truth at the heart of everything we know and understand. Put bluntly, without an understanding of science we simply would not exist as a species. We fulfil our basic physical needs thanks to our understanding of science. Furthermore, our knowledge of science has allowed us to accomplish space exploration, eradication of disease via vaccination, and development of the internet and smartphones. It is vitally important that our young people receive a great science education because we are relying on them to find our next set of big discoveries albeit combating antibiotic resistance or space colonisation. Science is everything!
Skills and Knowledge
At Key Stage 3 we start with topics which are established as fundamental to science and which build on prior knowledge at KS2. Key scientific, mathematical and literacy skills underpin every topic. As we support students in their application of knowledge during project based learning, students are able to make broader connections between topics that they may have deemed unrelated whilst also encouraging them to make links between ideas in everyday life. The spiral nature of our curriculum allows us to revisit all key ideas with increasing levels of challenge. Connections are made to the real world throughout each topic in order to highlight our role in the local community and to raise career awareness and aspirations. Wherever possible, we try to make these local to us e.g. how local businesses manage emissions and pollution, and the conservation of our local rocky shore.
Y7 modules introduce key scientific ideas such as cells, particles, lab safety, and forces and energy. These ‘big ideas’ underpin almost all aspects of science and allow ample opportunities for students to apply what they know to novel contexts throughout KS3. Each topic allows us to teach key skills through new scientific concepts whilst the spiral nature allows us to revisit ideas in increasing levels of detail, for example, we introduce sex cells in Y7 but revisit in Y9 in terms of fertilisation and genetics. By the end of year 9 students are ready and able to tackle the key ideas in preparation for KS4 i.e. looking at the specific adaptations of sex cells.
At Key Stage 4, the vast majority of students will either study Combined Science or Triple Science. A small number of students follow an Entry Level qualification. Regardless of the course the three science subjects (Biology, Physics and Chemistry) are taught separately but, every opportunity is taken to make connections between the separate disciplines to show how they link together to explain many phenomena. We also make connections to real life (particularly local links) where ever possible in order to enthuse students. Practical investigative work is used where relevant to help develop scientific skills and to enthuse and motivate students. Application of knowledge, developing scientific techniques, comprehension and numeracy feature heavily throughout each course.
Our KS4 courses start with development of key scientific principles. These key principles are then applied to the range of topics listed in the specification, for example: disease, genetic manipulation and ecology in biology; acids and alkalis, electrolysis, bonding and reaction rates in chemistry; and radiation, electricity and waves in physics.
Communication and Community
Science obviously has real-world context and we teach students how to question things for themselves and apply what they have learnt to real life situations. We equip students to question and seek the truth for themselves by understanding how to research and investigate in order to develop answers.
We communicate with other subjects to establish strong cross-curricular connections. Science complements other subjects e.g. technology (practical work) and maths (graphs, calculations etc.) but we also work to develop essential communication skills through comprehension tasks and the development of subject specific vocabulary. Ethical issues that naturally occur in science, such as concerns surrounding pollution or genetic engineering, allow us to develop oracy and debate skills, therefore helping students in listening to a range of different viewpoints about important issues.
Wherever possible, links are made to local industry and careers in order to develop student awareness and aspirations. Teaching key ideas through local points of interest also allows for engagement and motivation e.g. teaching conservation through the local Holywell Dene conservation project. Cultural capital is further enhanced by running a weekly STEM club, extra science drop in clubs and science trips (KS4 recently went to Blyth to investigate renewable energy whereas both KS3 and KS4 took part in interactive medical activities via ‘Medical Mavericks’.