“Science is the key to our future” – Bill Nye
‘Fit for life’ through science
Science is everything! It is the study of life itself and it aims to investigate the truth at the heart of everything we know and understand. Without an understanding of science we simply would not exist as a species. We fulfil our basic needs thanks to our understanding of science; eating a healthy diet, avoiding illness and exercising. Furthermore, our knowledge of science has also allowed us to accomplish wonders such as space exploration, eradication of disease via vaccination and development of the internet and smart phones.
It is important that our young people receive a great science education because we are relying on them to find our next set of big discoveries- combatting antibiotic resistance and space colonisation for example. Science is everything.
Skills and knowledge
At KS3 we follow the modular Exploring Science package which organises the national curriculum into thematic modules. This allows us to start with topics which are fundamental to science and which build on prior knowledge at KS2. The spiral nature of the curriculum allows us to revisit key ideas with increasing levels of challenge. It is very important that links are made to the real world throughout each topic and where possible we try to make these local (e.g. how local businesses manage emissions and pollution and conservation of our local rocky shore) in order to highlight our role in the local community and to raise aspirations for e.g. career opportunities. Key scientific, mathematical and literacy skills underpin every topic within KS3. We have also tried to include other useful skills which could be used in ‘real-life’ such as reading 24 hour clocks and use of appropriate and relevant oracy skills in specific situations.
Y7 modules introduce key scientific ideas such as cells, particles, reactions 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. The spiral nature allows us to revisit ideas in increasing levels of detail (e.g. we introduce sex cells in Y7, revisiting in Y9 in terms of fertilisation and genetics). By the end of year 9 students are ready and able to tackle KS4 content (for example, looking at the specific adaptations of sex cells).
At KS4 students can either choose to study combined sciences or triple sciences.
Within both courses the 3 science subjects are taught separately but every opportunity is taken to make links between the 3 separate disciplines to show to students how the 3 link together to explain many phenomena. The Edexcel GCSE curriculum is followed for each of our courses but, as with KS3, we make links to real life contexts where ever possible in order to enthuse students.
As with KS3, 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 by revisiting key scientific principles such as cells, the periodic table and energy and then expanding on these key ideas. 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.
We also run Entry Level Science as a qualification alongside GCSE for a small cohort of students. This entry-level qualification helps us to build confidence and understanding in those students, allowing them to then develop a better grasp of GCSE concepts.
Communication and community
Science naturally 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 them to question and seek the truth for themselves by understanding how to research and investigate things to develop answers. For example, in teaching scientific technique through practical work and by introducing ideas behind peer review and bias.
Science also naturally lends itself to other topics- obviously technology (practical work) and maths (graphs, calculations etc.) but we also work to develop literacy skills through science (e.g. in comprehension and development of scientific vocabulary). We communicate with other subject departments to make strong cross-curricular connections.
Wherever possible, links are made to local industry and career possibilities to develop aspirations. Cultural capital is also developed by running a weekly STEM club, extra science drop in clubs and science trips and activities (for example, in recent years KS4 went to Blyth to investigate renewable energy, both KS3 and KS4 took part in interactive medical activities via ‘Medical Mavericks’ and KS3 are currently taking part in a series of workshops ran by local scientists to promote STEM careers).
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).
Ethical issues that naturally occur in science such as concerns surrounding pollution or genetic engineering allow us to develop oracy and debate skills, helping us to allow students to listen to a range of different viewpoints about important issues.
In both KS3 and KS4, setting regular homework allows us to teach students to work independently and take control of their own learning.
We aim to develop students as individuals by equipping them with skills for the wider world outside of their science lessons. This is apparent in working to improve numeracy, literacy and communication skills for example and in encouraging students to investigate ideas and other opinions for themselves. We believe this makes for confident, resilient and independent learners.