May 2014 – Evaluation

Now our project is finished the time has come to evaluate it.  We know that we (and the pupils) have really enjoyed it as we have gone along, but we felt that at the end it would be worthwhile doing a more formal evaluation. This has involved focus groups of teachers and pupils from across the school and formal questionnaires to all involved, as well as looking at prelim grades and subject uptake.

All these methods have shown the project to be hugely successful and I think some key points that bring out just how much so are given below:

  • 130% increase in pupils studying Advanced Higher Chemistry.
  • 80% increase in pupils gaining an A grade in their Higher Prelim.
  • 5 out of 6 pupils in the Advanced Higher Chemistry class going on to study degrees requiring chemistry.
  • 100% of senior pupils wanted the Rolls-Royce Science prize project to continue.
  • All S4, S5 and S6 pupils felt that the project had a positive impact on whether they would study chemistry at higher levels.
  • Comments from pupils such as “fun way to get people interested in chemistry,” really diversified what we do,” and “enjoyable and educational.”
  • All teachers felt it had been positive for pupils and the school.
  • Teachers involved had enjoyed learning along with the pupils.
  • Teacher commented on how pupils’ transferable skills had developed.
  • 5 other departments running projects based on this teaching philosophy by the end of the year.

I think from these snippets shown above, it is possible to see how successful the project has been – we intend to keep running it in the longer term and should we be successful in the final, then this would open up even more doors for us to work with further partners and expand the project even more!

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Pupil distilling aftershave and then using the IR machine that we borrowed from the RSC.

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April 2014 – Summary

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Now our classes have all changed due to the new timetable, we finished our project at the start of the Easter holidays.  This is due to the difference in the school terms between England and Scotland.  However we thought that April would be a good month to sum up all that we have done before we formally evaluate the project in May.

The aim of the project was to visit or work with scientific industries before taking the knowledge that we had learnt and complete simple ‘test-plant’ projects in the school laboratories.  During our project we have:

  • Visited the local gold mine and then our pupils made simple gold-plated objects from metal ores.
  • Visited the local distillery before our pupils built stills from scrap material.
  • Worked with a local chocolatier to allow our pupils to make their own chocolate.
  • Visited a pharmaceutical company to look at how to diagnose illnesses and then have our pupils make simple test strips.
  • Visit the local observatory and have our pupils build their own telescope.
  • Work with the local rally club to understand and replicate the workings of a simple internal combustion engine.
  • Visit the botanic gardens to allow our pupils to come up with ideas of making things from plant products
  • Work with Napier University Materials department to look at working with plastic
  • Work with a local farmer to allow our pupils to do simple soil testing.
  • Worked with the Scottish fire brigade to allow our pupils to build and test their own fire extinguishers.
  • Worked with a local fireworks pyro-technician to allow our pupils to gain knowledge to design and build their own firework.
  • Worked with Abertay forensics department to allow pupils to contribute to a conference on biochemistry and to allow our younger pupils to do simple forensic techniques.
  • Worked with Glasgow science centre to allow our pupils to extract DNA.
  • Worked with UHI aeronautical engineering department to allow our pupils to build simple model aeroplanes

 

All lots of fun and given great learning opportunities for our pupils.  We will find out next month what exactly our pupils thought of it – but our first impressions are good.

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March 2014 – Fire Extinguishers and Pollution

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March brings the ends to our activities for the Rolls-Royce Science prize due to the Easter holidays  at the end of the month and the exam season immediately after up here in Scotland. Over the last year we have worked with a huge number of different partners in an attempt to enliven and bring the science taught in the class room to life. This has ranged from the gold mine to the distillery to an observatory to a fireworks company (and many others).  The project has spread much beyond its initial plan to encompass chemistry at lower years and projects in other subjects too.  It has had a huge impact school wide. We will still post one final diary entry in April where we will statistically evaluate how successful the project has been and try to quantify all the benefits this project has brought with it. However, we ourselves know that our pupils have gained a huge amount from it and intend to keep up this manner of teaching. 

We have however, had two final projects that have been spawned by the prize.  The first is work with our S3 pupils.  We wished to enliven the topic of rates of reaction, so in keeping with our modus operandi for this project, we brought in partners – in this case the Scottish Fire service who worked with the pupils.  With very limited help and just their knowledge of chemical reactions and rate of reactions, pupils had to build their own fire extinguisher and then try it out on a small ‘fire’.  This proved to be a great way to reinforce learning as well as inspiring and enthusing the students.  The design, teamwork and engineering skills that they used were also impressive.

We also wanted to tie all the aspects of the project together and to finish off we ran a joint project with the biology department where our most senior pupils used the biology and the chemistry that they had learnt to evaluate the environmental impact of each of the chemical industries that the school had been involved with throughout the year. Great learning and great practise of the skills that they will need for later life.

Another very enjoyable and successful month here at Breadalbane Academy. We are only sad that the formal project is coming to an end.  We have learnt so much from it and certainly intend keeping on with the ethos of the project in the long term.

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Pupils working with chocolate

Pupils working with chocolate

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Pupils visiting Axis Shield

Pupils visiting Axis Shield

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February 2014 – Gold and Diabetes

 

February is always a busy month here in Breadalbane and for the Rolls-Royce Science prize team it is no exception.  We have been busy forging new links with industrial partners, trying to inspire our pupils with this new manner of teaching and encouraging other departments to also teach in this partnership manner.

 

We have had two chemistry events this month.  The first involved a local chocolatier coming into school to talk about her craft.  She is famous for her unusual flavours in chocolate (e.g. Scot’s Pine) and she came and spoke about this and how chocolate is produced and some of the pitfalls that can come about – for instance forming in the wrong crystalline state.  Pupils were then given the chance to try and produce their own chocolate based up on what she had said. This tied in directly with the higher course by looking at aspects such as why things dissolve and fats. A great learning experience and a great motivation for the pupils. Other subject have also joined in with this part of the project, with Home Economics looking at chocolate as a fair trade product and Technical trying to produce moulds for chocolates. Maybe some students will now look at food science as a career?

 

We also visited a pharmaceutical company in Dundee (Axis Shield) who gave pupils a tour, told them about some of the products that they produce and gave pupils a workshop. They are well known for diabetes and rheumatism products.  Pupils were hugely inspired by the visit and have also enjoyed the chance to try and produce simple test strips back in school.

 

We have also continued looking at the science from the gold mine visit and this month were learning about oxidation and reduction and seeing how these could be used in gold plating.  Students then gold plated the items they had produced in January from the ore.

We have also had some initial feedback on our project in terms of the prelims results – really high grades for the pupils that we have spent time teaching in this manner (and much higher than previous years).  Also we have a number of pupils interested in careers that we have highlighted during the project. For example we have 3 students interested in studying geology/geochemistry at university (highlighted in our work with the gold mine) – the first time that I can remember any students being interested in this.

In summary, another exciting month for us here and very encouraging feedback in the form of prelim results and pupil enthusiasm.

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