March 12, 2019
Having so many wonderful resources out there for supporting teachers in delivering high quality science learning is great but of very little use if there isn’t an overall approach to science within a school.
So perhaps the first thing to suggest is having a look at the Science Leader’s Toolkit. This toolkit consists of the essential ‘tools’ needed to support excellence in science leadership. The tools come in a range of formats: Word, PDF and Excel to support flexibility. There is everything from ‘Action Plans’ to ‘Pupil and Parent Voice’. The tools give leaders the opportunity to implicitly know how science is being taught, what learners experience, how parents view it and even allows leaders to evaluate their performance against a set of comprehensive statements, enabling them to set targets and measure their own performance against it.
The following screenshots are of the Tips for Science Leaders and the Budget Tool. To explore the Toolkit for yourself, log in to Purple Mash, click on the Teachers icon, then on the Subject Leader’s Toolkits. You can look at and download the “tools” individually, or download the whole Toolkit as a zip file to your computer.
Once you’ve had a general look at the Toolkit, and perhaps the Tips for Science Leaders document too, have a look at the Audit, Action Plan and Staff Survey documents. It’s essential to carry out a subject audit and staff survey regularly in order to pin point what’s going well and what needs improving. These will go along way into eliminating the unknown. How confidently can you say that all teachers have excellent science subject knowledge in your school? Are you aware which resources are being used and whether effectively? Is assessment for science rigorous, accurate and consistent in each class? Does your curriculum meet the needs of all pupils?
As well as having a curriculum map for the science programme of study within Purple Mash which provides links to all the tools and pre-made content, the Staff Survey questionnaire in the Toolkit rigorously checks teachers’ understanding of the POS. It features a checklist of requirements and topics to be taught in each year, great for identifying teachers who have a few gaps.
The topic of animals appears across the Science Programme of Study, so you’ll be pleased to know that Purple Mash has this covered. Search for ”Animals” in the search box, or simply click on the ‘Science’ button on the homescreen and locate the “Animal” folder in the topics section of science.
As you can see, there are a wealth of resources here. One very nice section is “Information about animals”. The eight activities contained in it are concerned with getting the children to write information fact sheets or booklets about different kinds of animals. It’s a good way of encouraging them to find out facts for themselves and presenting their ideas in a meaningful way. All of these are easily shareable with other class members via 2Blog or the display board functionality within Purple Mash.
Another approach would be to ask the children to create a quiz using 2Quiz, which has a mass of question type templates built in. Alternatively, they could use 2Question to create a branching database to explore different kinds of animals.
What child can resist minibeasts? Enter “minibeasts” into the search box, and you’ll discover resources in both Purple Mash and Mini Mash, including labelling, writing a poem and using 2Paint.
Search for plants, and once again you’ll find plenty of resources for all year groups. Here are a couple you might like to focus on to begin with. The first is Simple City (Early Years appropriate) It doesn’t sound like it would have much to do with plants, but if you click on the Garden Centre you will see two slideshows with audio files and two interactive activities in which clicking on a picture causes its name to be said. When you drag one of the pictures onto the main picture, it becomes animated. For example, the bee starts hovering!
If you have a seed tray or something similar in your classroom, why not use the activity called “My plant diary”, in the same section? It encourages the children to observe and record what happens to a plant when you do something, such as putting it in the sunlight or watering it. This is just the kind of investigative activity that the National Curriculum for Science encourages.
Use Simple City to engage the youngest of scientists in exploring plants and animals.
In the ‘Plants’ topic folder many more age banded activities can be found, including a quiz about soil, writing and painting activities, and mash cams, including one of a gardener.
On the subject of mash cams, which are all about putting a child into the role of someone else, it’s worth exploring some of the influential people who have contributed to science. The folder called “Scientists” contains 17 factfile activities based on famous scientists, such as Marie Curie and Stephen Hawking.
Breaking down gender stereotypes in STEM is so important. That’s why Purple Mash have a range of activities devoted to influential women who have overcome huge barriers. From a writing template on Marie Curie to a virtual email ‘2Respond’ from Florence Nightingale.
You can deep dive into individual topics in the Science curriculum too. For example, there are some great resources for sound, electricity, rocks and space. Allow plenty of time to explore!
With everything on Purple Mash, you are never to far away from finding supporting teacher resources for all children’s activities. Which is why there are curriculum maps and a ton of printable worksheets to support learning offline for every science topic. There is even a printable to support children making their very own sundial.
Getting the children to behave like scientists rather than simply learn about science is easily facilitated through Purple Mash.
Type the word “experiments” into the search box, and two tests will appear.
The first one, Comparative Test, is a structured writing frame in which pupils can record a scientific experiment they’ve carried out. It’s very good because it needs the pupil to be methodical and analytical, and to use correct terminology. They are great for supporting the science enquiry process.
The other activity here, entitles “Fair Test” is deceptively simple by comparison, but requires some deep thought and discussion. The pupils have to state what they are investigating and, crucially, predict what they think they might find, and say what they are going to change. In other words, they have to consider the point of the experiment or investigation, and then, in effect, design an experiment to test their theory. It’s pretty advanced stuff, but made accessible to youngsters. This is not only fantastic preparation for the science the children will encounter when they continue their learning at secondary school but, even more importantly, will encourage them to look more analytically at processes they can see going on around them every day.
Working scientifically is essential from an early age and Purple Mash is able to support this for children.
Observing over time: Use 2Chart to capture results.
Finding patterns: Analyse data in 2Investigate.
Identifying, classifying and grouping: 2Question – a fabulous branching database tool.
Comparative and fair testing: Two perfectly apt templates for supporting this found in the Science area.
Research using secondary resources: Many of the writing application in Purple Mash have additional background information included on the help screens.
Look for other opportunities to encourage a scientific approach. For example, type the word “Properties” into the search box. One of the folders which appears is called “Objects & their properties”. This is a pdf document in which different objects are shown. Pupils have to make predictions about how the material will behave when certain actions are performed, for example if you twist it. Then they have to undertake those actions and record the results. This could be the basis of a great discussion at the start of the lesson and the end. It’s also the approach that could be adapted for use in other parts of the Science curriculum.
One of the topics to be covered in Key Stage 1 is weather, as you know. Did you also know that March 23rd is World Meteorological Day? There’s a website for it: https://public.wmo.int/en/media. It’s not designed for use in schools, but if you go to the Media section you’ll be able to see some potentially useful photos in the albums for Climate Change, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, all the ones with “calendar” in the title, and Extreme Weather.
While we’re on the subject of special days, 2Simple has a section devoted to National Science and Engineering Week. Type “National” into the search box, and you’ll see it there.
Well that’s it for this month! We hope you’ve found this article useful -- and inspiring.
Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant and writer, having had a long career in Education, including teaching, advising schools and inspecting. He publishes the ICT and Computing in Education website at www.ictineducation.org, and the Digital Education newsletter at www.ictineducation.org/diged. You can follow Terry on Twitter if you wish:@terryfreedman.